Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMarch 24, 2022
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Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving is eligible to play in the team's home games at Barclays Center after New York City introduced an exemption for unvaccinated athletes and performers.

The decision was announced by the New York City Mayor.

The NBA and the NBPA released a statement.

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

NBA-NBPA statement following Mayor Eric Adams announcing exemption for unvaccinated athletes and performers to perform in NYC: pic.twitter.com/m4i0ReiwsH

Nets head coach Steve Nash previously expressed excitement about the prospect of having one of his key players available every night rather than only on the road.

"It's great, obviously," Nash told reporters Feb. 23. "It would be great for us to have Kyrie available for all our games. Having said that, it's not really in our control, so we'll leave it up to the mayor [Eric Adams] and wait patiently."

When other employees were following the rules, Adams could not make a one-off exception for the Brooklyn guard.

ESPN @espn

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he wants to see Kyrie Irving play at Barclays but said making an exception for him as he's unvaccinated "would send the wrong message" to the rest of the city.

More ➡️ https://t.co/9AI5rmn3Y5 pic.twitter.com/5crOle0y9U

Irving will get his first chance to play this season against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.

Brooklyn announced in October it planned to keep Irving sidelined until he was eligible to become a "full participant." That stance changed in December as the team dealt with injuries and absences related to a surge of COVID-19's Omicron variant.

"We believe that the addition of Kyrie will not only make us a better team but allow us to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster," the Nets said in a Dec. 17 statement.

Irving has been effective despite playing a sporadic schedule. He's averaged 28.5 points, 5.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 3.4 threes and 1.4 stealsacross 20 appearances.

The 30-year-old Duke product, who's a seven-time NBA All-Star, maintained throughout the process his choice to remain unvaccinated was "not about being anti-vax" but rather what he felt was the best decision for him on a personal level.

"This is my life," Irving said in October. "I get to do whatever I want with this, this is one body that I get here. And you are telling me what to do with my body. ... This has everything to do with what is going on in our world. And I am being grouped into something that is bigger than just the game of basketball."

Meanwhile, the Nets' roster endured a shake-up ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline as they dealt James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a blockbuster deal that landed Ben Simmons in Brooklyn.

Irving, Simmons and Kevin Durant will look to form a partnership that could bring the franchise its first NBA championship. Simmons is yet to make his Brooklyn debut while he deals with a back injury. 

The 2011 first overall pick, Irving won a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and having him available on a full-time basis will help Brooklyn in that quest.