The Brooklyn Nets are welcoming back seven-time NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving for games and practices in which he is eligible, after he missed the first two months of the season over his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Irving was ruled ineligible to play at home due to a New York City mandate requiring proof of vaccine to enter large indoor spaces and the Nets previously said the guard would not play or practice with the team until he could be a full participant.
“We arrived at this decision with the full support of our players and after careful consideration of our current circumstances, including players missing games due to injuries and health and safety protocols,” General Manager Sean Marks said in a written statement on Friday, citing a need to balance the “physical demand” on the roster.
The 29 year old, who averaged 26.9 points per game last season and joined Brooklyn in 2019, told ESPN in October he was “being true to what feels good” by choosing not to get the vaccine.
The Nets are currently first in the Eastern Conference with a 21-8 record after a four-game winning streak.
The team’s announcement comes as major sports scramble to contain COVID-19 outbreaks and the highly contagious Omicron variant threatens to intensify across North America.
NBA rolled out tighter COVID-19 protocols amid a sudden wave of COVID-19 cases and, according to a memo seen by Reuters on Friday, will increase testing from December 26 to January 8 and return to mask usage in many situations until agreed otherwise by the league and union representing its players.