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Kyrie Irving has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocol and is preparing for his eventual return to the Nets as a part-time player, with his first opportunity to play coming on January 5 in Indiana.

Irving was able to join the team at the Nets’ practice facility for the first time since the preseason, and participated in his first practice. Irving’s long absence and controversial return has been one of the biggest storylines in the NBA this season, and while Irving said Wednesday that he “knew the consequences” of refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine, he wasn’t prepared to live with them.

Back in October, Irving spoke out in an Instagram live session and suggested he was promised an exemption to play without receiving a vaccination. At that time, Irving said the series of events that forced him away from the team entirely “wasn’t something that I foresaw coming…. I (didn’t have) a chance to strategize for what was going to be best for me and my family.”

New York City mandates meant that Irving would not be able to participate in home games without becoming vaccination, and the Nets went a step further as an organization, ruling Irving ineligible to play or practice at any venue until he met local requirements. As a result, Irving has missed the Nets’ first 32 games – and that seems to have taken a toll on the star guard.

Irving also said that he understood the Nets’ initial decision to rule him ineligible, and worked to “see it from their perspective.”

Prior to returning to the Nets on Wednesday, Irving said he could barely sleep due to the anticipation of being on the court again.


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