James Harden and the Nets know how important Kyrie Irving is to the team’s title hopes.
Even when Irving scored just nine points on Wednesday, his presence helped open up the rest of the offense to put up a season-high 138 points in a statement win over the conference-leading Bulls, and that was without Irving putting on his usual scoring clinic.
Of course, Irving is only available to Brooklyn on a part-time basis due to his vaccination status, but after sharing the court with him again on Wednesday, Harden just might have to take matters into his own hands.
“I’m gonna give him the shot if I have to,” Harden laughed as he left his postgame press conference on Wednesday night.
Of course, Harden was being playful, but the Nets would obviously love for Irving to be eligible to play home games in Brooklyn, especially if the City’s vaccine mandates don’t change by the beginning of the postseason. But for now, when the Nets take the floor at the Barclays Center on Thursday night, Irving will be back in New Jersey, watching from afar.
“I’m in Jersey, mainly,” Irving said. “I go into the facility in Brooklyn to get treatment and do my workouts, then I go back home and I’m either with my son or fiancée or just family around the community. If you only understood how many people support the Nets from my hometown and also from where I’m from. It’s a lot.
“Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. I can’t go out an watch at a local bar or anything like that…sometimes I have to watch it alone, and sometimes I get to watch with my family. It’s a balance of that.”
Missing out on home games has been difficult for Irving, but not enough to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and be cleared to play in indoor arenas in New York City. Until that changes, or the City’s mandates, Irving will have to continue to watch his teammates on TV, unless Harden decides to give Irving the jab himself.
“From the beginning of the season, it was like drinking something that you don’t want to drink,” Irving said. “I didn’t want to accept it at first…I tried not to get too emotionally attached to it, because when I did, then it just felt like I had FOMO, just that feeling of missing out every single day. It was like ‘Man, I just want to be with the guys.’”
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1