NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Brooklyn Nets All-Star guard Kyrie Irving is returning to the team and will play in most road games, the club announced on Friday (Dec 17).
Irving has not played this season due to his strong stance on remaining unvaccinated, which made him unavailable for roughly half the team's games.
The 29-year-old is not allowed to play in home games due to New York City mandates that require players to be vaccinated. He also would not be able to play in road games against the New York Knicks, as well as in Toronto due to Ontario's mandates.
Irving will be required to undergo daily testing due to NBA policies. He is allowed to practise with the Nets.
"After discussions with our coaches, players and staff, the organisation has decided to have Kyrie Irving rejoin the team for games and practices in which he is eligible to participate," Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
"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.
"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. We look forward to Kyrie's return to the line-up, as well as getting our entire roster back together on the court."
Irving's return comes at a time in which star forward Kevin Durant (ankle) is out for Saturday's road game against the Boston Celtics, leaving the team even more short-handed.
Star guard James Harden also is out as one of seven Brooklyn players listed in Covid-19 protocols. Veteran forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap are among the other players.
Overall, Brooklyn list 11 players as out on their injury report.
The Nets (21-8) next play on the road on Dec 23 when they open a three-game trip against the Portland Trail Blazers. They also play two contests in Los Angeles - Christmas Day against the Lakers and Dec 27 against the Clippers.
Irving would be ineligible in three of Brooklyn's remaining 27 road games - the two visits to Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks (Feb 16, April 6) and one trip to Toronto (March 1).
Shortly before the season started, the Nets opted against having Irving as a part-time player.
However, there recently was a shift in thinking from club management.
"If we get the gift of his return, we'll be ecstatic, but we can't count on it," Nets coach Steve Nash said of Irving's potential return earlier this week. "We can't wait for him. We have to get to work, and get better, and our group's been awesome this year."
Irving, a seven-time All-Star, played in 54 regular-season games for the Nets last season and averaged 26.9 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds.
In 582 career games (all starts) with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2011-17), Boston Celtics (2017-19) and Nets, he has averages of 22.8 points, 5.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds.