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Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving returning to team for road games

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving returning to team for road games
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (R), shown Oct. 30, 2019, hasn't played in a regular-season game this year due to complications surrounding his vaccination status. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The Brooklyn Nets are bringing back All-NBA guard Kyrie Irving as a part-time player for road games outside of New York and Toronto, the team announced Friday.

Irving, who has been reluctant to satisfy New York City's coronavirus mandates and become vaccinated to compete in home games or road games at Madison Square Garden, will be eligible to play once he passes a series of COVID-19 tests and gets into playing shape.

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The Nets' decision to welcome back Irving comes amid a series of roster issues for the team. Injuries have impacted Brooklyn, which also has seven players -- including superstar guard James Harden -- in the league's health and safety protocols.

In October, Nets executives made a collaborative decision to not have Irving be a part-time player. However, the problems on the Nets' roster forced the team to adjust.

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"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," Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.

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"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 lineup, as well as getting our entire roster back together on the court."

Irving, who has yet to play in a regular-season game this year, must test negative for five consecutive days before he can rejoin the Nets. Once he returns, he must undergo daily COVID-19 testing as an unvaccinated player.

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The Nets' next road matchup comes Dec. 23 at the Portland Trail Blazers, followed by a Christmas Day game at the Los Angeles Lakers and a Dec. 27 contest at the L.A. Clippers. That road swing is followed by three more home games at Barclays Center.

Brooklyn has 27 road games left in the 2021-22 season, but two of those are at the New York Knicks' Madison Square Garden -- where Irving would be ineligible to play unless he complies with New York City's COVID-19 requirements.

Irving also is currently unable to compete March 1 at Toronto, where travel for unvaccinated players across the Canadian border will be restricted beginning in January. The Nets (21-8) have 26 home games remaining.

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The 29-year-old Irving has averaged 22.8 points and 5.7 assists over 582 career games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Nets.

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