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NYC's vaccine mandate to end but Kyrie Irving still out

Despite New York City's mayor revealing that a vaccine mandate is likely to come to an end, the way may not yet be clear for Irving to play Brooklyn Nets home games.

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 26: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets rteacts to a call during the second half of a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on February 26, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
John FisherAFP

Though the Nets remain hopeful that their star could return to the court once the vaccine mandate is lifted, it now seems like that may be more complicated than first thought.

NYC's Vaccine Mandate to end on March 7

According to comments made by New York City's mayor Eric Adams on Sunday, the city's public sector vaccine mandates will come to an end on March 7 barring any "surprises." While the news will undoubtedly be met with celebration in many corners, it is understood that it will not automatically greenlight Kyrie Irving's return the Brooklyn Nets' home court in the Barclays Center. Indeed, Adams' press release went on to clarify specific elements. "...Additionally, New York City's numbers continue to go down day after day, so, as long as COVID indicators show a low level of risk and we see no surprises this week, on Monday, March 7 we will also lift Key2NYC requirements."

Why isn't Kyrie Irving's return clear?

While the news was a cause for happiness all over, it would seem that the devil is in the details in that, where the NBA, the Nets and Irving are concerned it should be noted that New York City also utilizes a separate private sector vaccine mandate which states, "employers may not allow any unvaccinated employees to report to their physical workplace, unless they have requested and received an accommodation." What relevance does that have? Simple, Adams' statement advises that "all other vaccine mandates in New York City will remain in place at this time as they are, and have been, vital to protecting New Yorkers."

Though it is quite likely that the private sector mandate will be removed in the near future - ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that there's a sense of "inevitability" that Irving will play home games this season - the reality is that for the moment it is still active. This brings us back to the possibility that come March 7, Irving will not be able to put on the Nets' jersey and then in turn play in the Barclays Center. Where the NBA is concerned, the league continues to maintain that it will follow local and national health guidelines rather than implement its own vaccine mandate.

Where are the Brooklyn Nets right now?

Currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the Nets are 3.5 games behind the sixth-place Boston Celtics for the final guaranteed playoff spot. Ben Simmons continues to be sidelined with no definitive time frame for return and as was mentioned before, Irving remains unavailable for home games. To make matters somewhat worse, Kevin Durant is not yet ready to return having still not completed his recovery from a knee injury. Durant has in fact been out since the middle of January after spraining his MCL. The Nets are sitting on a 24-12 record at present and have gone 8-17 without Durant.