Kyrie Irving has not played an NBA game this season because of his unvaccinated status, and it looked like Brooklyn Nets ownership was originally willing to pay him to stay away from the team.

However, a Covid-19 outbreak and roster crisis caused owner Joe Tsai and coach Steve Nash to change their tune. Irving was officially re-activated for away games in December 2021. 

A day after that announcement was made, Irving promptly found himself entering health and safety protocols. He finally cleared those just before the new year, and his return now looks imminent.

Depending on who you ask, he could suit up as soon as the Nets’ next game against the Indiana Pacers.

If Irving doesn’t return then, for one reason or another, then his next opportunity won’t come until next week, when the Nets visit Portland and Chicago. 

For all of the drama and uncertainty that follows Irving off the court, it’s still impossible to deny his elite skills on the hardwood. With the Eastern Conference being hyper competitive this season (the sixth place Cavaliers are only 5.5 games behind the conference-leading Bulls), there’s no doubt that the Nets could use Irving on the court. In 54 regular season games last season, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.7 steals. He also shot 50.6% from the field, 40.2% from beyond the arc, and 92.2% from the charity stripe.

They say winning changes everything. That notion is going to put to the test when Irving returns, as the Nets are currently mired in a three-game losing streak. Yes, they still have some roster problems, but the Nets have had Kevin Durant and James Harden for all three of those losses – which will make Nets fans uneasy.

If Irving can perform on the court and avoid any friction with his teammates, you can bet that many people will forget about the controversy that’s followed the mercurial guard for the last year. Here’s a video to remind you how deadly Irving can be when he’s on his A-game.

If he doesn’t contribute on the court, though, it wouldn’t be outlandish to think that the Nets may pull the plug on his involvement with the team permanently. For now, we simply have to wait and see.