NBA

Kyrie Irving sees 'light at the end of the tunnel' after season-high score against Bucks

By Sports Desk February 27, 2022

Kyrie Irving can see "light at the end of the tunnel" after the best performance of his difficult season in the Brooklyn Nets' defeat of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving put up 38 points, as the Nets beat the reigning champions 126-123 on the road on Saturday.

With Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons sidelined, Irving stepped up with a strong performance, finishing 14-of-26 shooting to overshadow Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It was a glimpse of a possibly exciting end to the season for the Nets and Irving, whose appearances have been limited by the vaccine mandate in New York City.

The 29-year-old, who is unvaccinated, has only been able to play in road games until now, but New York City mayor Eric Adams said this week that the mandate is likely to be phased out as cities across the United States begin to remove their COVID-19 restrictions.

"I'm glad that things are kind of settling down and there's light at the end of the tunnel here," Irving said. "Hopefully, I can get back on that home floor playing in the Barclays, and now we can finally have that conversation that you've been dying to have just about turning the page and moving forward beyond this.

"But like I said, I'm not the only one. I feel for everybody that's either in my boat or a similar boat or has dealt with some type of trauma from this. And just wishing everybody well-wishes, always."

 

On the prospect of New York's mandate being lifted, Irving said: "I'm following it as much as you guys are, so just remaining patient and just seeing where things end up in this next week or so, next two weeks, I'm not too sure, but I know as much as you do.

"And I want to say this: I'm very appreciative of all those that are pushing behind the scenes to make our world a better place.

"And with everything calming down with the COVID cases, the most important thing for me was just making sure everyone's okay. I've been on record saying this that it's not about me, that I don't want to feel like it's all on me, but the circumstances this year have not been ideal."

Irving has only played in 15 games this season but has maintained a points average of 25.1, above his career figure of 22.9. That is despite his field-goal percentage (45.9 per cent) dropping to its lowest since his penultimate season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015-16.

He said he was grateful to NBA commissioner Adam Silver for suggesting the New York mandate "doesn't quite make sense" as unvaccinated opposition players were still allowed to play.

"I know his job is not easy, standing in the fire, sometimes, on behalf of our league," he added. "So my respect level went to a whole new one for him, and I'm just grateful that he did that, and he really took one for the team. And I'm grateful for that.

"But like I said, we want to set a great example for the world in what we're doing, and we try to stand for what's right and respect everyone else's decisions and their personal beliefs."

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