Nets star Kevin Durant placed in NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Kyrie Irving quickly follows

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  • Kevin Durant
    Kevin Durant
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  • Kyrie Irving
    Kyrie Irving
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NEW YORK — Nets superstar Kevin Durant has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced on Saturday. He has either tested positive for COVID-19 or received an inconclusive test result and must now either register two negative COVID tests in a 24-hour period or be sidelined 10 days to rejoin his team.

If Durant cannot register back-to-back negative COVID tests in the next week, he will be unavailable for the Nets’ Christmas Day matchup against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Just as the news of Durant being added to the COVID list began to circulate, came word that unvaccinated Kyrie Irving has also been placed in the health and safety protocols just a day after the Nets announced he was returning to the team to be a part-time (road games only) player.

Irving will be eligible to resume basketball activities on Dec. 23 if he posts five consecutive negative COVID-19 tests.

The Nets have been hit harder than most teams as the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic smacks the United States. Durant and Irving marked the eighth and ninth Nets to enter the health and safety protocols, joining teammates James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, DeAndre’ Bembry, Bruce Brown, James Johnson and Jevon Carter.

The player shortage in Brooklyn is so dire, Patty Mills, who was supposed to rest Saturday’s game against the Orlando Magic, was upgraded to available. Mills is now likely to play in both games of this weekend’s back-to-back: The Nets play again on Sunday when they host the Denver Nuggets.

As for Irving, the Nets brass had originally rejected the idea of allowing the star guard, who is ineligible to play in home games given New York City’s vaccine mandate, to play in only road games at the start of the season, but changed their minds Friday as the number of players in the health and safety protocols increases. Brooklyn’s options for putting together a full team are limited.

The NBA granted the Nets several hardship exceptions to sign free agents to 10-day contracts in the wake of their roster status. So far the Nets have used thre and have signed point guard Langston Galloway, guard Shaquille Harrison and forward James Ennis.

None of those players will come close to replacing Durant’s production. The Nets star has emerged as a frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player of the Year award and is averaging a league-leading 29.7 points on 52% shooting from the field. He has led the Nets to three straight wins since Harden last played in the team’s Dec. 10 win against the Atlanta Hawks.

Durant scored 51 points on just 31 shots in the following game against the Detroit Pistons. He then led a Nets team with just eight available players to a win against the Toronto Raptors and followed with a nine-player win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Without Durant, the Nets project to start Mills, rookie David Duke Jr. (who started alongside Durant against the 76ers) and Blake Griffin. One of the final starting spots can go to either rookie Cam Thomas or Kessler Edwards. Rookie big man Day’Ron Sharpe could also be forced into the starting lineup with Nic Claxton listed as doubtful with a wrist injury.

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