Kyrie Irving situation remains a challenge for Nets’ Big 3

One year after landing James Harden, the Nets only have played 16 games with their assembled Big 3 — also including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — in the lineup.

They have won 13 of those contests, however, including an impressive blowout performance Wednesday night at Eastern Conference-leading Chicago.

The question remains: How can the Nets maximize the amount of games the trio can play together, with the unvaccinated Irving still ineligible to play in home games and select road games due to local vaccine ordinances?

Asked afterward if he believed the win over the Bulls showed the Nets at full strength are “a title-worthy team,” Irving replied he and his teammates “have felt that way since Day 1,” despite his absence for most of the first half of the season.

“Even when we started in training camp, just having the guys that we have on our team coupled with some great experience and then also young guys that are just really, really hungry to get out there on the floor,” Irving said. “And now that I’ve been able to be on the road with the guys for a few days and just really get a good sense of where we are.

James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant
USA TODAY Sports; Getty Images

“I’m definitely still playing catch up. I won’t even put that past anything. It’s just everybody’s in midseason form, and I’m just like, man, I’ve missed training camp, I’ve missed some valuable time just being able to get my feet wet out there. But with everything happening quick, my teammates the whole entire organization just made it easier, to just like just go out there and play. … So hopefully we can get used to this and have some more time playing together.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday there is “real optimism” that the Nets eventually will get Irving back as a “full-time player” at some point this season, possibly by incurring “nominal fines” for breaking New York City’s existing rules.

As The Post has reported, however, the NBA stated before the season that all teams must abide by any local mandates.

Wojnarowski similarly walked back his original quotes Thursday on Twitter, writing, “To be clear on the hypothetical ability for a team to pay a fine for an unvaccinated player to play in a marketplace that local ordinances forbid,” the NBA sent a memo to all teams in September that they “must follow local laws and players who don’t comply won’t be able to play.”

Meanwhile, the Nets were without Durant for their game Thursday night against the Thunder. They announced he and Patty Mills would be rested for the game at Barclays Center. Durant played 30 minutes Wednesday in the 26-point blowout win over the Bulls, while Harden logged 33 minutes and Irving scored nine points in 25 minutes.

Irving also was asked after the game Wednesday how he has handled being away from his teammates for home games since rejoining them on the road last month.

“It’s hard being away from the team at any point since this all started. It’s difficult, so with that being said, there’s still an adjustment and just a reality we have to face and we’re doing our best, I’m doing my best, and I’m just happy we can do it as a cohesive organization,” he said. “From top to bottom, people have just been nothing but supportive of one another, guys are in and out of the lineup all year, so it’s just a reality we have to face together and see where we end up later during the season.”

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