An unvaccinated basketball player will not need to jump through hoops to return to his team part time.

National Basketball Association player Kyrie Irving returned to a Brooklyn Nets practice for the first time since preseason on Wednesday in preparation for his role as a part-time player on the road.

"I've missed so much time," Irving told reporters on Wednesday. "It's my first day back around the block with the guys, and it felt like it's been a long time. It's only been, what, three months or so. But it has felt like the days have been slowly crossed off the calendar while I am sitting at home. When I thought about [returning to practice] last night, I could barely sleep."


Irving also said he understood why the team's leaders had him stay away.

"I understood their decision and respected it," he said. "I really had to sit back and think and try not to become too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do. I had to really evaluate things and see it from their perspective, meaning the organization, my teammates."

"I really empathized, and I understood their choice to say if you are not going to be fully vaccinated, then you can't be a full [participant]," he continued.

Irving was welcomed back to the team, earning praise from his teammates after the Nets lost Thursday night's game to the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Have you watched him play?" Nets small forward Kevin Durant said to reporters after the game. "[Irving's] a master. He can score 60%, 70% of his shots if you don't guard him. He's a high IQ player. It's just a matter of him getting his legs up under him and his wind up under him. And then for us, we're going to run plays for him, we'll try to look for him. We play team basketball — but he can adapt and do anything out there, so we're not worried about him."

Nets General Manager Sean Marks said on Dec. 17 that the Nets would let Irving rejoin the team, a reversal from his announcement on Oct. 12 that the team would not let him play part time due to the need to "build chemistry as a team."

Irving made news in October when he declined to get the vaccine, saying his decision was a "personal choice" and not political. New York City's policies at the time would not have allowed him to play home games, leading to the Nets not allowing Irving to play. The decision drew ire from fans, who attempted to storm Barclays Center on Oct. 25 in protest.


The Nets have not stated when Irving will appear on the court again, with Nets Coach Steve Nash saying he'll need to "ramp up" for one to two weeks before he can return for a road game.

Representatives for the Nets and the NBA did not respond to the Washington Examiner's requests for comment.