Kyrie Irving will return to the Nets to play and practice when they are on the road. He is unable to play or practice in Brooklyn because of New York City’s vaccine mandate. Adam Hunger/Associated Press

NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving is rejoining the Brooklyn Nets, who need help and will settle for it on a part-time basis.

The Nets decided Friday that Irving would come back to practice and play in road games, even though he remains unable to play at home because he doesn’t meet New York City’s vaccine mandate.

The Nets originally determined that Irving wouldn’t play with them at all until he could play in all games. But worried about the heavy workload on Kevin Durant and short-handed with seven players unavailable because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the Nets figured they couldn’t pass up the chance to add the All-Star guard.

“We arrived at this decision with the full support of our players and after careful consideration of our current circumstances, including players missing games due to injuries and health and safety protocols,” General Manager Sean Marks said in a statement. “We believe that the addition of Kyrie will not only make us a better team but allow us to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster.”

Members of New York’s pro and college teams must be vaccinated against the coronavirus to be able to play in public arenas. Irving refused to get vaccinated and hasn’t practiced with the Nets since they returned from a week of training camp in San Diego in October.

Given that layoff, it’s unclear how soon he will be ready to play. But the Nets, despite leading the Eastern Conference with a 21-8 record, are in need of healthy bodies.

Starters James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre’ Bembry are in health and safety protocols, along with Paul Millsap, Bruce Brown, James Johnson and Jevon Carter.

It’s forced Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, to play far more minutes than the Nets would like. Coach Steve Nash said Thursday he wanted to get him rest, and the Nets have said Durant will rest a sore right ankle Saturday against Orlando in the opening night of a back-to-back.

COVID: Russell Westbrook had a short stay in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, though the numbers kept rising elsewhere.

The Los Angeles Lakers guard was cleared to return, as was DeMar DeRozan, leaving the Chicago Bulls with seven players in protocols.

The Lakers announced a few hours before their game in Minnesota that Westbrook would be available. He had been placed in protocols Thursday and was listed as out in the injury report earlier, though a player can be cleared by returning two consecutive negative tests in a 24-hour span.

That still left the Lakers with five players unavailable because of the protocols and they brought in a reinforcement with the signing of Isaiah Thomas, the former All-Star guard trying to get back into the league.

The Lakers are scheduled to play Sunday in Chicago, which would be the Bulls’ next game after they had two postponed because 10 players were in protocols. That number is now seven after DeRozan joined Coby White and Javonte Green in being cleared. All-Star Zach LaVine was among the seven who remain in protocols.

Teams need eight players to start a game. The Brooklyn Nets were barely above that when seven of their players, including James Harden, were placed in protocols. In need of help, they decided Friday to bring back Kyrie Irving for road games, even though he is unable to play at home because of his refusal to be vaccinated as mandated for athletes in New York City.

Orlando and Sacramento continued to play through numerous absences, while the Boston Celtics were without five players, including Al Horford and Grant Williams, on Friday against Golden State. Their next opponent, the New York Knicks, also reached five when Immanuel Quickley was added to their report.


HEAT 115, MAGIC 105: Max Strus scored 23 of his career-best 32 points in the first half, Gabe Vincent added a career-best 27 and visiting Miami beat short-handed Orlando.

The Heat made 19 3-pointers to give them 91 over their past five games. That’s the most in team history, easily topping the 82 made over a five-game stretch from Feb.. 24, 2020, to March 4, 2020, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Strus, a third-year NBA player, hit eight of his first 10 shots and six of his first seven from 3-point range. After Orlando climbed within 93-85 early in the fourth quarter, Strus had a four-point play and another 3 in a run that pushed the Heat back ahead by 17.

Vincent followed up his career-best, 26-point effort from two nights earlier with another stellar shooting night for Miami, which won for the fourth time in five games.

NUGGETS 133, HAWKS 115: Bones Hyland scored 24 points, Monte Morris added 21 and Denver won in Atlanta.

Nikola Jokic and Jeff Green each finished with 20 points for the Nuggets, who have won three of four.

The Hawks were coming off a fifth straight road win, but they have dropped six in a row at home. Trae Young had 34 points and 10 assists for Atlanta.

PELICANS 116, BUCKS 112: Devonte’ Graham hit eight 3-pointers and added two clutch free throws late in overtime to finish with 26 points, and New Orleans beat short-handed Milwaukee in New Orleans.

Jonas Valanciunas scored 24 points and Brandon Ingram added 22 for New Orleans, which won its second straight on the heels of Graham’s 60-foot winner at the horn in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.

Former Pelicans star Jrue Holiday, who received a warm welcome during pre-game introductions, scored a career-high 40 points to help Milwaukee force overtime on the road despite being without top scorers Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

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