New York's newly elected mayor has no plans to change the city's coronavirus vaccination mandate, saying it is up to the NBA and Kyrie Irving to find a solution that will get the Brooklyn Nets star back on the court. 

The 29-year-old remains unvaccinated and is therefore ineligible to play home games at Barclays Center or games at the New York Knicks' Madison Square Garden.

Under current city restrictions, people in New York must have at least one coronavirus vaccine to enter indoor arenas, and mayor-elect Eric Adams told CNN on Friday the policy will remain in place when he takes office January 1.

"New York City is not going to change their rule," Adams said. "It is up to the NBA and Kyrie to come to a full understanding on how to keep him on the Nets and to continue to look at all of our athletes that are coming here. Again, I think the NBA and Kyrie [are] going to come to a conclusion on this."

Asked about Adams' remarks after the Nets' 96-90 road win against the Detroit Pistons on Friday, Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash said he was not surprised. 

"I didn't expect the mayor to change the mandate," Nash told reporters. "We've just got to focus on our team. If we could have Kyrie back, we'd all be ecstatic, but we focus on our team, we keep building, we keep growing and hopefully we'll be a really good team at the end of the year." 

After a sluggish start to the season, the Nets have won four in a row and sit at 6-3 following Friday's victory. 

Irving would be eligible to play in most road games but the Nets said three weeks ago that Irving would not be with the team in any capacity until he can be a full participant. 

The seven-time All-Star has played just 74 regular season games in two years since joining the Nets, missing long stretches due to injury issues and personal reasons.

 

Last year, on the same team as high-profile team-mates Kevin Durant and James Harden, Irving scored 26.9 points per game. That dropped to 22.7 points in the playoffs as he was again restricted.

Kevin Durant has admitted the Brooklyn Nets are missing absent star Kyrie Irving following their third defeat in the new NBA season but is bullish they can turn around their stuttering form.

The Nets were beaten 106-93 by the Miami Heat on Wednesday, their third double-digit defeat leaving them with a 2-3 record.

Durant top scored for the Nets with 25 points along with 11 rebounds, while James Harden continues to work into the season, with 14 points.

Irving's absence, due to his vaccination status, has been a major talking point for the Nets and with limited contributions from guards Joe Harris (15 points and three reounds) and Patty Mills (four points, three rebounds and five assists) on Wednesday, Durant conceded he was being missed.

"I know what you want me to say," Durant told reporters after the game. "Yeah, we do miss Kyrie. We do. He's a part of our team.

"For the most part we've been generating great shots. We've been getting into the paint. It's a matter of knocking it down. I think it'll come."

Harden's form is another concern for the Nets as he re-discovers his touch after rehabbing from a hamstring injury.

The 2018 NBA MVP, who joined the Nets from the Houston Rockets in January, is averaging 16.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game this season.

Harden has scored 15 or fewer points for the past three games, the first time that has happened since the 2011-12 season.

"I had no opportunities to play pickup or nothing this summer," Harden told reporters. "Everything was rehab for three months, from a Grade 2 injury that happened three times in one season.

"This is my fifth game of trying to just play with competition against somebody else and as much as I want to rush the process and be back to hooping and killing, [you need to] take your time."

Harden shot four-for-12 from the field and hit three-for-eight from beyond the arc against the Heat.

"[I'm] Just getting more confident, being aggressive," Harden said. "It's getting better every single game.

"As much as I want to get back to just [scoring] 30s and 40 points, I can't do that. As much as I want to, obviously I would love to."

Kevin Durant said nobody is hoping Kyrie Irving will return to "save us" after the Brooklyn Nets were beaten by the Charlotte Hornets amid protests in support of the absent NBA All-Star.

Irving is yet to play this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which is preventing him from practicing or playing with the Nets – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

Demonstrators gathered outside Barclays Center prior to Sunday's 111-95 defeat at home to the Hornets, showing their support of Irving.

After the Nets dropped to 1-2 for the season, Durant was asked about team-mate Irving and him being away from the championship-chasing franchise.

"It's three games in. Of course, we've got enough," Durant told reporters post-game after posting 38 points.

"We definitely want Kyrie Irving out here on the floor and he's a huge part of what we do, but it's not happening right now. So we've got to figure it out.

"But nobody's going to lose confidence while we're playing and hope Kyrie comes and saves us during the game. No, you've got to play."

James Harden was far from his best against the Hornets, going just six-of-16 shooting from the field for 15 points in 33 minutes, while he also tallied eight turnovers.

 

The former MVP endured an injury-hit first season with the Nets following his blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets.

"I'm just getting my confidence back," Harden said. "I'm a little hesitant. You guys can see it. Just making sure my confidence continues to build, and that's all that matters.

"We're at game three and hopefully my confidence -- not hopefully -- but my confidence will rise and will continue to get better as games go on, and I feel more confident and get that burst of speed like I'm normally used to. No worries at all."

Harden has also found himself drawing fewer fouls this season after the NBA introduced a rule change, aimed specifically at players who make "abnormal movements" to get to the free-throw line.

He only went to the line once against the Hornets, having averaged 4.0 attempts heading into the contest – his lowest average since the 2010-11 season (4.2).

"I feel like he's unfairly become the poster boy of not calling these fouls," Nets head coach Steve Nash said. "Some of them are definitely fouls still."

Nash added: "I think he’s got to stick with it. But they're just so alert and aware, and he's the poster child of these new decisions.  I get it, there's a line, but some of them are still fouls.

"So, he's just got to stick with it, he’s got to keep going to the basket, and he's got to do what he does because a large portion of them are still fouls, and if he doesn't get fouls, he can still make plays.

"He can still finish them, and pass and do all the things that he does. So he's just got to continue as he finds his rhythm again after very little basketball for half a year. Keep attacking, keep attacking, and they're gonna respect his skill level and his ability to get guys on his shoulder and get to the basket."

The Milwaukee Bucks will raise their 2021 title banner and receive their championship rings on Tuesday, just before a season opener against a Brooklyn Nets team missing a star player they hoped would deliver silverware to their franchise.

Milwaukee defeated Brooklyn in a seven-game Eastern Conference semi-finals series en route to their first NBA title in 50 years last term.

It was an engrossing series in which Milwaukee prevailed largely due to their superior health, the Nets' cause hindered by injury struggles for James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

And they will again be minus Irving for the season opener in Wisconsin, though for a markedly different reason.

Irving's refusal to receive a coronavirus vaccine, and the fluctuations in his ability that would cause with mandates in major cities preventing unvaccinated individuals from entering public spaces, led the Nets to decide he will not play for the team until the issue is resolved.

As a result, much of the burden will again fall on Kevin Durant, though he will at least have the assistance of Harden, as the Nets aim to get a measure of revenge on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.

Even with Irving out of the picture, the Nets look set to contend with the Bucks for superiority in the East, and this encounter may provide an early indication of which team has the upper hand in 2021-22.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks – Jrue Holiday 

While Antetokounmpo is the man around whom everything revolves for the Bucks, he receives substantial support from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.

It is the latter who is the chief facilitator for Milwaukee. Holiday's 10.5 assists per 48 minutes last postseason ranked fifth among players to play in at least 10 playoff games.

The Bucks will look for him to have a similar influence on their title defence, starting with the visit of the Nets.

Brooklyn Nets – James Harden

Harden was in the MVP conversation last season until a hamstring issue derailed his campaign.

His one full regular-season appearance against the Bucks saw him post a double-double with 34 points and 12 assists.

With Irving unavailable, getting that kind of performance from Harden would be critical to the Nets' hopes of opening the season on a high.

 

KEY BATTLE – Giannis vs. KD

Though both teams have plenty of depth at their disposal, the unquestioned headline act of the season opener will be the heavyweight matchup between Antetokounmpo and Durant.

Last season, the All-Star duo definitely brought out the best in each other.

In 10 games against the Nets across the regular season and postseason, Antetokounmpo only once scored fewer than 30 points. He averaged 61.5 points/assists/rebounds per 48 minutes and had an effective field goal percentage of 57.9.

In three of those games, Durant went over 40 points, with the two-time Finals MVP averaging 58.5 points/assists/rebounds per 48 minutes and posting an effective field goal percentage of 55.6.

However, Durant's plus-minus across all meetings with the Bucks was minus 18 compared to plus 26 for Antetokounmpo, perhaps speaking to his lack of support in the postseason.

With Harden in his corner for this contest, Durant will hope to flip the script in that regard and spoil the Bucks' celebration.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Bucks will be confident they have the edge after their postseason defeat of the Nets and also won each of their home games against Brooklyn last season. A momentous night of celebration for Milwaukee is not the time to let their advantage slip.

Kevin Durant is confident a resolution can be found amid Kyrie Irving's refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19 that is preventing him practising or playing with the Brooklyn Nets.

New York City has a mandate in place, which states NBA players must have had a jab to protect against coronavirus.

Irving stated this week he is neither pro nor anti-vaccination and has respect for both sides of the argument, but as yet he has not had at least one shot, which is the minimum required for him to play home games at the Barclays Center and in fixtures at Madison Square Garden where the New York Knicks play.

The Nets decided Irving will have no involvement with the team until he complies with the rules, but Durant – who joined alongside his team-mate as a free agent in 2019 – is optimistic a resolution will be found.

Speaking after the Nets completed their pre-season duties with a 107-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Durant said: "I definitely want Kyrie to be around.

"I wish none of this stuff would happen, but this is the situation that we are in. Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do and he chose to do what he wanted to do, and the team did the same.

"It's on me to just focus on me, and do my job, and let those two parties handle that situation. I want our whole team together, and I want us to be at full strength, but sometimes it don't work out that way. But I am still positive that things will work out the best for both parties."

Durant is not upset over Irving's decision, though he acknowledged the situation is not ideal for a star-studded Nets team with championship aspirations.

"We still get to do [what] we love to do every day. This is not the ideal situation coming into the season but some of this, it's out of our control," he added.

"So, what we can do is come in and focus on our jobs every single day. What is being mad going to do?

"We are not going to change his mind, know what I'm saying? We'll let him figure out what he needs to do and the team figure out what they need to do.

"I can't be too mad at somebody making a decision for themselves.

"Who am I to get upset at that? Just focus on what we got in this locker room. When [Irving] is ready, I am sure he will talk to [team owner] Joe [Tsai] and [general manager] Sean [Marks] and they'll figure it out and they'll tell us. Until then we are going to keep grinding."

Kyrie Irving reiterated he will stand by his decision to remain unvaccinated after the Brooklyn Nets confirmed the NBA All-Star will not play until he receives the COVID-19 vaccine.

Irving has not been vaccinated and is therefore ineligible to play in home games with the championship-chasing Nets due to New York City mandates.

Nets general manager Sean Marks confirmed on Tuesday that the franchise will not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlook him for selection until he is vaccinated.

Irving, who is part of the Nets 'big three' alongside Kevin Durant and James Harden, broke his silence via social media on Wednesday, stating he will not change his stance leaving him in limbo.

"I'm standing with all those that believe in what is right and are doing what is right for themselves," Irving said in an Instagram Live. "Everybody has a personal choice with their lives. Everybody is entitled to do what they feel is what's best for themselves.

"Seeing the way this is dividing our world up, being vaccinated or unvaccinated. It's sad to see. It's creating a lot of division.

"Don't believe that I'm retiring or I'm going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate, don't believe any of that."

Irving stressed that he had no ill feeling towards the Nets nor his team-mates, explaining that his decision was in the interests of him and his family.

"I'm not going to sit here to give you information or wisdom beyond my years, I'm here just to stay real and true to me," he said. "It's my life, I get to do whatever I want with this, I get one body.

"You're telling me what to do with my body. It has nothing to do with the organisation. I'm going to put that out there, it has nothing to do with the Nets or my team-mates. This has everything to do with what's going in our world, I'm being grouped in with something's that's bigger than a game of basketball."

He added: "It's not being anti-vax. It's not about being one side or the other. It's about what feels good to me. I'm feeling uncertain about a lot of things and that's OK. If I'm going to be demonised for having more questions and taking my time to make a decision with my life, that's just what it is.

"I know the consequences of the decision I make with my life. I'm not here to sugarcoat any of that. It's crazy times that we're in… I haven't hurt anybody. I haven't committed a crime. I'm not out here acting dumb or stupid. I'm out here looking after my family and kids.

"If you choose to get the vaccine, I support you. Do what's best for you. I continue to pray for all those out there who have lost people to the pandemic to COVID."

Irving said he had not anticipated that he would be mandated to be vaccinated ahead of the new NBA season which starts for the Nets against defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.

"What would you do, if you felt uncomfortable going into the season when you were promised that you'd have exemptions or you wouldn't be forced to have to get the vaccine," he said.

"This wasn't an issue before the season started. This wasn't something that I foresaw coming and I could prepare for it and I could strategise on what would be best for me and my family. I came into this season thinking I was going to be able to play ball."

In 2020-21, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game as the Nets lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to the Bucks. 

Irving enjoyed a career-high 50.6 field-goal percentage and joint-career best 92.2 free-throw percentage last season.

It has been reported Irving, who will not be paid for missed home games, will not be offered a contract extension by the Nets.

Irving added: "You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship? You think I really just want to just give up my job? You think I want to sit at home and not go after the things with my team-mates that I've been able to grow with and learn with?"

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said the decision to keep Kyrie Irving away from the NBA championship hopefuls until he is cleared to play was a "difficult" but "sound" choice.

The Nets are set to be without seven-time All-Star Irving – who remains unvaccinated – for the start of their regular season unless his coronavirus vaccine status is resolved.

Irving is ineligible to play in home games or practice in Brooklyn due to New York City mandates, with people in New York requiring at least one coronavirus vaccine to enter indoor arenas such as the Nets' Barclays Center.

While Nash and former MVP James Harden are ready to move on without Irving, the duo insisted the title-chasing Nets would welcome back the 2016 NBA champion.

"Everyone had their say," Nash told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "It takes time to make decisions like that. This is a difficult decision. But I think it was a sound one and one that makes complete sense to everyone.

"We are just going to move on, and if things change, it would be incredible to have him back in the fold. It was a tenuous situation to have a player in and out like that. There's more clarity, and we can focus on the future and get going."

"For guys to be able to not have the uncertainty I think is important," Nash said. "It's not kind of hanging over us. A decision was made, and I think that can be beneficial to us starting to really build and have that understanding that this is what's happening instead of we were living in a world that was very uncertain.

"We weren't sure from one day to the next what was going to change or what was going to happen. That can be difficult, and that can put an extra strain on everybody."

In 2020-21, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game as the Nets lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Irving enjoyed a career-high 50.6 field-goal percentage and joint-career best 92.2 free-throw percentage last season.

Harden added: "Sean [Marks], Steve [Nash], me, KD [Kevin Durant], Kyrie, we all had conversations. Kyrie believes in his beliefs, and he stands firm and strong on that. And for us, we respect it. We all love Ky. But as far as us, we have a job to do.

"Individually, myself, I am still wanting to set myself up for a championship. And I feel like the entire organisation is on the same path and we are all in this as a collective unit."

"I have no say so in that," Harden said of the Irving decision. "I can only state my opinion, and we got to continue to move forward. Obviously, we would love to have Kyrie here."

"We still have two pretty good leaders on the team," Harden continued. "Know what I mean? And obviously Ky is our leader as well. We still have myself and Kevin [Durant]. [We] have to lead, which we are pretty good at that, and go out there and be great every single night."

Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the Brooklyn Nets until he is allowed to be a full participant, general manager Sean Marks has said.

The 29-year-old remains unvaccinated against coronavirus and is therefore ineligible to play in home games due to New York City mandates.

Under the city restrictions, people in New York must have at least one coronavirus vaccine to enter indoor arenas such as the Nets' Barclays Center home.

Irving – who would not be paid for missed home games – would have been available for most road games, but the Nets have decided to overlook the seven-time All-Star until he is cleared to play every night.

"Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant," Marks said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently, the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability. 

"It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. 

"Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organisation must pull in the same direction. 

"We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud."

Irving has played just 74 regular season games in two years since joining the Nets, missing long stretches due to injury issues and personal reasons.

Last year, on the same team as high-profile team-mates Kevin Durant and James Harden, Irving scored 26.9 points per game. That dropped to 22.7 points in the playoffs as he was again restricted.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash has welcomed reports that Kyrie Irving will be permitted to train at the franchise's facilities despite being unvaccinated and unable to play home games.

Irving will still not be available for home games at the Barclays Center in the 2021-22 NBA season, which starts for the Nets on Tuesday 19 October against the Milwaukee Bucks, under New York's COVID-19 vaccination laws.

The Nets point guard has not been able to join Nets practice this week but according to reports the franchise's HSS Training Center has now been deemed a private office building, enabling him to train there despite his unvaccinated status.

"It’s positive to be able to welcome him back into the building and have him be part of the team," Nash told reporters on Friday.

"I don’t want to comment too much on it firmly until I know what the parameters are but it sounds like it’s positive news."

Nash admitted Irving would need to catch up after his interrupted pre-season but was bullish he would be able to maintain a level of game fitness throughout the season.

"When someone's able to resume full activity on the court they'd still need to meet a level of high intensity, before you'd put them in a game," he said.

"Even if you're not injured, you still have to reach those thresholds. If you are injured, once you are healthy, you have to meet those thresholds as well."

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant envisions Kyrie Irving being part of the NBA championship contenders this season but admitted if he misses games his quality will be hard to "duplicate".

Irving has not trained with the Nets in New York this week as part of the city's COVID-19 protocols that only allows players with at least one vaccination shot to practice and play.

Nets star Irving faces missing all of Brooklyn's home matches in the 2021-22 season, which gets underway against reigning champions the Milwaukee Bucks on October 19, if his vaccination status does not change.

The drawn-out situation has created a major distraction for title favourites the Nets, who bowed out to eventual champions the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last season.

"I'm envisioning Kyrie being a part of our team," Durant told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "Maybe I'm just naive, but that is just how I feel.

"But I think everybody here has that confidence in themselves, in our group, that if we keep building, we can do something special."

Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game in the 2020-21 season where he played 54 times.

The Nets struggled to find continuity with their big three, Irving, Durant and James Harden, who joined from the Houston Rockets in January, on the court due to injuries but that seemed set to change after injury-free pre-seasons ahead of the new campaign.

"I mean he's a special player so it is going to be hard to duplicate what he brings," former MVP Durant said.

"But professional sports are about the next man up mentality so we are looking forward to guys stepping up and filling in that role as best as they can."

Durant and the Nets have tried to insist the Irving situation is not a distraction, although the 33-year-old forward said he would not get involved in his team-mate's decision-making.

The Golden State Warriors faced a similar situation last week with Andrew Wiggins under the San Francisco city laws, although he opted to get his first vaccination ending the discussion.

"He is dealing with something personal right now and while he is dealing with that, we are going to focus on us here in the gym and keep working," Durant said. "When they are ready to figure that out, he'll figure it out."

Durant added: "I want him a part of this group. He's a special player. We want him a part of this group. But a lot of stuff is out of our control and we will let him figure that out for himself.

"It doesn't mean that I will say that I don't want him on the team. He's a huge part of what we do but guys got to step up in his absence and be who they are and move forward.

"I'm not really trying to get too involved in it. It's far bigger than myself and each one of us individually. This is one man's personal decision on his wellbeing."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said the team will not move practice so Kyrie Irving can bypass the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

Irving missed Tuesday's practice due to New York's coronavirus vaccination protocols, with local mandates restricting unvaccinated persons from entering sports arenas, restaurants and other public spaces.

Nets star Irving faces being unable to play home games while losing significant portions of his salary if he is not vaccinated.

Asked if the Nets considered moving training outside of New York, Nash told reporters: "No, this is our home. This is where we're going to practice and we have almost a whole group.

"So that's a positive, and we're just working at getting better every day and focusing on the things we can control."

Addressing the Irving situation, Nash said: "No further update. We support him. We are here for him. Things change. When there's a resolution, we're here for him."

"I'm not really worried about anything," Nash added, with the Nets due to open their season against champions the Milwaukee Bucks on October 19. "We're just trying to work every day.

"We came in today and had a great practice and we'll do the same tomorrow, and that's kind of where I leave it."

Irving was unable to attend the Nets' media day in person in Brooklyn on September 27.

"I know that I'll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team and be there for my growing tribe off the court," Irving said remotely.

"I know the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions. This is the last thing I wanted to create, was more distractions and more hoopla and more drama around this. I'm doing my best to maintain this with good intentions and a good heart."

In 2020-21, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game as the Nets lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Irving enjoyed a career-high 50.6 field-goal percentage and joint-career best 92.2 free-throw percentage last season.

Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks says he expects to have James Harden and Kyrie Irving join Kevin Durant in re-signing with the franchise ahead of their training camp.

The Nets, who were beaten 4-3 by eventual NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks in the Conference semi-finals last season, will be hold their pre-season training camp next month.

Durant, who last Saturday won gold at Tokyo 2020, recently re-committed to Brooklyn on a four-year deal.

Marks confirmed the Nets are in talks to extend the contracts of Irving and Harden, as they look to lock down their 'Big Three'.

“I feel very confident that first day of training camp we’ll be looking at those three in particular being signed, sealed and delivered and being part of the Brooklyn Nets for a long time to come,” Marks said in Wednesday's video conference.

"We're having those conversations with them. I think there's no immediate hurry to get any of these guys done in terms of the first day of free agency. These are opportunities for us to sit down, break bread together, meet with Joe Tsai [Nets owner] and really get on the same page."

Marks said that Durant's extension was "straight-forward", labelling the forward's decision to extend as "franchise changing".

“Kevin was honestly extremely straightforward, and very upfront about ‘I want to be here, this is it, get it done, and I want to get it done immediately.’ I don't blame him," Marks said.

"It was obviously very important for us. I can't tell you how important it was, and this is franchise changing when you can lock a person like Kevin up and he wants to commit to being here for the foreseeable future."

Marks also offered updates on both Irving and Harden who missed periods of the playoffs with injuries.

Harden, 31, battled a hamstring injury in the regular season which recurred during the playoffs, while Irving suffered an ankle sprain in Game 4 of the Bucks series and did not return.

“I've James working out, I've seen some videos of him and he's really trending in the right direction," Marks said. "Looks great, has really devoted himself this summer to rehabbing one the hamstring and just getting himself into top basketball shape.

"I was with Kyrie yesterday... It was a bad ankle sprain, there's no question there, so that set him back, but he's recovering and he's progressing well and is back in the gym and I have no doubt by the time training camp rolls around and even prior to that the guys will be together and be live on the court together playing and working out.

"But from a health standpoint no reason to be concerned about either one.”

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving will not face the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, head coach Steve Nash confirmed.

Irving has been sidelined since spraining his right ankle in the Nets' Game 4 loss, missing Game 5 and 6 in the NBA playoffs.

With the second-round series set to be decided in Brooklyn on Saturday, the second-seeded Nets will be without Irving.

"Kai is still getting treatment ... he's got some miles to make up, but progressing and sticking to his rehab," Nash said. "He is officially out."

Kevin Durant has been carrying the load for the Nets, with fellow MVP winner James Harden far from his best since returning from a hamstring injury in Game 5.

"If we're able to advance, I think he'll [Irving] be back at some point," Nash said. "So I don't know if that's in a few days, in a week or beyond, but it's not a season-threatening situation."

Irving has been averaging 26.9 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 2020-21, while boasting career highs in field-goal percentage (50.6) and free-throw percentage (92.2).

In this season's playoffs, Irving is averaging 22.7 points, a career-best 5.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists for the Nets, who are eyeing their first NBA championship.

Brooklyn Nets stars Kyrie Irving and James Harden will both miss Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Milwaukee Bucks due to injury.

Irving sprained his right ankle in the Nets' 107-96 loss in Game 4 on Sunday and underwent an MRI which confirmed he would not be available for Tuesday's clash, with the NBA playoff series in tied at 2-2.

Nets guard Irving joins former MVP Harden on the sidelines, with the latter still absence because of a hamstring he re-injured in Game 1.

Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash said the length of Irving's absence remains unknown.

"I have to wait and see how it progresses, I think," Nash said.

"And then the experts would have to wait and see how it progresses and give you a clearer picture on what the window would be for his return."

Nash added that Harden was "working out right now" but was unclear on his return to play timeframe.

The second-seeded Nets – eyeing their maiden championship – have battled injuries throughout the 2020-21 campaign, with Harden missing 21 games late in the regular season due to his troublesome hamstring.

"It's tough to lose great players but we've lost guys all season," Nash said. "If there's any silver linings, it's that we've continued to win games regardless of who's been available.

"We've been able to adapt on the fly which is difficult to do sometimes. That's something we have some experience with. We should have some comfort and belief."

The absence of two-thirds of the 'Big Three' puts a heavy burden on Kevin Durant, although Nash insisted it was not just about him.

"This does not fall on Kevin, this falls on the Nets," Nash said. "We've got to find a way together to play great basketball on both ends of the floor. We've proven we can do it.

"We try to stick to our principles and fundamentals, which is connectivity, competitive spirit, embracing the opportunity and playing together as a team."

The Phoenix Suns advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2009-10 after sweeping Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets 4-0 in the NBA playoffs.

Suns duo Devin Booker and Chris Paul flexed their muscles in a 125-118 victory over the Nuggets in Game 4 as MVP Jokic was ejected on Sunday.

Jokic (22 points and 11 rebounds), who earned his first MVP accolade on Tuesday, was assessed a flagrant two foul after his foul on Phoenix's Cameron Payne in the third quarter.

That made life difficult for the third-seeded Nuggets – already missing star Jamal Murray due to injury – as the Suns rolled into the Conference Finals for the first time in more than a decade.

Paul produced a vintage performance with a game-high 37 points, while Booker put up 34 points and 11 rebounds for the second-seeded Suns, who are the only team to knock out both the previous season's conference finalists in the opening two rounds since the NBA playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984 per Stats Perform.

The Eastern Conference semi-final matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets is deadlocked at 2-2 after Giannis Antetokounmpo starred.

Antetokounmpo posted a double-double to lead the Bucks past the second-seeded Nets 107-96 in Game 4.

Two-time MVP Antetokounmpo had a game-high 34 points and 12 rebounds as the Bucks topped the Nets, who lost All-Star Kyrie Irving to injury.

Irving – who had 11 points, five rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes of action – twisted his right ankle after coming down on Antetokounmpo's foot, having scored from close range in the second quarter.

The seven-time All-Star received treatment on the court before walking to the locker room. The Nets later ruled him out for the remainder of the contest as the third-ranked Bucks took advantage.

Kevin Durant led the way for the Nets with 28 points but was stifled by the Bucks' physical defensive play.

 

76ers at Hawks

The top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers visit the Atlanta Hawks for Game 4 on Monday, leading the Eastern Conference semi-final series 2-1. Utah Jazz – the top seed in the west – are also in action against the Los Angeles Clippers in their Western Conference second-round Game 4.

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