Kyrie Irving sits courtside for Nets-Knicks in Brooklyn

Kyrie Irving finally made his Barclays Center season debut Sunday.

He just didn’t get to play.

New York City’s relaxed indoor vaccine mandates may have loosened enough to allow the unvaccinated Irving in the building, but the private sector mandates still keep him from playing at home for the Nets.

The situation led to a bizarre Kafka-esque scene, with Irving making a fashionably late arrival to this nationally televised clash with the rival Knicks and sitting in his courtside seats watching his Brooklyn teammates play.

The fact that it came just a couple hours after Mayor Eric Adams prodded the All-Star guard to get vaccinated just added to the surreal situation.

In one of the most dramatic mid-game entrances at Barclays Center since Kevin Durant was (temporarily) cleared from protocols to check into a game last season — or Prince William and Kate’s second-half arrival to watch LeBron James in 2014 — Irving came through the visitor’s tunnel clad in a long off-white peacoat with black lettering.

Kyrie Irving fist-bumps a fan while walking to his courtside seats.
Robert Sabo/New York Post

With cameras following his every stride, Irving made his way through the crowd, stopping every few feet to shake hands, give hugs and dap up Nets fans as the crowd roared its approval.

He eventually made his way courtside, talking with team owner Joe Tsai. At one point Tsai appeared to step to the side — perhaps to let the national television cameras get a clear shot at his star player — before the point guard eventually took his seat to watch the rest of the contest.

Kyrie Irving chats with Nets owner Joe Tsai during the Nets' game against the Knicks at Barclays Center.
Kyrie Irving chats with Nets owner Joe Tsai.
Robert Sabo/New York Post

A 110-107 Nets victory he could only observe from feet away, like a fan.

Asked if he’d gotten any explanation as to why Irving can attend games but not play, Brooklyn coach Steve Nash replied “No.”

When Nash was asked if it made sense to him, he demurred. “You know, I’m just going to stay out of it,” he said. “I don’t want to wade into an area that I’m not an expert in.”

Kyrie Irving looks on from his courtside seats during the Nets' game against the Knicks.
Kyrie Irving looks on from his courtside seats during the Nets’ game against the Knicks.
Robert Sabo/New York Post

A City Hall source told The Post that the private sector employee mandate applies to almost every private businesses in the city, small or large. While the private sector mandate does have the same non-resident athlete as Key2NYC (the recently repealed indoor exception venue mandate), that only applies to athletes playing for visiting teams, not local squads.

Hence, despite Irving technically being a West Orange, NJ, resident, because he’s employed by Brooklyn — a New York City team — he’s still covered regardless of where he lives. So he was free to come to Barclays Center on Sunday as a fan, just not as an employee. That’s why he sat in his courtside seat, instead of on the bench.

As of now, since the Nets also have a road game against the Knicks at the Garden, Irving is only eligible for four of the 14 remaining regular-season games.

Of course, there is a simple solution to that issue.

As one Brooklyn fan heckled Adams at a Sunday morning press conference about Irving not being able to play at home, Adams — a Nets fan — offered a simple response on-brand with the city’s thinking.

“And you’re right, son. You’re right. Thank you. Listen, you’re right. Kyrie can play tomorrow: Get vaccinated,” Adams said, with a chuckle and a thumbs-up. “Go ahead. I love New York and hecklers. I come out of City Hall and people are outside protesting, and I said ‘Wow, it’s great to be in New York.’ ”

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