Since the trade deadline, rumors have circulated that the Brooklyn Nets expect Kyrie Irving to be available for home games by the time the playoffs start. The team’s optimism might be well-founded, given the latest update regarding New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The plan for New York City to phase out COVID vaccine mandates for indoor spaces will be announced in the next few weeks, according to the New York Daily News’ Chris Sommerfeldt. Irving is not vaccinated and therefore hasn’t been able to play in Nets home games or road games against the New York Knicks.

The 2022 NBA playoffs start on April 16. That leaves seven weeks between the end of the All-Star break and the beginning of the postseason.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams didn’t give a specific date for when the vaccine mandate might be lifted, but he has certainly opened the door for an unvaccinated Irving to play meaningful games at Barclays Center. Adams said he "can't wait" to end the mandate.

In an extremely difficult Eastern Conference, the Nets would have a difficult time making a deep playoff run if Irving isn’t allowed to play in home games. Since Brooklyn traded James Harden and improved the Philadelphia 76ers’ championship odds, Irving has become the Nets’ second-best player.

Brooklyn is under .500 at home with a 13-15 record. The Nets are 18-13 on the road. Brooklyn is the only East team with a top-11 seed that owns a losing record at home.

In 14 games, Irving is averaging 24.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Irving and Kevin Durant have only played three games together this season.

“In terms of where I am with my life outside of this, I stay rooted in my decision. And that's just what it is,” Irving told reporters in January when asked about his vaccination status. "It's not going to be swayed just because of one thing in this NBA life. That somehow it's brought to my attention as being more important than what's going on in the real world. It's just not happening for me. Again, I respect everyone else's decision. I'm not going to ever try to convince anyone of anything or any of that. I'm just standing rooted in what I believe in.”

The Nets might have to win a home game shortly before the playoffs start in order to earn a postseason berth. As the No. 8 seed at the All-Star break, Brooklyn is on track to be in the play-in tournament, which starts on April 12.

Sitting at just three games over .500, the Nets are still the betting favorites in the Eastern Conference. Only the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns have better odds to win the title.

Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets during a preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Oct. 3, 2021, in Los Angeles. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images