The door is not closed on Kyrie Irving playing in the 2021-22 NBA season. A new report suggests that the point guard could return for the Brooklyn Nets, despite his decision not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Sources have told The Athletic there is “renewed optimism” that Irving might play for Brooklyn this season. According to the report, Irving and Kevin Durant have recently had more conversations about how the team is playing and Irving’s role with the Nets.

Brooklyn decided that Irving wouldn’t be a part of the roster when his decision not to get vaccinated meant he would only be able to play in road games. New York City’s vaccine mandate precludes him from playing in home games at Barclays Center.

It’s possible that Irving might remain unvaccinated and be allowed to play with the Nets outside of Brooklyn.

When the Nets were expected to have Irving, Durant and James Harden on the roster, Brooklyn was considered a very heavy favorite to win the 2022 NBA Finals. The Nets have the best record in the Eastern Conference through 28 games, but they’ve struggled against the league’s top teams and haven’t been as dominant as predicted.

The Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns have been the NBA’s best teams, while the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks haven’t taken a step back. Some believe Brooklyn can’t win the title unless Irving returns.

A season after posting the best offensive rating of all time, Brooklyn ranks 13th in points per 100 possessions. Durant has been a top MVP candidate. Harden has underperformed, putting up his worst numbers in a decade.

Irving was an All-NBA Third Team selection last season. The point guard led the Nets with 26.9 points, 6 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

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