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Kyrie Irving offers sobering take on Nets welcoming back fans to Barclays Center

Barclays Center will welcome fans for the first time since March 8, 2020 when the Brooklyn Nets host the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night. In reaction to the development, two of the team’s superstars have offered up distinctly different takes.

While only 300 fans will be allowed entry into the 19,000-seat arena for the Brooklyn-Sacramento tilt, Nets star James Harden is eager to play in front his new fan base for the first time, even if is in limited numbers.

“I can’t wait. I’m excited,” Harden said this week, via the New York Post. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be in Brooklyn, because of the fan base. They’re unbelievable. They know the game of basketball. They’re true, true fans.

“Obviously I can’t say the percent, but it’s not obviously going to be packed. But just to have some excitement, some extra energy in the crowd, it’s going to be exciting for obviously the entire team. So we can’t wait. It’s been a long road trip, a very good road trip, and now we’ve got to get home and have some fun.”

Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, offered a much more contemplative take on the situation given it is occurring shortly after the U.S. surpassed 500,000 COVID-19 deaths, although he did admit he’s “excited” to see fans in the stands again despite the sobering situation.

“It’s just tough out here with what we’re dealing with, some of the protocols, some of the death tolls that’ve been happening with COVID. It’s very unfortunate, and I wish peace and blessings and a lot of well-wishes to everybody,” Irving said. “It’s a different reality for all of us, so it’s been taking some time to get used to. Inviting some fans back in, it does great things for the league. It does great things for us in terms of motivation. They’re a big part that makes this whole engine run.

“We understand the position that we’re in as NBA players as entertainers in modern-day society. But we’re humans at the end of the day and we feel for everybody at home. So if fans get a chance to see us play, I want to make sure I put on a show for them, and then go out and continue to change the world the best way I know how with other people who want to do the same. So I’m excited.”

Given the enigmatic Irving is among the most thoughtful, complex and socially aware players in the NBA, his perspective on the return of Nets fans to Barclays Center is expected, if not also welcomed.

From a broader perspective, though, the Nets (along with the Knicks and the NHL’s Rangers, Sabres and Islanders) beginning to welcome back fans fittingly brings to to mind how the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, the presence of a COVID-19 vaccine — not to mention its increased availability and a growing number of people being inoculated — gives hope that some semblance of normalcy is on the horizon when it comes to a greater number of fans being able to attend games across all leagues.

In fact, deliberations are currently underway across the country involving teams seeking out how to safely host fans in the coming months. One MLB star is even openly campaigning for the return of fans to ballparks as soon as possible.

How things go in Brooklyn — and elsewhere — in the coming weeks will determine how quickly the dial can be further turned in the positive direction. In other words, how things play out remains to be seen.