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Group protesting vaccine mandate shows Kyrie Irving support ahead of Brooklyn Nets home opener

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NEW YORK — A group of protesters gathered outside Barclays Center waving flags and signs while chanting, “No vaccine mandate, stand with Kyrie” before the Brooklyn Nets‘ home opener against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.

Around 100 people stood in the plaza outside the arena and on the street blocking traffic on Flatbush Avenue, many showing their support for Nets point guard Kyrie Irving‘s decision not to get at least one vaccination shot to comply with New York City’s mandate in order to play home games.

At one point, a few of the protesters pushed barriers and got to the front entrance of Barclays before being held off by security. There was also plenty of police presence in front of Barclays.

“Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena,” a Barclays Center spokesperson said in a statement. “Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule.”

Irving has not played in any of the Nets’ three games thus far after the organization decided not to have its point guard be a part-time player able to play only in road games. The Nets have said they will welcome Irving back once he complies with the city’s mandate.

The group of demonstrators, some with megaphones, chanted “My body, my choice” and held signs that read “Stand with Kyrie.” The arena was not even half full at the start of the afternoon game and there were lines of fans outside the building.

During an Instagram Live session, Irving explained his decision to remain unvaccinated nearly two weeks ago.

“I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice, and I would ask you all to just respect that choice,” Irving said. “I am going to just continue to stay in shape, be ready to play, be ready to rock out with my teammates and just be part of this whole thing. This is not a political thing; this is not about the NBA, not about any organization. This is about my life and what I am choosing to do.”

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MRI shows no structural damage to knee of Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine

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CHICAGO — Bulls guard Zach LaVine is not expected to miss significant time after an MRI on Saturday morning showed no structural damage to his left knee.

LaVine will be reevaluated early next week, the team said. LaVine did not travel with the team for its game Saturday night in Boston, and he will begin targeted therapy on his knee before the Bulls can offer a more definitive timeline.

“Well, obviously very optimistic and very grateful that it wasn’t something more,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s why they wanted to do the MRI, so he’ll continue to get therapy and we’ll re-evaluate him after a period of time. I don’t think it’s something that’s long-term, which is a good thing. So the biggest thing is how does he respond to therapy, treatment, those kinds of things.

“I think once they see how he responds to the therapy there will be a clearer view of when a return date will be possible.”

LaVine landed awkwardly while grabbing an offensive rebound during the first quarter of Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. He took an intentional foul on the next play before taking himself out of the game.

The Bulls were optimistic after Friday’s game that LaVine had avoided a major injury, but wanted to proceed with caution considering LaVine tore the ACL in the same knee in 2017 while playing for the Timberwolves.

In 38 games for Chicago this season, LaVine is averaging 24.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 49% from the field.

In addition to LaVine, the Bulls will also be without Lonzo Ball on Saturday night as he is experiencing left knee soreness.

“(Saturday) morning when we met he still had some soreness in that joint and just wanted to rest him and have him sit out,” Donovan said. “I don’t want to say day-to-day … when I say day-to-day, it’s not like this game, and he’s back for Memphis. I think right now for the Memphis game he would be doubtful until he goes through treatment and therapy and see how he feels and if the soreness subsides and how quickly it subsides.”

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Dallas Mavericks get Kristaps Porzingis, coach Jason Kidd back from health and safety protocols

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DALLAS — Mavericks power forward/center Kristaps Porzingis has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols after missing the past seven games and is expected to play in Saturday night’s home game against the Orlando Magic.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd also cleared the protocols.

Dallas won six of the seven games missed by Porzingis, who is averaging 20.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. The Mavs went 3-1 during Kidd’s absence, when defensive coordinator Sean Sweeney served as the acting head coach.

A source said Porzingis felt well in recent days and had been able to do individual workouts.

Porzingis’ clearance makes center Marquese Chriss ineligible to play for the Mavericks while he remains on a 10-day hardship deal that expires Thursday.

Sources said the Mavericks are considering their options to sign Chriss for the remainder of the season, which would require a move to create an open roster spot.

Chriss has played in 12 games over three 10-day deals with the Mavericks, averaging 6.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game while shooting 63% from the floor.

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Chicago Bulls star guard Zach LaVine to have MRI on injured left knee

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CHICAGO — Bulls guard Zach LaVine exited Friday’s 138-96 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the first quarter with a left knee injury and did not return.

LaVine did not travel with the team to Boston for its matchup against the Celtics on Saturday night, and instead will remain in Chicago to receive an MRI. There’s initial confidence that he hasn’t suffered a serious injury, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

LaVine appeared to begin laboring after grabbing an offensive rebound with just under nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. On the next play, he took an intentional foul on Warriors guard Stephen Curry before taking himself out of the game.

He immediately walked toward the Bulls’ locker room with a team trainer, but LaVine was able to move under his own power.

“The MRI will tell a lot more once he gets that done,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “I don’t want to sit here and speculate … he kind of came down a little funny, and he’s got some discomfort there right now and they want to take a look. He didn’t feel like he could return.”

Chicago has had its depth tested recently without guard Alex Caruso (health and safety), Derrick Jones Jr. (knee), Javonte Green (groin) and Tyler Cook (ankle).

LaVine is averaging 25.6 points on 49% shooting (41% from 3), 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 37 games for the Bulls this season.

The Warriors took over following LaVine’s injury, closing the first half on a 64-37 run. The Bulls lost by 42 points on Friday after losing by 26 points to the Nets on Wednesday. It’s the first time a conference leader has lost consecutive games by an average of 30 points since the NBA went to two conferences in 1970, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

“These two games should be all the motivation that we need to step up, play hard, play for one another,” Bulls star DeMar DeRozan said. “It’s just another challenge that we got to face. We can’t complain about it. Can’t whine about it. Can’t look for no extra help. It’s on us.”

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