How Kyrie Irving's return to full-time status changes the Brooklyn Nets' NBA playoff fortunes

NEW YORK CITY has lifted the vaccine mandate for athletes and performers, which means starting Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is eligible to play home games for the first time this season.

The change in Irving's status arrives just in time for the Nets, who play six of their last eight games at home (with a road matchup against the New York Knicks mixed in). Had the mandate gone unchanged, Irving would have been eligible to play only one more game this regular season. Instead he can play all eight as Brooklyn looks to hold off Charlotte for eighth in the Eastern Conference and maintain a slightly easier play-in path to the playoffs.

It's too soon to know if Irving will dramatically alter the Nets' regular-season standing (Brooklyn enters Sunday in eighth, two games back of Cleveland and a game ahead of Charlotte), but his change in availability immediately gives the Nets the scariest offense in the league -- and shines a light on an Achilles' heel for Brooklyn that could potentially sink any championship aspirations.