The Nets have come to terms with the fact that Kyrie Irving will miss home games for a while (at least). While he can practice with the team, Irving cannot play in games at the Barclay’s Center because New York City has a vaccine mandate and Irving remains unvaccinated.
A week out from the start of the season, this creates a practical problem for Nets’ coach Steve Nash: How does he use Irving? Having one of his three stars be a part-time player will be disruptive to Nash’s rotations. This week team leaders Kevin Durant and James Harden are set to meet with owner Joeseph Tsai and GM Sean Marks (among others) to discuss Irving and his status for the season, reported Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
One option: Bring Irving off the bench in a sixth man role. Nash told reporters Sunday it is on the table, via Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
“It’s possible, yeah. We’ll see. We haven’t really got there yet. We’re still trying to process all of the possibilities. That might take us some time to see where his body’s at. No one’s ever done that before,” said Nash. “I wouldn’t know what precedents there are, and what’s the best way to do it. We’re really trying to navigate it as we go.”
Irving just joined the team for his first practices over the weekend, and he did not travel with the Brooklyn to Philadelphia for Monday’s preseason game. Nash, understandably, needs to see where Irving’s conditioning is at before making any call. Last season he had both Durant and Harden come off the bench for a game (or a few games) when they returned from injury.
With Irving, the bench idea makes some sense, even if it’s just temporary. It would seem less disruptive to have Patty Mills starting at the point every game and have Irving coming in as the sixth man (but likely getting heavy run and finishing games).
There’s no easy answer for Nash… well, there’s one, but Irving isn’t willing to go that route. Neither peer pressure from his teammates nor the potential loss of paychecks for games missed has motivated Irving to get the jab. So long as he’s unvaccinated, the situation will be a challenge and potential distraction in Brooklyn.