Unvaccinated Nets star Kyrie Irving is eligible to play road games (besides against the Knicks). He can also practice with Brooklyn.
But until he meets New York City’s vaccine mandate and can play home games, the Nets have decided not to bother with him at all.
The following statement has been released by General Manager Sean Marks:
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant. Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction. We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”
Will Irving get vaccinated? He has refused to publicly explain his reasoning, so it’s tough to say how much of a hardliner he is. While missing media day in person, Irving said, “That doesn’t mean that I’m putting any limits on the future of me being able to join the team. And I just want to keep it that way.” However, the Nets have reportedly lost faith he’ll get vaccinated. They surely warned him of this decision, and that clearly didn’t persuade him. They probably wouldn’t have made such a drastic announcement if Irving were making plans to get vaccinated imminently.
Will Irving get an exemption? If he hasn’t by now, that seems unlikely.
Will New York City change its mandate? There’s no indication the city will choose to do so. In fact, there are calls to strengthen the law by removing the allowance for unvaccinated road players. However, the invasive mandate could be open to legal challenges – especially if the coronavirus threat abates in the future.
Will Irving just remain in limbo? This seems most likely and invites a host of follow-up questions.
How much will Irving get paid? The union isn’t accepting the NBA’s plan for Irving to lose money for missed home games. The union would almost certainly oppose Irving not getting paid for road games the team chooses not to play him. The Nets/league might not even put up a fight about that. But these are unprecedented times, and that must get hashed out.
Will Brooklyn trade Irving? Irving could play for a team other than the Knicks, Warriors, Lakers or Clippers. However, his agents have reportedly said the guard would retire if traded. Still, if he won’t play for them, how could the Nets not at least explore a trade?
Will Irving just retire, anyway? The 29-year-old has spoken previously about retiring early and sometimes seems disillusioned with the NBA.
How do Durant and Irving feel about each other now? The stars joined Brooklyn as a package, but Durant has become the clear franchise player. He signed a contract extension while Irving has not. Durant is fully available to the team – and saying he wishes Irving would be too. The way they cater to their stars, it’d be shocking if the Nets didn’t at least get Durant’s approval for this plan to sit Irving. Heck, Durant might have even devised it. Durant’s and Irving’s relationship could go a long way in determining what comes next.
How much will this hurt Brooklyn on the floor? With Durant and James Harden, the Nets might still be title favorites, just not overwhelmingly so. As talented as Irving is, Durant and Harden have the skill to overcome the loss. Now, Brooklyn can go about building chemistry without integrating a part-time player.