Never mind that New York City announced its vaccine mandate for entertainment centers/gyms 10 weeks prior. Never mind it was made clear the mandate would apply to Nets and Knicks players six weeks prior. Never mind that the vaccines – appealing not just to satisfy a mandate, but because they’re generally safe and effective at reducing spread and severe symptoms from coronavirus – had been widely available for months.
Irving said he was promised an exemption. (He didn’t say by whom.) That never came, and the season started with him ineligible to play Brooklyn home games. Citing chemistry concerns, the Nets chose to sit him for road games, too.
In his months away, did he make any progress in analyzing whether to get vaccinated?
Irving was asked if his stance on getting the vaccine could change in the future.
“Man, I’m just taking it one day at a time,” he said. “Like I said earlier in the season, it’s not an ideal situation and I’m always praying that things get figured out and we’re able to come to some collective agreement, whether it be with the league or it’s just things that’s going on that could help kind of ease what we’re all dealing with COVID-19 and the vaccine.
“I think everybody’s feeling it, so I don’t want to make it simply about me and someone lessening the rules for me. I know what the consequences were, I still know what they are, but right now I’m just going to take it one day at a time like I said and just enjoy this time I get to play with my guys. And however it looks later in the season, then we’ll address it then.”
Before getting up from the podium, [Irving] smiled when asked if that meant getting vaccinated was still a possibility.
“Oh come on, man,” Irving said. “Don’t hang onto me.”
New York mayor-elect Eric Adams said the city isn’t changing its mandate. That’d leave home games off the table.
If Irving still doesn’t want to get vaccinated, he and the Nets could be playing chicken over his availability for road games.
The Nets have not committed to allowing him to be a part-time player the rest of the season. They let him back because the roster was in disarray, anyway. Presumably, the Nets will have more players available when this wave of coronavirus passes – maybe before the playoffs. They’d ideally like him for road and home games.
Brooklyn is clearly more talented – and probably better, though chemistry concerns are valid – with Irving playing even part-time. The Nets’ stars reportedly pushed for his return even before the team got hit hard by the coronavirus. Irving made it back to the court without getting vaccinated.
It’s also a choice that continues to hover over Brooklyn’s season.