Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said Tuesday that Kyrie Irving’s decision to not comply with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate left the organization with “no choice” but to send him away from the team until he’s able to fully participate.
Aside from the Ben Simmons trade saga in Philadelphia, nothing has consumed NBA headlines this preseason like the Kyrie Irving situation in Brooklyn.
The All-Star guard is one of the few remaining players who have refused to get the vaccine, and is the only one to do so in a market that has a vaccine mandate for going to work. As such, Irving is ineligible to play in Brooklyn’s home games and, while the city determined he could practice with the team at their “private office” of a practice facility, that meant 42 games (41 home games and one game at Madison Square Garden) where Irving wouldn’t be able to play.
Steve Nash spoke matter of factly about the situation recently, noting that the team was going to have to figure things out like “when, where, and how much” Irving would play. That seemed to indicate they might accommodate him as a part-time player, but on Monday night, Irving didn’t travel with the team to Philadelphia for a preseason game, an indication that no decision had yet been made. There were reports that the Nets top brass would get together along with fellow stars Kevin Durant and James Harden to talk through what this season should look like with Kyrie, and on Tuesday morning, the team came to it’s decision.
Kyrie Irving will not be part of the Nets team until he can be a full participant.
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) October 12, 2021
That means the Nets will move forward without Irving until one of two things happen. He either gets the vaccine and can play in home games, or New York lifts its vaccine mandate. It would seem the former is incredibly unlikely, given Irving knew he was going to lose half of his game checks this season and still chose not to get vaccinated. As for the latter, it’s possible that could happen next spring if things improve, but also seems like it isn’t something the Nets or Irving can bank on for certain.
For now, the Nets will move forward with Durant, Harden, and their stacked roster of veteran stars, which is more than capable of holding their place as a championship contender. However, it certainly shrinks the margin for error for the Nets, particularly on the injury front, and could help open the door for other teams to catch up to them.
UPDATE: Sean Marks would speak to the media shortly after the Nets released the initial statement, and explained more fully how they came to the decision and why they chose not to have Kyrie play at all, noting it wouldn’t be fair to anyone, including Irving.
full sean marks quote on part-time kyrie being unfair on everybody pic.twitter.com/kLrea9OTaQ
— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) October 12, 2021
Some were wondering if this meant Irving was suspended for the season or what the official designation would be, but Marks confirmed the only salary Kyrie will lose are the home games he’s ineligible for and that he’ll be paid for road games, he just won’t be with the team.
Last season Kyrie missed a bunch of games due to “personal issues,” the season before he didn’t want to participate in the NBA “bubble.”
Sending Kyrie healing energy for whatever he is going through.