There was bad news for the Eastern Conference title-chasing Brooklyn Nets earlier this week when it was confirmed one of their triumvirate of star players, Kevin Durant, would be ruled out for four to six weeks with an Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) sprain.
Ordinarily, with James Harden and Kyrie Irving on the roster, you would expect the Nets to be reasonably confident of being able to cope with the absence of one of the NBA’s finest ever talents.
However, Kyrie Irving’s continuing refusal to consider getting the Covid-19 vaccine means that Brooklyn now face a lengthy stretch of games without two of their star men being able to play in any home court games in that period.
NYC Rules At Public Venues
In New York City, legislation has been passed that means any unvaccinated person cannot attend public indoor venues. That has meant that from the start of the season in the NBA, Irving has not been able to train, or play, in Brooklyn Nets home court games.
Initially, the Nets had ruled out selecting Irving while this situation continued, but after the team was decimated by other instances of Covid-19, they rescinded that approach and have played Irving in a number of games on the road since.
In the 4 road games that Irving has played since he came back into the team against the Pacers at the start of the year, he has averaged 20 points per game and the Nets have won two of those four matchups, including an important win at the Chicago Bulls.
In the six home games that they have played since then, they have won just two of those games, losing four.
Now Kevin Durant played in the first few home games, so the issue was not solely down to his absence, but there is no doubt that the Nets being forced to play home games with two of their star men out, is a massive blow to their chances of winning the Eastern Conference.
Other Top Eastern Conferences Team Stumble A Little
Brooklyn’s issues have perhaps been obscured a little by the fact that the other top teams in the Eastern Conference have also hit a sticky patch of form. The Bulls, for example, have lost their last four games but remain top of the division ahead of the Miami Heat who have won five of their last six to climb above the Nets.
And now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks starting to close the gap on the Nets, things have concertinaed together at the top of the East as we head towards the midway point of the season.
With the pressure mounting on the Nets to pick up wins, there has been questions raised about whether Irving would reconsider his vaccine decision and get the jab.
On Monday, he cleared up any confusion on that matter.
“I Stay Rooted In My Decision”
“Kev’s going to heal, Kev’s going to be OK, and we’re going to have to deal with that as his teammates,” said Irving after the game when asked about whether he would change his mind over his vaccination status.
“But in terms of where I am with my life outside of this, I stay rooted in my decision. And that’s just what it is.”
“I’m not going to be swayed just because of one thing in this NBA life. That somehow it’s brought to my attention as being more important than what’s going on in the real world. It’s just not happening for me.”
“Again, I respect everyone else’s decision, I’m not going to ever try to convince anyone of anything or any of that, I’m just standing rooted in what I believe in. And though we’re dealing with this right now with Kev, I just know that I’m protected by the organization, I’m protected by teammates, I’m protected by all the doctors I’ve talked to. And I just stand rooted.”
When pressed and being told that he was the most famous unvaccinated person in the United States and that his stance was frustrating members of the Nets supporters, Irving commented:
“Fame is socially created bro, I hear what you’re saying… Like being the most famous unvaccinated player, what does that even mean? I don’t even know what that means at home.”
Nets Will Soldier On
With no sign that NYC officials will change their stance on non-vaccinated people attending public places, it seems that for the time being, the Nets will have to do without one of their most talented players for their home games.
However, it should be noted by Nets fans and management that this is being caused by the player and his beliefs and personal stance, not by the authorities.
And with KD out for at least another month, and potentially longer, if the Nets start to falter in their push for the Eastern Conference, more questions will be asked and the pressure on Irving will only increase.