Brooklyn Nets had spent big money to bring in Kevin Durant and James Harden to play alongside Kyrie Irving. The three were supposed to be the foundation for the Nets super team for years to come.
However, one week before the start of the 2021/22 season, there is a very real possibility that Irving will not just miss the opening weeks of the season.
And some are suggesting that he may not ever play a game for the Brooklyn Nets again.
And the reason? Irving has decided against getting a Covid-19 vaccine, something that is now mandatory for people who attend indoor games and events in Brooklyn and New York City.
That includes both the Barclays Center, the Nets home and also Madison Square Garden, where rivals the Knicks play their home fixtures.
Nets Make Tough Call
Given Irving’s decision, there had been talk that the Nets would try to develop a system where
they would play their home games, and train, without Irving, but somehow incorporate him into the team for road fixtures.
However, there are clear problems with just such an approach and as a result the Brooklyn Nets were forced to make a tough call.
The team announced on Tuesday morning that Irving would not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full part of the team, participating in training and also able to play in home fixtures as well as those on the road.
With just under a week to go before the Nets kick off their 2021-22 campaign against the defending NBA Champions the Milwaukee Bucks, it is hardly an ideal preparation for the season ahead for a team viewed by many as genuine contenders once again this year.
“Respect His Individual Right To Choose”
Speaking about the decision, the General Manager of the Nets, Sean Marks, commented:
“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.”
That decision came after the news that New York City had stated that as the Nets practice facility was privately owned, that Irving would be able to practice with the team. However, with the Barclays Center being public, he would not be able to play in home games.
“We’re not looking for partners that are going to be half-time,” stated Marks.
“I don’t think that would be fair, not only on the team and staff and ownership and fans, but to be quite frank, not fair on Kyrie either.”
Is A Trade For Irving An Option?
There is a possibility of course that the Nets could cut their losses with Irving and trade him
away to bring in a player that has been vaccinated.
You would assume that given his All-NBA abilities, there would be a long list of potential suitors for the Nets star, even given his Covid-19 stance.
However, his contract with the Nets has $71 million left and a player option next summer, which would then allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.
Few teams would be willing to offer up a mega trade deal to land Irving if the deal was only likely to be a short term one.
It is a situation that could well be repeated, not just for teams in New York.
San Francisco and Los Angeles-based teams could also find players that refuse a vaccine may find their ability to play very limited.
With Patty Mills or Cameron Thomas set to step in for Irving, his absence will still be keenly felt, even on a team as talented as the Nets.
Speaking about the situation superstar Kevin Durant commented “He’s a special player, so it’s going to be hard to duplicate what he brings, but professional sports are about the next-man-up mentality, so we are looking forward to guys stepping up and filling in that role as best they can.”
“He’s a special player, we want him a part of this group. But a lot of stuff is out of our control, and we will let him figure that out for himself. It doesn’t mean that I will say that I don’t want him on the team. He’s a huge part of what we do, but guys got to step up in his absence and be who they are and move forward.”
Even if Irving relented and received his first jab now, he would still not be available for the Nets first few games of the season and this is a situation which threatens to rumble on and on.