Editor’s note: We’ve updated the article with additional information as of Friday October 15.
Kyrie Irving has exercised his choice to say no the vaccine, and the Brooklyn Nets organization have made their own decision regarding his status with the team. It looks like for the foreseeable future, we won’t see Irving take part in any practices or games. Since Irving’s choice puts the Nets in the position of only having him available for half of their games, it seems that they’ve decided that they’d rather not have him around.
This development is huge for many reasons. The biggest one I can think of is that there’s no way this could have happened without some buy-in from their other two stars in James Harden and Kevin Durant – the latter of whom is one of Kyrie’s closest friends in the league. It was barely half a day ago that Alec Sturm of Nets Daily shared that Harden and Durant were set to meet with team owner Joe Tsai and General Manager Sean Marks about the situation.
Harden had already said at a recent media availability that wanted Irving on the team, but he hadn’t spoken to him, which was already an alarm bell. Durant had also seemed hopeful up until a few days ago, but if he’s come to the conclusion that his friend’s occasional presence on the court isn’t worth the risks to team chemistry, then Irving’s time as a meaningful member of the Nets rotation may have come to a close.
Again, Irving has every right to choose what he feels is best for him, but it goes both ways. Brooklyn has title aspirations, and a healthy Durant and Harden, along with the many other veterans they have on the team, are still talented enough to contend. Chemistry and continuity are an integral part of winning a ring, and in a recent report on Sports Illustrated, Durant had the following to say:
“That is always tough when guys are in and out of the lineup, especially a starter like Kyrie. I don’t know what the plan is going forward right now… So keep playing and focusing on what we’re focusing on in the locker room, and once they figure it out we move forward.”
Now the plan seems to be much clearer. Irving has made his choice, and the team has followed suit. How this will affect Irving’s future is still up in the air, and he’s always been a wildcard. He might choose to get vaccinated to get back on the court, or accept that he won’t suit up this year. He’s got two seasons left on his contract, which are due to pay him $34.91 million this year and $36.5 million next year, minus the money that he will lose from being ineligible from home games this season and the next.
It’s highly doubtful that Brooklyn will be offering him a contract extension with everything that’s happened in the last few weeks. If they’ve already decided that it’s worth paying him to stay away from the team, an extension isn’t going to be on the cards.
No one knows where this situation with Irving will go from here. The Nets are certainly more dangerous with him on the court, but it looks like they don’t think he’s worth the risk. In a later report on The Athletic, Shams Charania shared that his sources say Irving’s stance isn’t related to him being against the vaccine, but instead he is standing up for people who lost their jobs due to vaccine mandates.
It begs the question, though: why is this new information is now suddenly coming to light only after Irving has been effectively banished from the team? Only Irving knows the truth.
Irving went live on Instagram to address some of the issues, stating that he wasn’t going to retire and give up his career for a vaccine mandate.
Irving also hinted that he expected that he wasn’t going to have to take the vaccine to play.
Head coach Steve Nash said he didn’t watch it and was done talking about the situation.
The rest of the Nets look like they’re also ready to focus on things they can control on the court. Harden showed what he was capable of when healthy in their closing game of the pre-season as he finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds and 14 assists. Joe Harris led the team in scoring with 23 points and Durant chipped in 19 points of his own.