As the Nets embark upon their pursuit of the 2022 NBA title, they’ll be doing so without superstar guard Kyrie Irving for the foreseeable future.
Because of the New York City regulations surrounding persons that are not vaccinated for COVID-19, it was determined that Irving would not be able to participate in over half of the team’s games, as 43 of the Nets’ 82 games will take place in New York City this season.
While Irving was eligible to participate in the team’s other 39 games in addition to practices held at the team’s facility in Brooklyn, the franchise announced that it would not allow him to join the team until he is able to fully participate.
What does this mean for the 2021-22 season? And what has been said about Irving’s status?
Here’s what’s been said about Irving’s availability.
Is Kyrie Irving playing tonight?
On Oct. 12, Nets general manager Sean Marks released an official statement regarding Irving’s availability:
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, 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.”
As it stands, Irving can become a full-time participant once he receives the COVID-19 vaccine.
What has Kyrie Irving said about his status?
Irving, who had only made himself available to the media via Zoom during the Nets’ media day on Sept. 28, took to Instagram live to address his situation on Oct. 13. He spoke on reports that he would miss out on 1/91.6 of his salary for every game he misses within the New York market as well as his vaccination status.
“The financial consequences, I know I do not want to even do that. But it is reality that in order to be in New York City, in order to be on a team, I have to be vaccinated,” Irving said. “I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice, and I would ask you all to just respect that choice.”
What have Kyrie Irving’s teammates said about his status?
Hours before Irving took to Instagram, All-Star guard James Harden answered a reporter’s question regarding his absence from the team.
“We just gotta focus on the guys in this locker room that are here … that’s all we can control,” Harden said. “But as far as us, we have a job to do. And individually, myself, I’m still wanting to set myself up for championship.”
One day later, Kevin Durant was asked about the team’s decision.
“Definitely want Kyrie to be around,” Durant told reporters. “I wish none of this stuff would happen, but this is the situation that we are in. Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do and he chose to do what he wanted to do, and the team did the same.”
Who will play in Kyrie Irving’s absence?
As Irving was slated to start alongside Harden in the Nets’ backcourt, the team now has to reshuffle in order to shape its starting lineup.
In Brooklyn’s first regular-season game, Nets coach Steve Nash started a backcourt of Harden and Joe Harris and opted with a bigger frontcourt of Durant, Blake Griffin and Nic Claxton. Brooklyn lost to Milwaukee by a final score of 127-104.
If Nash wants to add more of a scoring punch to his starting lineup, he could throw Patty Mills into Irving’s slot. The veteran guard poured in 21 points off the bench in the loss to the Bucks, hitting all seven of his 3-point attempts.