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Kyrie Irving missing time due to vaccination status would be Nets’ nightmare scenario unfolding

Nets, Kyrie irving, COVID-19,

We may have a bit of clarity on the Brooklyn Nets’ vaccination hold-out situation. On Tuesday, we learned that if the team held practices in Brooklyn, a couple of their players would not yet be eligible. It wasn’t an issue Tuesday because training camp is in San Diego. But the gist seemed to be that not everyone was vaccinated and therefore eligible to play in New York City yet.

 

While the NBA has not instituted any vaccination mandates, local COVID-protocols in cities like New York and San Francisco do have mandates. In turn, players who have yet to take a jab cannot participate in basketball activities. This includes members of the Knicks, Nets, and Warriors. According to a recent report from Yaron Weitzman, writing for Fox Sports, one of the players who is not currently eligible to play is star guard Kyrie Irving.

Per Weitzman: 

“One player who could be affected is Nets guard Kyrie Irving. According to multiple league sources, Irving has yet to receive a vaccine shot. Both the Nets and a spokeswoman for Irving declined to comment on the record about Irving’s vaccination status, but Nets general manager Sean Marks was asked during a news conference on Tuesday whether New York City’s mandate could sideline any of his team’s players.

“Regarding if they could play today, I can’t comment on who could play and so forth. There would obviously be a couple people missing from that picture,” Marks said. “I won’t get into who it is, but we feel confident in the following several days before camp everybody would be allowed to participate and so forth.”

We know that Irving is one of the more unique personalities in the NBA. If this report is true, that Irving is indeed one of the Nets not currently eligible to play, it represents a bit of a nightmare scenario for the team. Maybe I’m out on a limb here, but I just don’t see Irving as someone very susceptible to peer pressure. If he has come this far without opting to get vaccinated, I don’t anticipate a mere dialogue with head coach Steve Nash or GM Sean Marks will be what it takes to change his mind. As Marks noted during his media availability recently, it’s a personal decision.

Per Tim Bontemps, writing for ESPN: 

“The New York executive order, which went into effect on Sept. 13, states anyone over the age of 12 won’t be allowed to enter “certain covered premises” inside the city — including Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden and any other indoor gym or fitness setting — without providing proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption for them not doing so.”

Before we learned anything about Irving specifically, Marks had this to add, continued from Bontemps’ ESPN report:

“Obviously I can’t get into details for a variety of reasons, whether it’s HIPAA violations or whoever it may be, [but] I think we all understand what’s at stake and we’ve had very candid conversations,” Marks said of discussing the vaccine with Nets players. “Those are individual decisions. … It’s obviously out of our control.

“We are supporting getting the vaccination and putting out a healthy squad. So at this point, I think we’re ready to go into the season, we don’t see these — whether it’s a city-wide mandate or a league mandate to follow — being any sort of hindrance to us putting out a team.”

The biggest threat to the Nets’ title hopes is this: the big 3 aren’t available to play basketball. Anything from the ankle Irving sprained during the second round of the playoffs to a city ordinance requiring proof of COVID vax threatens to derail their supremacy. Now presumably, Marks knew all of this days ago and still publicly displayed confidence his team would be available for the beginning of the season.

On the other hand, he did acknowledge it’s ultimately a personal decision out of the team’s hands.

It’s a very complicated issue. Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors, whose team plays in San Francisco, may also face a difficult decision, potentially barring him from playing home games.

Days ago, Irving raised eyebrows with this tweet:

He would later clarify that he did not mean anything related to COVID.

It’s hard to believe he didn’t realize fans would assume he meant something related to the pandemic. Maybe he was just having some fun with us all.

Is it possible this issue is why the Nets have not finalized a contract extension for Irving to date? Stephen A. Smith has made the news recently because he claims the Nets would have considered trading Irving for Ben Simmons if Kevin Durant would offer his blessing. But Smith noted KD wanted no part of that. Smith claims that Irving isn’t solely focused on basketball and can be a “bit bizarre.”

What about a contract extension? We heard things were progressing on that front. Marks reported having had “very positive conversations” with Irving and James Harden regarding max extensions. We would expect some statement out of Irving’s camp soon, either to squash the vaccine rumor or to support the claim.

In the meantime, fans can simply hold their breath and take some solace that Marks expressed confidence on this matter resolving itself just days ago. It’s a cliche, but these truly are unprecedented times.