The Brooklyn Nets announced on Tuesday that star guard Kyrie Irving will not be allowed to practice or play with the team in any capacity until he is eligible to be a full-time participant within the team. That means either he will have to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or New York City mandates would have to change.
Irving’s decision not to receive the vaccine was set to hold him out of at least 43 games this season — 41 home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and two games at Madison Square Garden when the Nets play the Knicks. New York City’s COVID protocols require everyone working inside arenas to have at least one dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“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,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said. “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.”
Irving had received the support of his teammates, mainly his fellow superstar in Kevin Durant. Yet the inability to consistently keep the 29-year-old in the lineup forced the Nets’ hand to make the decision.
“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice,” Marks added. “Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction.”
While Marks maintains that the Nets’ odds to win the 2022 NBA title should go unimpacted, Irving’s loss is obviously a considerable blow for the club.
Irving, a seven-time All-Star is one part of the Nets’ imposing “Big 3” alongside Durant and James Harden — their presence immediately catapulting Brooklyn from playoff hopeful to legitimate NBA Finals contender.
Now with him out of the fold, the Nets will be turning to Patty Mills to step up and try to fill the void. The 33-year-old Australian is entering his first year with Brooklyn after 10 seasons as a super reserve option off the bench for the San Antonio Spurs. Now, Mills will have the opportunity to prove that he is capable of putting up stat lines similar to the ones he posted in the Olympics starring for Australia with one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.