Wild shot: Should the Nets trade Kyrie Irving for Ben Simmons?
Sports Seriously: Andy Nesbitt dives into the current debacle facing the Nets and Kyrie Irving and comes up with a crazy solution.
Sports Seriously, USA TODAY
The Brooklyn Nets took a drastic step to compel All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to get the COVID vaccine.
Irving won’t play or practice with the Nets “until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said a statement released Tuesday morning. He added, “we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.”
New York City has a vaccine mandate that states Irving and other Nets and New York Knicks players must be vaccinated to play at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden.
The Nets faced a scenario in which Irving would play road games but not home games – a suboptimal situation for any team but especially a team with the talent (Kevin Durant, James Harden) to win the NBA championship.
Instead of that in one game, out the next game scenario, the Nets have decided to play without Irving unless he becomes vaccinated.
“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,” Marks said in the statement. “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.
“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. 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. We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”
On a conference call Tuesday, Marks said Irving will be paid for away games but will lose salary for each home game missed – approximately $381,181 per game.
Marks declined to indicate whether he thought Irving would be available and get this vaccine so he can play this season.
“I don’t want to speak for Kyrie,” Marks said. “At the right time, I’m sure he will address his feelings and what the path may be for him.”
Marks said the decision was made by himself and Nets owner Joe Tsai, and while he wouldn’t say how much Durant and Harden influenced the decision, a team wants sign-off from its stars on a major decision like this.
“We’re looking a putting a group of people out there that are going to be able to participate fully, and that’s what this comes down to,” Marks said. “We’re not looking for partners that are going to be half-time. I don’t think that would be fair not only to the team, staff ownership and fans, but to be quite frank, not fair on Kyrie either when you’re putting somebody out there who potentially can’t get the right ramp-ups and build-ups and so forth and look as good as he or the team should.”
The Nets open the season Oct. 19 at Milwaukee, and unless Irving takes steps to receive the vaccine soon, he will not be on the court for that game.
While Nets coach Steve Nash said on Sunday the team understood Irving would not be available for certain games, he indicated Irving would play in certain road games.
But the Nets eliminated the scenario, and it’s best for the franchise and Irving’s teammates. The part-time situation would not have been good for the Nets. They are a better team with him than without him, but the inconsistent nature of his availability prevented the chemistry Marks referenced and the possibility of resentment from teammates when the Nets lost games they could’ve won with Irving were too much to ignore.
The Nets are aware of the short- and long-term ramifications. Irving, one of the league’s most gifted players, can become a free agent after this season and was in line to sign an extension before the season started. That extension – along with the Nets’ future with Durant, Irving and James Harden – is in jeopardy, and trading him now is a non-starter.
Marks is right. It’s Irving choice, but that choice comes with a consequence.
Marks said, “The hope is that we have Kyrie back. We’ll welcome back in open arms under a different set of circumstances so we need to wait and see how that transpires. But in the meantime, we need to focus on the 16 players that are going to be on this roster moving forward. … Without a doubt, losing a player of Kyrie’s caliber hurts from a talent perspective, no question. I’m not going to deny that.”
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.