Optimism is waning for the Nets organization concerning Kyrie Irving and his vaccination status.
He was not at practice on Tuesday, and if he remains unvaccinated he would have to skip all home practices and games under New York City’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. He’s going to miss Friday’s preseason game against Milwaukee.
According to NBA insiders Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the Nets are ready to increase the pressure on Kyrie Irving as the season quickly approaches and he remains unvaccinated.
In a story posted Tuesday, Wojnarowski and Windhorst reported that the Nets are prepared to look at possible options regarding his future with the club.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 6, 2021
Vaccination Tug of War
“If Irving remains unvaccinated, the Nets could be faced soon with a decision on whether they’ll allow Irving to come and go with the team in and out of New York — or just keep him sidelined all together, sources said.
The Nets have been outwardly supportive of Irving’s process to consider vaccination and believe they’ve listened, supported, and educated him, but the franchise’s collective patience will be increasingly tested the longer that Irving stops short of committing to join the team on a full-time basis.”
Reports suggest that Kyrie hasn’t received the one shot needed to rejoin the team. It remains an area of contention and confusion for the Nets, who need to find out in the near future what Irving intends to do.
On Wednesday, Kyrie tweeted out a cryptic message that some assume has something to do with the current vaccine wars.
Be still and know….
— A11Even (@KyrieIrving) October 6, 2021
Time To Make A Move
The Nets have a preseason game at Barclays versus the Bucks on Friday, then their annual Practice in the Park for the fans on Saturday. One more preseason game versus the Timberwolves in Brooklyn (Oct. 14), then after two road games to open the season, they return home for opening night (Oct. 24).
Kyrie will take a healthy financial hit if he remains unvaccinated throughout the season. Irving can’t practice, play or participate in team activities. He is also prohibited from entering Barclays or HSS practice facility.
Kyrie stands to lose a grip if he remains unvaccinated.
- $381,181 for every missed home game
- 2 preseason games: $762K
- 41 home games: $15.6M
- 2 games at NYK: $762K
- Bonuses: $413K
- Playoffs: TBD
- Irving is also extension eligible: 4 years/$187M
NBPA Isn’t With A Pay Cut For Unvaccinated
This is not an open-and-shut case either. Kyrie has served prominently on the NBPA and is currently the union vice president. So he has a close relationship with Executive Director Michele Roberts, a former lawyer. The union says they have not agreed to any players being docked pay due to missing games because they are unvaccinated.
“We’ll see about that,” Roberts told reporters on Wednesday. “They’ve been reporting that we’ve agreed that if a player who was not able to play because of his non-vaccination status, they could be docked (pay). We did not agree. The league’s position is that they can. We’ll see. If we get to that point, we’ll see.”
This is a complete 180 change from the rumors earlier in the week that the players were turning against the few anti-vaxxers left.
Expect that situation to linger. There’s a foxhole to go down that Kyrie might be willing to explore, especially if he has the backing of his union and its powerful leader. The Nets, however, may not be willing to go to war with Kyrie and help him fight a personal cause while the team has championship aspirations and a small window with KD, Harden and Kyrie to get it done.
It’s not like Kyrie wants to leave BK. Jake Fischer said on “The Glue Guys” podcast that Irving does not want to leave Brooklyn.
“Anyone who I know who’s been remotely involved with Brooklyn since they signed Kevin and Kyrie in 2019 have maintained that he does not want to go anywhere but be in Brooklyn. He wants to be in Brooklyn with Kevin, and they want to win a championship together,” he said.
He reiterated what we’ve been hearing from Irving’s teammates when Harden said he “expects Irving to be back.”
“James Harden’s people have told various people around the NBA that they trust who have told me that they expect Kyrie to be there and be long term,” said Fischer in talking with Mike Smeltz and Brian Egan.
In the meantime, Nets owner Joe Tsai has to have some tough conversations with Irving and decide what they will ultimately do with his roster spot. Tsai is strongly for the vaccination and says he’s been vaccinated four times. The Nets have even set up a walk-in vaccination site at Barclays Center.
He hasn’t pressured Kyrie to get vaccinated, but the reality of the situation is getting more grim as we come down to the wire. No matter how supported Kyrie is on his medical concerns with the COVID vaccine, every day he’s absent from the court he loses the respect of his team and the continuity they built last season.