Earlier this week, Eric Adams won the election to become New York City’s next mayor and will take office on Jan. 1. While there are obviously bigger issues for him to deal with than Kyrie Irving’s eligibility to play basketball, there were some who wondered whether his new administration would change the current COVID-19 mandates that are affecting Irving and the Brooklyn Nets.
Those hopes were quickly dashed, as Adams said in an interview with CNN on Friday that the city will not be changing the COVID-19 vaccination rules that are currently in place.
“New York City is not going to change their rule,” Adams said. “And again, it is up to the NBA and Kyrie to come to a full understanding on how to keep him on the Nets and to continue to look at all of our athletes that are coming here. Again, I think the NBA and Kyrie [are] going to come to a conclusion on this.”
“I’m a Nets fan … and I love Kyrie,” Adams continued. “I think he’s a piece that we need for a championship. … So I believe that it’s up to the NBA and Kyrie to come to an understanding on how they want to get through this, and I believe they can come to a resolution.”
Adams’ comments are slightly confusing, as it isn’t just up to Irving and the NBA. The league does not have a COVID-19 mandate for players and is instead abiding by the city’s health and safety standards, which say unvaccinated persons cannot enter gyms or sports arenas. That’s why Irving is not allowed to play in home games. He would, however, be able to play on the road, but the Nets decided as a franchise that they don’t want to indulge him as a part-time player.
Following their win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, Nets coach Steve Nash responded to Adams’ comments and said the team wasn’t expecting otherwise.
“My reaction is no surprise,” Nash said. “I didn’t expect the mayor to change the mandate. We’ve just got to focus on our team. If we could have Kyrie back, we’d all be ecstatic. But we focus on our team, we keep building, we keep growing, and hopefully we’ll be a really good team at the end of the year.”
Barring an unforeseen change from Adams once he takes office, it appears the only way for Irving to play this season is to get vaccinated. Nets owner Joe Tsai said recently that he hopes Irving gets the vaccine “as soon as possible,” but we haven’t heard from the point guard himself since his long-winded and at times confusing Instagram appearance last month. Irving said then that he isn’t planning on retiring over this issue, but also gave no indication that he would get the vaccine any time soon.
Without Irving, the Nets got off to a somewhat slow start, but have started to pick things up in recent weeks. They’ve won four games in a row to improve to 6-3 on the season, which has them just one game out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Kevin Durant and James Harden — who hasn’t even played all that well yet — are enough to make the Nets a great team, but their ceiling would obviously be much higher with Irving.