If Brooklyn Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving doesn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine – and there’s plenty of non-conspiracy, life-saving information available that should prompt him to do so – he doesn’t have to get the vaccine.
The NBA has tried to get players vaccinated through education and health and safety protocols that will make the season easier for vaccinated players and more onerous for unvaccinated players.
Still, Irving isn’t vaccinated, and on Sunday, Nets coach Steve Nash said, “I think we recognize he’s not playing home games. So we’re going to have to for sure play without him this year. So it just depends on when, where and how much.”
New York City’s vaccine mandate prevents Irving from playing games at Barclays Center – and Madison Square Garden when the Nets play the New York Knicks.
That’s horrible for the Nets and their championship aspirations.
It seems impossible for a team to win a championship with a key player playing in half of the games for a reason other than injury.
It’s hard to have a rhythm game to game in that scenario. In two games, out three games. In one game, out the next. Maybe the Nets can overcome it because they have Kevin Durant and James Harden, but it’s hardly an ideal circumstance, especially if Irving isn’t vaccinated by April and the start of the playoffs.
Nets general manager Sean Marks indicated last month that all players would be able to participate in training camp, and there was belief Irving would receive the vaccine. That’s not the case, leaving the franchise and its high expectations in a predicament.
To complicate matters – and the Nets’ future – Irving and Harden haven’t signed extensions after Marks expressed confidence in August the pair would join Durant in signing new deals.
Harden and Irving can become free agents following this season, and there is a possibility one or both could leave Brooklyn.
The NBA moves fast. One year ago, the 2019-20 season had just concluded. Then less than a month into the next season, the Nets acquired Harden from Houston, giving them a chance to compete for a title season after season.
Injuries and COVID derailed Brooklyn’s 2020-21 season and now Irving’s reluctance to become vaccinated threatens their 2021-22 season.
The Nets and Nash can say all the right things now and perhaps they even get off to a good start with two road games against quality opponents (at Milwaukee, at Philadelphia) where Irving can play and then six consecutive home games where he can’t play.
But at a point this season – or several points – Irving’s absence will result in games the Nets would have won with him on the court. Teammates and Nash may not say anything publicly but it stands to reason resentment and frustration are strong possibilities.
It’s hard to find a comparable situation, especially one that doesn’t involve injuries or suspensions.
Irving’s situation can sideline him for half of his team’s regular-season games and several playoff games.
This is his decision, but the impact of that goes beyond Irving and hits the franchise and his teammates.
It’s a problem for the Brooklyn Nets, a problem the rest of the teams in the league don’t mind.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Could Kyrie Irving’s absence from Nets lead to anger and resentment?
Source: Yahoo Sports