The Nets are still unsure if Kyrie Irving plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine and have not yet made a decision on whether to house him as a part-time player this season, according to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst.
To enter public indoor locations in New York City, individuals must have received at least one injection of the COVID-19 vaccine. Irving, who declined questions on the subject last week, is reportedly unvaccinated and would not be able to play in home games or participate in Nets practice until he remains vaccinated.
As Wojnarowski and Windhorst explain, going into the fall the Nets had been optimistic that Irving would eventually be vaccinated and fully available, but that optimism has waned lately. The seven-time All-Star missed the Nets’ first practice session in Brooklyn on Tuesday, and Brooklyn is now gearing up for the possibility that it could be without him for practice and home games in the near future, according to the ESPN duo.
The Nets have publicly expressed their support for Irving, but the organization’s patience could be tested if and when the star point guard starts to miss games. Team owner Joe Tsai made comments last week, reiterating that the goal is a championship and stating that he hopes to see Kyrie “fully play” in 2021-2022.
If Irving doesn’t stay vaccinated, the Nets may have to decide quickly whether they’re happy to have him on the team for half the season or keep him out of the game altogether, sources tell Wojnarowski and Windhorst. As Woj and Windhorst point out, Brooklyn’s schedule includes a handful of long homestands, meaning there are times throughout the season when Irving wouldn’t be able to be with his teammates for a week or more.
While the ESPN report doesn’t explicitly state that a trade is a possibility for Irving, that’s one option the Nets could theoretically consider — New York and San Francisco are the only NBA cities with local vaccine mandates, so Irving could go unvaccinated and play in all of his home games if he was sent to a team other than the Knicks or Warriors.
Still, Irving is close to Nets stars Kevin Durant and James Harden, and Brooklyn has expressed an interest in giving him a contract extension, so moving him would mean a pretty drastic change of direction for a club with championship aspirations. It’s also not clear what value Irving would be in the trading market right now, given the various out-of-court dramas that have followed him in recent years.
Like Bobby Marks from ESPN tweets, staying unvaccinated would cost Irving a lot of money from a financial standpoint. The 29-year-old has a base salary of nearly $35 million this season, but would lose about $381,000 for every game he misses due to New York’s vaccine mandate. That would equate to more than $17 million in lost salary over the course of the season, taking into account the preseason games, Nets home games and Brooklyn’s two games at Madison Square Garden.