The Nets still aren’t certain whether or not guard Kyrie Irving intends to get the COVID-19 vaccine and haven’t made a decision about whether they’ll accommodate him as a part-time player this season, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst.
In order to enter public indoor venues in New York City, individuals must have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Irving, who deflected questions about the subject last week, reportedly hasn’t been vaccinated and would be unable to play in home games or participate in Nets practices as long as he remains unvaccinated.
As Wojnarowski and Windhorst explain, the Nets had been optimistic entering the fall that Irving would ultimately get vaccinated and would be fully available, but that optimism has waned as of late. The seven-time All-Star missed the Nets’ first practice in Brooklyn on Tuesday, and Brooklyn is now preparing for the possibility that it could be without him for practices and home games for the foreseeable future, per ESPN’s duo.
The Nets have publicly expressed support for Irving, but the organization’s patience may be tested if and when the star point guard starts missing games. Team owner Joe Tsai made comments last week reiterating that the goal is a championship and stating that he hopes to see Kyrie “play fully” in 2021-22.
If Irving remains unvaccinated, the Nets might soon have to decide whether they’re satisfied to have him with the team on and off for half the season or if they’ll keep him sidelined altogether, sources tell Wojnarowski and Windhorst. As Woj and Windhorst point out, Brooklyn’s schedule includes a handful of lengthy homestands, meaning there are times throughout the season when Irving wouldn’t be able to be around his teammates for a week or more at a time.
While ESPN’s 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 would be able to remain unvaccinated and play in all of his home games if he were sent to any team besides the Knicks or Warriors.
Still, Irving is close with Nets stars Kevin Durant and James Harden, and Brooklyn has expressed interest in signing him to a contract extension, so moving him would represent a pretty drastic change of direction for a club with championship aspirations. It’s also not clear what sort of value Irving would have on the trade market at this point, considering the various off-court dramas that have followed him in recent years.
As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, remaining unvaccinated would cost Irving significantly from a financial perspective. The 29-year-old has a base salary of nearly $35 million this season, but would lose about $381,000 for each game he misses due to New York’s vaccine mandate. That would add up to more than $17 million in lost salary over the course of the season after taking into account preseason contests, Nets home games and Brooklyn’s two games at Madison Square Garden.