Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with Nets as vaccination questions linger
- Professional athletes in New York must be vaccinated to play
- Point guard has not confirmed vaccination status
The Brooklyn Nets won’t play Kyrie Irving until he can participate in all their games, unwilling to let questions about his vaccination status linger into the season.
The Nets announced on Tuesday that Irving would not play or practice with them until he could be a full participant, ending the idea that he would play in only road games.
Under a New York mandate, professional athletes playing for a team in the city have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to play or practice in public venues.
General manager Sean Marks did not mention Irving’s vaccination status but said the All-Star point guard has made a decision that keeps him from being able to perform with the team.
“Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability,” Marks said in a statement.
Irving wasn’t even eligible to practice with the Nets in New York until Friday, when the city told the team that its training facility was considered a private venue. Irving then joined the team at an outdoor practice on Saturday and worked out with the team on Sunday, but didn’t play in Brooklyn’s exhibition game at Philadelphia on Monday.
Nets coach Steve Nash had said that the team knew they were going to be missing Irving for some games. For now, at least, it will be all of them.
“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice,” Marks said. “Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction.
“We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”
With Kevin Durant, James Harden and Irving, the Nets were considered a favorite to win the NBA title. They were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of last season’s playoffs after Irving sprained his ankle and missed the final three games.
NBA players are not required to be vaccinated, but they face more testing and restrictions on their ability to be around their teammates. The league had said that players wouldn’t be paid for games they miss because they are ineligible to play. That means Irving could lose millions of dollars in salary this season, when he is due to earn more than $33m if he plays in every game.
Irving hasn’t said he isn’t vaccinated, asking for privacy when he spoke via Zoom during the team’s media day last month. Teammates have said they are supportive of his personal choice.