Nets won't allow Kyrie Irving to practice, play until he can be full participant
Worked out with team over weekend but sat out Monday exhibition game vs. 76ers
The Brooklyn Nets won't play Kyrie Irving until he is vaccinated.
The Nets announced Tuesday that Irving would not play or practice with them until he could be a full participant, ending the idea he would play in only road games.
Irving hasn't said he isn't vaccinated, asking for privacy when he spoke via Zoom during the team's media day on Sept. 27. But he had rarely been with the team in New York, where a mandate requires professional athletes playing for a team in the city have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to play or practice in public venues.
"Kyrie's made it clear that he has a choice in this matter and it's ultimately going to be up to him what he decides," general manager Sean Marks said, adding Irving would still be paid for road games. "We respect the fact that he has a choice, he can make his own and right now what's best for the organization is the path that we're taking."
Teams aren't allowed to reveal private details of players' health. But asked Tuesday if Irving was vaccinated, Marks said: "If he was vaccinated, we wouldn't be having this discussion. I think that's probably pretty clear."
Marks said he and owner Joe Tsai together made the decision, adding that it came through discussions with Irving and his associates.
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.
'Championship goals have not changed'
Irving then joined the team at an outdoor practice Saturday and worked out with the team Sunday, but didn't play in Brooklyn's exhibition game at Philadelphia on Monday.
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Head coach Steve Nash had said the Nets 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 favourite 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.
With Irving, Nets 'heavy favourite' for NBA title
Marks conceded the Nets weren't as strong without Irving, though they may still be good enough.
"At this point in time, the Nets have more than enough to win a championship," said Richard Jefferson, a former Nets star who now works for YES Network. "I think adding Kyrie makes them, in my opinion, a heavy favourite and that's just kind of is what it is. With Kyrie this team can win 55, 60 games. Without Kyrie, this team could still win 55 games."
Marks wouldn't predict how long Irving would be away from the team or get into whether the Nets would consider trying to trade him.
"The hope is that we have Kyrie back," Marks said. "We'll welcome him back in open arms under a different set of circumstances and so we need to wait and see how that transpires. But in the meantime, we need to focus on the 16 players that are going to be on this roster moving forward with us."
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.
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