The Nets have conceded.
In speaking with media after Sunday’s practice, Steve Nash said that at this moment, the Nets understand they will have to play a lot of games — a number still to be determined — without Kyrie Irving.
“I think we recognize he’s not playing home games,” said Steve Nash, adding Irving will not play Monday vs. the 76ers in Philadelphia. “We’re going to have to for sure play without him this year; so it just depends on when, where and how much.”
“Right now we assume he’s not going to be available for home games,” Nash added. “Anything can change. Who’s to say, the city’s ordinance could change? Anything could change.
“Right now we’re just trying to remain flexible, open-minded and figure it out as we go, because information is coming in by the half-day here, whether it’s Paul’s [Millsap health and safety protocol] situation, Kyrie’s situation or the laws. We found out Friday he could come in the building, so things are shifting. No one’s been through this before, and we’re just trying to figure it out as we go.”
As an unvaccinated NBA player — the only one in New York — Irving is banned from playing at (or even entering) Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, meaning that if nothing changes, he’ll miss at least 43 games out of a possible 82. Until Saturday, it appeared that Irving was not so much anti-vaccination as hesitant. He declined to talk about his decision, calling it “personal,” which gained him a lot of criticism.
Then Saturday, the day after the city agreed with the Nets legal staff and created a carve-out for HSS Training Center, Irving tweeted this out…
I am protected by God and so are my people. We stand together.
— A11Even (@KyrieIrving) October 9, 2021
Irving, as he often does, didn’t provide any explanation but it appeared clear he was speaking about the protection against the virus, eschewing science for divine
Whether that or something else moved the Nets to concede things may be unique this season is unknown, but Nash’s comments were easily the most definitive since the issue was raised last month when he told the media by Zoom that “Obviously, I’m not able to be present there today.”
In the interim, Joe Tsai told Brian Lewis and Alex Schiffer that while he “respected” Irving’s decision, Irving also needed to understand there was a higher goal, a championship, then Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Nets were prepared to make ‘hard decisions” if the 29-year-old didn’t relent. League sources told NetsDaily that any such decisions would likely wait until they had a better idea of Irving’s plans, perhaps as long as the team’s home opener in Brooklyn at October 24.
As he’s had to do in recent weeks, Nash had to concede he didn’t know the answers to a number of questions…
- On the whether there could be a change in city regs…
“Yeah, I don’t know. Opposing players can come in here unvaccinated and play, so the rules change. I don’t know. Right now the unfortunate truth is I can’t come in here and make any claims, because I really don’t know; so I’m just going to have to keep pushing you guys off.”
- On the status of Irving’s conditioning…
“I don’t know, because I haven’t seen him. [Sunday] he didn’t do enough to say we have a firm handle on where he is conditioning-wise. But it was a day in the bank that he got work in. No, he’s not going to travel to Philly. We just keep navigating that. But it was great to have him back on the floor, we’ll keep building him up and see how things go.”
Of course, Nash will be fielding similar questions as the season goes on. The logistics of working around all the protoocols will be challenging Not only will he and the Nets have to deal with New York City regulations — and any possible rules laid out by other restrictions — they will have to deal with league restrictions that apply to every game, practice, team meeting, team dinner etc.
Under those rules, Irving will be forced to:
- quarantine at the team hotel on the road between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.;
- avoid going to any bar or club with or without teammates or attend an indoor concert;
- eat separately from his team during team dinners;
- stay six feet away from his teammates at team meetings;
- have a locker separate from the rest of his teammates;
- rehab separately if need be;
- give three days’ notice before attending any brand event.
So far, Irving’s teammates have publicly supported his decision to keep things private and expressed no concern that he won’t be able to play.
On Friday, after the city decision to permit Irving to practice at HSS Training Center, Kevin Durant told reporters, “Yeah, at least he can practice. But we want him here for the whole thing,” Durant said. “We want him here for games, home games, practices, away games, shootarounds, all of that. Hopefully, we figure this thing out.”
On Saturday, Patty Mills, the only player the team authorized to speak at Practice in the Park, added his thoughts but was non-committal on the overall issue, Asked if he’s spoken to Irving, Mills said he hadn’t … yet. “We just rolled up here to be able to enjoy the event, so we haven’t had a chance to catch up yet,” Mills said. “But I’m sure those conversations will come.”
And on Sunday, after practice, Blake Griffin spoke as well as about the need for Irving’s talents.
“I don’t know to be honest; I really don’t,” Griffin said when asked how he thought things would work out. “It’s not something that I’ve experienced before. Whatever he decides, whatever the team decides, whatever agreement we come to or whatever happens, we’re just gonna support him. And when he’s here, we can use him. He’s amazing.”
The Nets have limited options going forward if they want to make a change, as we noted Saturday. Of course, Irving could get vaccinated, which seems more and more unlikely. A change in city COVID-19 regulations, essentially for one player, seems far-fetched and far away.
It’s also possible the league, working with or without the union, could assert its extraordinary powers to protect the actual — and perceived integrity — of the game.
Of course, this isn’t just about basketball. It’s about a public health crisis that has left 700,000 Americans dead and an equal number disabled, a crisis that public health officials and experts say could be greatly alleviated with a greater vaccination response. Tsai in particular has been a strong advocate of vaccination — he’s had four shots — and called on Irving to get the vaccination as a community service. The ultimate decision on what to do with Irving will likely be up to him.
- Nets’ Steve Nash admits anti-vaxxer Kyrie Irving will miss home games – Brian Lewis – New York Post
- Kyrie Irving and the Nets are playing the waiting game – Kristian Winfield – New York Daily News
- Steve Nash and the Nets are preparing for Kyrie Irving to sit out home games. What comes next for Brooklyn? – Alex Schiffer – The Athletic
- Steve Nash says Nets not expecting Kyrie Irving to play any home games – Liz Roscher – Yahoo! Sports