When Brooklyn opens its season at the Barclays Center against the Hornets on Oct. 24, it’s possible it’ll only be the fans — not guard Kyrie Irving himself — donning No. 8 jerseys in the Nets’ home arena.
That’s because of a new agreement between the NBA and NBA Players Association, wherein players who aren’t vaccinated and miss home games will lose a portion of their salary for every game missed. According to an ESPN report, players will be docked 1/91.6 of annual salary for each game missed because of local COVID vaccine mandates.
As one of the NBA’s most prominent and outspoken voices questioning COVID vaccinations, this impacts Irving in particular given that he plays his home games in New York, where recent mandates have taken effect requiring proof of at least one shot to enter any gym.
Right now, that paycut comes out to approximately $380,000 per game, and if Irving doesn’t get vaccinated at all over the course of the season and misses all of his team’s 41 home games, he’ll stand to lose more then $15 million. Irving signed a four year, $136 million dollar contract ahead of the 2019-20 season, his first with the Nets. He was slated to make roughly $34.9 million this season.
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This wouldn’t be the first instance of Irving missing signifcant time since joining the Nets. He played in just 54 games last season and in a meager 20 before that. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 74 out of a possible 154 games over the last two seasons Irving’s played.
However, despite the scarcity with which Irving has played, he’s been productive. Since arriving in Brookyln, he’s averaged 27 points, 6.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and 49.8 percent from the field.
Even if Irving can’t be physically with his team every day, he still intends to be there in some capacity and still intends to serve as a leader of his team.
“I know that I’ll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team and be there for my growing tribe off the court,” Irving said over Zoom at NBA media day last week.
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“I know the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions. This is the last thing I wanted to create, was more distractions and more hoopla and more drama around this. I’m doing my best to maintain this with good intentions and a good heart.”
The Nets went 12-6 last year without Irving and averaged 116.9 points per game in that 18-game span. The year before, they went 27-25 without the seven-time All-Star and averaged 110.5 points per game.
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Nets general manager Sean Marks seemed to think everyone — Irving included — would be reaady to go by the time the regular season tips off.
“We feel confident in the several days before camp everybody will be allowed to participate fully,” Marks said.
Whether that’s wishful thinking or not, the Nets’ backcourt should be fine with notable names like James Harden, Patty Mills and Bruce Brown all having experience at point guard in the past.