The Nets possess everything an NBA contender could want. They have elite stars. They have depth at multiple positions. They have a strong coaching staff and a front office always looking for ways to improve the roster.
They also have a big problem with the start of the 2021-22 regular season less than two weeks away: Kyrie Irving is only a part-time player.
MORE: Andrew Wiggins explains vaccination decision
Under New York City’s guidelines, unvaccinated Knicks and Nets players are not allowed to enter their home arenas for games or practice with their teams. The Knicks are 100 percent vaccinated, but multiple reports indicate that the Nets are still waiting on Irving to become compliant with the local protocols. As of right now, Irving is set to miss all of Brooklyn’s home games, plus two games against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
How will the Nets handle Irving if he remains unvaccinated? Here is everything we know about this unprecedented situation and what could happen next.
Will Kyrie Irving get vaccinated before the start of the season?
During his media day appearance on Sept. 27, Irving did little to silence the speculation surrounding his availability, saying multiple times that his vaccination status is a “private” matter that he will discuss with the Nets.
“There’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie, and I think I’d just love to just keep that private and handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan,” Irving told reporters on a Zoom call. “Obviously I’m not able to be present there today, but that doesn’t mean that I’m putting any limits on the future of me being able to join the team.
“I just want to keep it that way, so please respect it, my privacy.”
More than a week after he made those comments, Irving is still unvaccinated, putting the Nets in a difficult position. Brooklyn had previously been optimistic that Irving would become compliant with the local mandates, but that hope is “waning,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst. The Nets are now preparing for the possibility that Irving will not be available for home practices and games.
Ahead of Brooklyn’s first home preseason game against Milwaukee, the Nets listed Irving as out because he is “ineligible to play.” He will likely receive the same designation for future home games until his vaccination status changes.
Will the Nets allow Kyrie Irving to be a part-time player?
It’s unclear whether the Nets would be comfortable only having Irving participate in practices and games outside of New York City or prefer to keep him away from the team until he is vaccinated. Brooklyn has been supportive of Irving and respected his decision, but the organization is only willing to bend so far.
Nets coach Steve Nash has already declared that the team would not relocate practices in order to accommodate Irving.
“This is our home,” Nash said of practicing in Brooklyn. “This is where we’re going to practice, and we have almost a whole group. We’re just working at getting better every day and focusing on the things we can control.”
Who will replace Kyrie Irving in the Nets’ rotation?
Nash has not yet made any final decisions on the starting lineup, saying that his focus is on working with the current group.
“We’re not in a big rush for a starting lineup, to be honest with you,” Nash said. “We’ll figure that out when the time comes.”
The Nets started Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin for Game 1 of the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals, so Nash could stick with those four players and throw offseason acquisition Patty Mills into Irving’s slot. Nash could also go with Bruce Brown, who started 37 games last season, if he wants Mills to lead bench units.
Regardless of which players start Irving-less games for Brooklyn, Harden will likely handle the bulk of ball-handling responsibilities.
Would the Nets consider trading Kyrie Irving?
An Irving trade seems unlikely, not only because the Nets want Irving to help them in their pursuit of a championship, but also because potential suitors wouldn’t have any guarantees Irving would stay beyond this season.
Irving has two years and roughly $71 million left on his current contract, but he has a player option for the 2022-23 season. If Brooklyn did trade Irving, he could play out the 2021-22 campaign and then choose another team in free agency.
Perhaps the Nets will be forced to at least discuss possible trades if Irving remains unvaccinated deep into the season. As of right now, though, it’s hard to envision Brooklyn breaking up its “Big Three.”
How much money could Kyrie Irving lose?
A lot. Here is the breakdown courtesy of ESPN’s Bobby Marks:
- Every missed home game: $381,181
- Two preseason home games: $762,000
- 41 regular season home games: $15.6 million
- Two regular season games vs. Knicks: $762,000
- Bonuses: $413,000
Irving is eligible to sign a four-year, $187 million extension with the Nets, but general manager Sean Marks may be hesitant to finalize an agreement until Irving is fully available to play.
Nets preseason schedule 2021
(All times Eastern)
|Date||Opponent||Time / Result||National TV|
|Oct. 3||at Lakers||W, 123-97||NBA TV|
|Oct. 8||vs. Bucks||7:30 p.m.||NBA TV|
|Oct. 11||at 76ers||8 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Oct. 14||vs. Timberwolves||7:30 p.m.||NBA TV|