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Kyrie Irving’s vaccine status affecting Nets

Superstar point guard can't play or practice in Brooklyn yet

September 28, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Kyrie Irving’s plea for privacy regarding his vaccine status went unanswered Monday as the Brooklyn Nets’ superstar point guard caused his latest stir since arriving in our borough.

Irving was a no-show at Monday’s preseason media availability at Downtown’s Barclays Center, but did appear on zoom, where he quickly ducked any insinuation that he may or may not be vaccinated despite ongoing reports that indicate he has not yet taken a shot.

By law, as per Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive order two weeks ago, Irving can’t play or practice alongside his teammates here in Brooklyn, but he can do so during most of the Nets’ away games, depending on the vaccination mandates of each state.

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Here in New York, protests and demonstrations rage on regarding vaccination mandates at city hospitals and other public venues.

As far as the Nets are concerned, however, they currently have only one signed player on the roster holding out from vaccination as training camp kicks off, even if he is unwilling to comment on the situation directly.

“Honestly, I like to keep that stuff private,” Irving said Monday.

“I’m a human being first, and obviously living in this public sphere, there’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie, and I would love to just keep that private and handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan.”

The world of Kyrie has been nothing short of entertaining as well as baffling since the mercurial playmaker signed to play here two summers ago.

Irving missed all but 20 games during his initial campaign in Brooklyn and saw himself sidelined with an ankle injury during the Nets’ run to the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.

He also took an unexpected hiatus from the team last year that lasted seven games and cost him a fine from the league for violating COVID-19 protocols.

The 29-year-old seven-time All-Star has also done plenty to contribute to Brooklyn’s resurrection as a legitimate NBA title contender. He scored 50 points in his Nets’ debut, has averaged better than 27 points per game since arriving here and also boasts openly that he grew up a Nets fan in New Jersey.

None of that guarantees that Irving, who flew to the Nets’ training camp in San Diego, California with his teammates later Monday, will be allowed to play when Brooklyn hosts defending NBA champion Milwaukee here in its preseason home opener Oct. 8.

James Harden (left) and Kevin Durant both know the importance of getting Kyrie Irving vaccinated so he can play in Brooklyn this season. AP Photo by Kathy Willens

The Nets will visit LeBron James and the Lakers for their first exhibition game on Sunday.

Whether Irving will be on the floor with his teammates, either early next month or when the season begins in earnest against the Bucks in Milwaukee on Oct. 19, is still to be determined.

“Please, everything will be released at a due date and once we get this cleared up,” Irving said.

“As of right now, please just respect my privacy regarding anything — home games, what’s happening with vaccination.”

Nets general manager Sean Marks, who brought Irving and fellow superstar Kevin Durant here in the summer of 2019, mentioned last week that he expected everyone to be fully vaccinated and ready to participate by the time the team headed to camp.

“I won’t get into who it is,” he said of the player who was not yet vaccinated on the Brooklyn roster,

“But we feel confident in the following several days before camp everybody would be allowed to participate.”

Marks and the rest of the Nets may have to wait a few more days or longer to have a full squad ready for what figures to be another banner season, one Brooklynites hope will end with a championship parade down Flatbush Avenue.

Durant, who was sidelined by COVID several times over the past two seasons, expects Irving to comply with the state’s mandate long before things get more complicated than they already are.

“It’s on Kyrie and that’s his personal decision,” Durant said. “What he does is not on us to speculate what may happen, but we trust in Kyrie. I expect us to have our whole team at some point.”

James Harden, Brooklyn’s third superstar, stopped short of commenting on Irving’s ongoing situation, except to point out his teammates importance in the Nets’ quest for their first-ever NBA title.

“Kai is a huge part of what we want to do,” he said.

He has been since he arrived here.

But now the only question is whether Irving is going to be playing in Brooklyn during this season of great expectations.

Or will he simply remain vaccine-free and join his teammates on the road?

“I’m excited to just enjoy this day by day and the journey,” he responded. “However this comes — the ups, the downs, the good, the bad — 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.

“The focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions, and this is the last thing I wanted to create was more distractions and more hoopla and more drama.”

And somehow he managed to do just that yet again.

Nets general manager Sean Marks (right) had to deal with Kyrie Irving’s absence from the team’s media day at Barclays Center Monday. AP Photo by Brad Penner


NOTHING BUT NET: Durant had a special guest at his presser Monday as legendary late-night talk show host David Letterman played reporter during the event. Letterman jokingly asked Durant about the meaning of his nickname, “K.D.”, eliciting few chuckles and even less laughter from Durant, who simply pointed out that those were his initials. … Harden and Irving are both eligible for contract extensions after Durant inked a four-year, $198 million extension to stay in Brooklyn last month. “It’s not about the money for me,” Harden said. “I’ve been on enough teams where we fell short. So my mindset and my goal is to make sure we’re able to build and continue to build this team to be able to compete as a team for multiple, multiple years at the highest level. Win a championship in New York, the money will come.”

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