Kyrie Irving refuses to get vaccinated and the Nets are conceding he won’t play in home games in a stunning turn of events

Kyrie Irving walks with his head down during a game.

Kyrie Irving. Matt Slocum/AP Images

  • Kyrie Irving cannot play in Brooklyn Nets home games because he hasn’t gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Nets head coach Steve Nash admitted Irving would miss home games because the issue is unresolved.

  • The unusual situation puts Irving and the Nets’ future into question.

The Brooklyn Nets appear to be coming to terms with the idea that Kyrie Irving won’t play home games this season because he has not received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Because of New York City vaccine mandates, Irving is not allowed to play in home games. San Francisco and Los Angeles are the only two other cities with similar rules.

“I think we recognize he’s not playing home games,” Nash said, according to The New York Post. “We’re going to have to, for sure, play without him this year, so it just depends on when, where, and how much.”

It was the first public admission from the team that Irving’s situation may not be resolved when the regular season begins.

It was first revealed that Irving was not vaccinated when he wasn’t available for the Nets’ media day, the only player on the roster not present. When asked about his vaccination status, Irving repeatedly requested privacy over his decision.

According to CDC data, 76% of the US population over age 12 has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people, the CDC found.

Last week, New York City deemed the Nets’ practice facility, the HSS Training Center, is a private business and not subject to vaccine mandates, allowing Irving to join the team for practice. He still cannot play in Barclay’s Center, however.

The Nets have been outwardly supportive of Irving, maintaining hope that Irving will eventually join them full-time. But in recent days, it sounds as if members of the team have grown more frustrated with Irving’s part-time role.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported last week that the Nets’ hopes that Irving would get vaccinated were “waning,” despite attempts to educate him on the issue. ESPN also noted that the franchise was getting less patient with Irving’s partial commitment and was unsure if they would accommodate him being with the team for only half the season.

Irving’s superstar teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden have also publicly expressed hope that Irving would commit to the team.

“At least he can practice,” Kevin Durant told reporters on Friday, according to ESPN. “But we want him here for the whole thing. We want him for games, home games, practices, away games, shootarounds, all of it. So hopefully, we can figure this thing out.”

James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant high-five during a game.James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant high-five during a game.

The Nets Big 3 makes them championship favorites. Jeff Chiu/AP Images

James Harden told reporters that he’ll leave it to Irving and the Nets’ front office to chart a course forward but added, “I want him to be on the team.”

It’s a stunning turn of events and one that throws Irving and the Nets’ future into immediate question.

It is unprecedented to have a player only play in half of his team’s games- it is even more noteworthy that it is a star of Irving’s magnitude on a championship contender.

Irving produced one of the best seasons of his career last year, averaging 27 points per game while posting a 50-40-90 shooting slash, a mark of supreme efficiency from the field. Irving played most of Brooklyn’s three stars, and his decision to relinquish point guard duties to Harden allowed him to become a dangerous secondary ball-handler and scoring guard.

It’s unclear what happens off of the court. According to ESPN, Irving could miss game checks of around $380,000 for every home game he doesn’t play.

If Irving remains unvaccinated, it is fair to question how long the Nets will be willing to accommodate him. Irving has been the subject of trade rumors during the offseason and preseason: Fox Sports’ Nick Wright had reported that Irving would consider retiring if he were traded to another team, while ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said the Nets weighed trading Irving, only for Durant to shoot down the idea.

But having a superstar available for only half the season (technically less, since the Nets will also play two “away” games against the New York Knicks) somewhat defeats the purpose of going all-in for a super-team. What would happen if the Nets played a Game 7 at home and didn’t have Irving available?

There is time for Irving to change his mind, of course, but it’s an unknown road in the meantime.

“No one’s been through this before, and we’re just trying to figure it out as we go,” Nash told reporters.

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