Though the organization is reportedly losing hope that he will receive his COVID-19 vaccine, Kevin Durant still believes that Kyrie Irving will be a key part of the Brooklyn Nets this season.
Irving missed his second straight day of practice on Wednesday because he is still unvaccinated against the coronavirus and would be in violation of New York City’s vaccine requirement. If he remains unvaccinated, Irving will be unable to play games at the Barclays Center.
While he wasn’t sure how, Durant isn’t giving up hope just yet — and thinks the Nets are still a championship-caliber team with or without Irving.
“I’m envisioning Kyrie being a part of our team,” Durant said Wednesday, via ESPN. “Maybe I’m just naive, but that is just how I feel. But I think everybody here has that confidence in themselves, in our group, that if we keep building we can do something special.
Nets reportedly losing hope Kyrie Irving will get vaccine
Irving has yet to practice with the Nets, and the team isn’t sure when he’ll be able to rejoin them on the court.
New York City’s vaccine mandate requires that players must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to enter the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden. The NBA has said that it will respect the mandate, too. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles either have or will soon implement a similar mandate.
So, as it currently stands, Irving won’t be able to play in any Nets home games. He can play in road games in New York and San Francisco, as long as he returns a negative coronavirus test.
Players in violation of a local COVID-19 rule will forfeit 1/91.6th of their salary for every game missed. That means that Irving will lose about $381,000 per game. If he misses all 41 of the Nets' home games, he’d miss out on about $15.6 million.
Though the money alone sounds like a big enough motivator to get a shot, the Nets are reportedly losing hope that Irving will actually do so. Head coach Steve Nash said Tuesday that the team wouldn’t consider moving practices outside of New York City to accommodate Irving — who has repeatedly declined to address his unvaccinated status and is reportedly helping to push conspiracy theories about the vaccine related to secret societies and satan.
Even though Durant knows how important Irving is to what they hope to accomplish this season, he isn’t willing to push Irving to go get vaccinated.
"He is dealing with something personal right now," Durant said, via ESPN. "And while he is dealing with that, we are going to focus on us here in the gym and keep working. When they are ready to figure that out, he'll figure it out … We want him a part of this group. But a lot of stuff is out of our control and we will let him figure that out for himself. It doesn't mean that I will say that I don't want him on the team. He's a huge part of what we do but guys got to step up in his absence and be who they are and move forward."