Just when it looked like the Brooklyn Nets were finally going to be able to simmer down and head into the preseason without a ton of noise, star point guard Kyrie Irving was unmasked as one of the more prominent players across the NBA that have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Irving, who is the vice president of a union that managed to avoid getting a vaccination mandate slapped on them, is under even more pressure to get his shot, as New York City has made it mandatory to be inoculated in order to participate in indoor activities. This includes games at the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden.
Not only does Irving stand to potentially miss 41 Nets regular-season home games, but he could miss any other games they play in New York or against the Warriors due to San Francisco’s similar requirement.
Stephen A. Smith, no stranger to stoking Irving trade rumors, opted back into the festivities after this latest round of Irving news dropped, this time with a bit more vitriol.
Stephen A. was adamant that the Nets should look to trade Irving, saying that it’s impossible for Brooklyn to compete for a championship when a top-15 player and No. 3 scoring option is willing to miss over half of their games.
Smith also puts some of the responsibility for this move on Kevin Durant and James Harden. While the pair are clearly friends with Irving, will they be willing to let that friendship put them at a competitive disadvantage as they chase a championship?
Stephen A. Smith wants the Brooklyn Nets to trade Kyrie Irving.
On the court, Irving is almost beyond reproach as a scorer, as he was able to join the exclusive 50/40/90 club in 2021 thanks to his efficient shooting percentages. The Nets need his skills to get through an improving East.
However, Irving’s decision has likely been influenced by some conspiracy theories that have come way out of left field. Rolling Stone reported that he has liked videos on Instagram that promote various debunked and nonsensical theories about a microchip in the vaccine, amid other bizarre claims.
While the Nets have stated a belief in their ability to get Irving on the floor for all 82 games this season, and Durant has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t expect Irving’s vaccination status to be an issue, this is still a very concerning development if the mandate stays.
On top of the fact that this could trigger a chain of events that gets local municipalities waffling in how they enforce their vaccine mandate, the Nets saw last year that COVID-19 can derail momentum. From a competitive point of view, the Nets would be at a disadvantage with Irving, as he could miss more time if he tests positive.
While the Nets likely wouldn’t ditch Irving due to his kinship with Brooklyn’s two other stars and the fact that his trade value is sinking with every day he chooses not to get the vaccine, this is a real issue that this squad will have to navigate over the course of the season. Of course, Irving could just get vaccinated if he wants to end all of this.
Irving appears to be hesitant to get the jab, and Stephen A. thinks that ditching him for a player of equal muster or a combination of assets that could replicate his scoring might be the only way for the Nets to move forward. Make no mistake, this is a borderline crisis, and while Stephen A. might sound a bit reactionary, there is a thread of logic in his point.
Can the Nets get the top seed with Irving playing, what, 35 games? And it’ll be awfully difficult for Brooklyn to avoid playing New York-based postseason basketball. What a disaster.