The Brooklyn Nets have been dealt a major punch in the stomach over the course of several weeks, as their dream of putting Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving on the floor for a full season has been thrown into complete disarray due to Irving’s stubbornness on vaccine-related issues.
Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have mandated vaccination to perform indoor activities, like playing basketball. Unvaccinated players could face potential jail time if they break protocols in Toronto, where Brooklyn is scheduled to play three games. The combination of all these factors means that Irving could miss more than half the season.
The Nets may have more depth and shooters than most teams, but it is impossible to argue that Brooklyn would be largely unaffected from a win-loss perspective without Irving. They need him back on the court as soon as possible.
The common refrain from the Nets for large chunks of the offseason was that fans shouldn’t worry and that Irving will be on the floor as a full, participating member of this team. That optimism has waned in recent weeks, though KD is still holding out hope that Irving will be on the floor next to him.
Durant said that he still thinks Irving will be a part of the Nets this season, although he prefaced that statement by saying it might be rooted in naivety. Let’s just hope that Durant’s premonition ends up coming true.
Will Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving play together on the Brooklyn Nets?
The Nets have stated that they are undecided if they will accommodate Irving if he is a part-time player. While around 40 games of Irving might give the Nets more production than most guards can provide in double the time, will they continue with a system that leaves his status for any given game in doubt?
The league is well over 90% when it comes to vaccination rate, meaning that Irving is one of only a small group of players that is taking their refusal to get inoculated to this degree. Even noteworthy anti-vax players like Andrew Wiggins and Bradley Beal have changed their tune while Irving remains defiant.
Considering how quickly the season is approaching, and the fact that all of the potential benefits that Irving could stand to accumulate from getting the vaccine have been spelled out for him multiple times, it would be a bit of a shock if he suddenly decided to get the shot and go back on weeks of strict denials.
The only way that the Brooklyn Nets might be able to convince Irving, who stands to lose eight figures in salary if he misses games due to COVID-19 regulations, to get the shot is by reminding him of the fact he came to Brooklyn to win a championship. That goal could be made harder without Kyrie on the floor.
Sure, Harden could switch over to point guard, and Brooklyn could put a player like Bruce Brown, Joe Harris, or rookie Cam Thomas in the starting lineup, but that would hardly be an adequate replacement for a future Hall of Famer like Irving. Brooklyn genuinely needs his ability to get buckets this season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks aren’t going away, and while the rival 76ers look chaotic right now, they have enough star pieces to make some noise in the East. Durant and Harden will be able to get this team very close to winning a championship, but Irving could take them over the top.
If he misses this opportunity because he got spooked thanks to some YouTube videos that have no basis in reality, Nets fans will understandably be irreconcilably distraught with him.