The Brooklyn Nets have officially started to feel the sting of Kyrie Irving and his decision to not be vaccinated against COVID-19. While players like Kevin Durant and James Harden are practicing like normal, New York City’s vaccination requirement has prevented him from being around the team.
The Nets, as it stands right now, will be unable to deploy their dream lineup of Durant, Harden, and Irving, as Kyrie is unable to practice with or play for the team due to the city mandating inoculation to play indoors. He has been ruled ineligible for a preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Even if he may not reveal it publically, this has to be a frustrating issue for Harden. When he forced his way out of Houston, Harden likely had Brooklyn in his sights due to the fact that the potential of a lineup with him, Irving, and KD in it at the same time could be so dominant that Brooklyn ends up coasting to the title.
Without a ring himself, a burden that Durant and Irving do not have to bear, Harden is counting on Irving to come back into the Nets in order to help get this team to the Finals for the first time in almost two decades. He confirmed his intentions to play alongside Kyrie this season before some reporters.
Harden claims that he wants Irving to be a part of this team, citing the fact that he eyed the Nets in trade talks in order to play with No. 11 in New York. Unfortunately, Kyrie might not live up to his end of the bargain.
“I want him to be on the team, of course,” Harden said. “He’s been a huge part since I’ve been here, a huge part of our success. The success we did have last year, we were kind of finding a rhythm, that chemistry that we’ve built…He’s one of the reasons why I came here.”
Will the Brooklyn Nets be able to start James Harden and Kyrie Irving?
Harden and Irving have already proven to have worked well together on the floor. When Durant missed a large chunk of action early in the season with an injury, it was Harden and Irving who combined to dominate and lead the Nets on a very productive West Coast road trip.
While the Nets are better equipped than most to handle Irving missing large chunks of the season due to their combination of veterans like Patty Mills and young players like top draft choice Cam Thomas, it’s impossible to argue that Brooklyn is better when Irving is off the floor.
Harden has more than every right to be frustrated with Irving. On top of the fact that his justification for not getting vaccinated has vacillated between outrageous conspiracy theories and simply saying it’s a personal matter (it is not), Harden vouched for Brooklyn due, in large part, to Irving.
There is a future in which Irving decides that getting the jab is the best thing for both his own health and the health of the team. This could lead to a quick reconciliation in the locker room as Brooklyn tries to use their superstar combination to get them to the promised land for the first time in almost forever.
However, it’s fair to say that Irving may not be close to making a decision. As he has proven with the Rockets, Harden can get 30 points a triple-double, or both on a nightly basis. Will that be enough, in tandem with Durant, to overcome some defensive holes and make it to the Finals? That remains to be seen.