Nets abruptly reverse course on Kyrie Irving in Sean Marks statement

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 03: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 03: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets have seen their plan to dominate the Eastern Conference en route to a championship completely knee-capped by Kyrie Irving. He hasn’t been injured or ineffective, but he has been refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite New York City mandating the vaccine for indoor activities and his teammates pleading him to get the jab.

Per current statewide rules, Irving would be barred from playing in Nets home games, meaning that, at most, he could only play in half of Brooklyn’s games. Brooklyn leadership, including players like Kevin Durant and coaches like Steve Nash, went from sounding non-committal on the situation in recent weeks to more accepting of the conundrum Irving has mired them in.

Nash said on Sunday that the team had accepted the fact that Irving is not going to play home games, meaning that they had to decide if he was worth accommodating as a part-time player and traveling roadshow.

After a pleasant outdoor practice this weekend, the team has reached a decision Tuesday, and they dropped the hammer on him.

GM Sean Marks said in a statement on Tuesday that, despite the fact Irving is eligible to practice with the team, he will not play or practice with them until he gets vaccinated and is eligible to be a full participant in regular-season games.

While Marks did acknowledge that Irving is allowed to choose not to be vaccinated, he claimed that the potential negative impact on team chemistry and the desire to unite the squad to chase a championship won out. Will Irving change his mind after this decision or dig his heels in?

Kyrie Irving can’t play with the Brooklyn Nets.

Irving playing only road games would have been a logistical nightmare. The Nets would essentially have had to create two different practice styles and game plans, one of which featured Irving and one that was built around something else entirely. That isn’t sustainable in an 82-game regular season.

Likewise, Brooklyn had to reconcile the fact that Irving, while certainly an influential voice in the locker room, can’t choose to be insubordinate and defiant to the point where he costs his team chances at victories. The East remains tough given the presence of Milwaukee and Philadelphia, so Brooklyn can’t have this cloud hanging over its head.

One of three things will likely happen as a result. The best-case scenario is that Irving finally gets vaccinated, however naive that dream may be. It would certainly put an end to all of this nonsense and let him rejoin the fold.

The Nets could also look to trade Irving, who would help them recoup plenty of assets. However, considering that rumors have hinted Irving would retire if traded away, Brooklyn shouldn’t count on teams lining up to give away some of their best players for the rights to his services.

The worst-case option is that Irving makes good on his threats to retire and walks away. It would be shocking to see him give away that much money and a shot at a ring, but considering we’ve already crossed the vaccine Rubicon and he’s willing to sit out home games, that’s not a crazy idea.

No one is saying that Kyrie is a bad basketball player or a bad human being, given his altruistic side. What is becoming clear is that Irving is being very selfish and narcissistic in this situation, willing to give up millions and hurt his team’s chances of winning while refusing to listen to science and logic.

At the very least, the Nets will still be in the championship hunt without him, as Durant and James Harden pack such a lethal 1-2 scoring punch that Brooklyn should be firmly embedded among the contenders in the East. Irving could still take them over the top, and all it would require is a couple of shots in the arm.