The Brooklyn Nets are used to being the center of attention. When your Big Three consists of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, it’s kind of hard not to be. And given the obstacles that the team has faced so far this season (ie: Irving being unvaccinated), the spotlight on the Nets has gotten a lot brighter.
After plenty of rumors and speculation, Brooklyn decided to allow Irving to return on a part-time basis. Due to his vaccination status, the point guard is only allowed to play in road games.
After gaining a bit of relief once Irving made his season debut on Jan. 5, the Nets’ world has turned upside down once again. Durant suffered a torn MCL on Jan. 15 and is estimated to be out for 4-to-6 weeks. Irving was asked if KD’s injury had persuaded him to get vaccinated, and he made it clear that his mind hadn’t been changed.
Brooklyn’s a consistent talking point, and the majority of it has revolved around Irving and the COVID-19 vaccine. This time, it was ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins taking shots at the Nets, but in this instance, he was directing his words at Durant and Harden, not Irving.
Perkins blames Kevin Durant, James Harden for Kyrie Irving’s vaccine stance.
On Jan. 14, Stephen A. Smith blasted Brooklyn for allowing Irving to return. Smith said that Irving’s part-time role “sends a bad message” and he wrapped up his ramble by saying that while he respects KD and Harden’s game, it’s “pretty impossible” to root for the Nets.
Following in Smith’s footsteps, former NBA player Perkins took shots at the organization.
"“The guys that are in that are in the locker room for the Brooklyn Nets, they’re soft,” Perkins said. “They’re soft, starting with KD and James because if they had any type of umph about themselves, they would actually say, ‘Hey dog, look here man this is what’s going on.’ I don’t want to hear from KD in the interview saying, ‘Oh man, Kyrie a grown man, we have to respect his decisions.’ No, call him out.”"
The 2008 NBA champion approached Irving’s situation in a different way, which consisted of calling Durant and Harden “soft.”
It doesn’t seem right to place the consequences of Irving’s vaccination decision on Brooklyn’s other two stars, who both bore increased workloads with Irving out.
Between Smith and Perkins, the narrative seems to be that the Nets are worse off for allowing Irving to return. From the outside looking in, that doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s been zero objection.
Multiple players have said that they’re glad to have Irving back, and at this point, there hasn’t been any issues.
After Irving’s debut in Indiana, Durant said: “The game of basketball is happy to have him back.”
As long as Irving remains unvaccinated, Brooklyn’s going to continue to catch flack for it, including the team’s high-profile players.