The Brooklyn Nets are preparing to play games without point guard Kyrie Irving this season — perhaps every home game — because he has declined to be vaccinated for COVID-19. It could mean one of the NBA's most prominent players will be ineligible for more than half of his team's games.
"I think we recognize he's not playing home games," Nets coach Steve Nash said Sunday. "We're going to have to, for sure, play without him this year, so it just depends on when, where, and how much.
New York City vaccination mandates require all in attendance at Brooklyn's Barclays Center and the New York Knicks' Madison Square Garden to have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"We are just starting to navigate this," Nash said. "A new rule comes in Friday, and here we are. We are trying to look at the big picture. The near term, right now, I am not sure we have as many answers."
Irving will practice with the team at home in the HSS Training Center, because that is a privately owned business site.
Irving, attending the Nets' media day virtually, asked the media to respect his decision to decline the COVID-19 vaccine, even if it meant him missing more than half of the season's games.
"Right now we assume he's not going to be available for home games," Nash said. "Anything can change. Who's to say? The city's ordinance could change. Anything could change."
"We found out Friday he could come in the building, so things are shifting," Nash added. "No one's been through this before, and we're just trying to figure it out as we go."
Teammates Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin have publicly supported Irving's stance, but still hope things might change to permit their teammate to play games in venues that require vaccination.
"At least he can practice," Durant said. "But we want him here for the whole thing. We want him for games, home games, practices, away games, shootarounds, all of it. So hopefully, we can figure this thing out."
Regardless of anything changing, Griffin said he stands by his teammate.
"It's not something that I've experienced before," Griffin said. "Whatever he decides, whatever the team decides, whatever agreement we come to or whatever happens, we're just gonna support him. And when he’s here, we can use him. He's amazing."
Irving, a 10-year NBA veteran from Duke University, stands to lose as much as $380,000 in salary per home game, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The NBA vaccination rate is around 95% as of Sept. 30, even though the league does not have a vaccine mandate, according to The Associated Press.
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