After issuing a press release on Tuesday announcing that Kyrie Irving won’t practice or play for the Nets until he can be a “full participant,” general manager Sean Marks spoke to reporters to provide more details on the team’s decision, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic write.
“We looked at everything. When you make a decision like this, it’s one that you don’t want to do hastily,” Marks said, per Bontemps. “… I think we all know what our objective is this year and how this, a decision like this, may be able to (impact) that ultimate objective. They are never easy decisions, but at the end of the day, I think we are looking at putting a group of people that are going to be able to participate fully and that is what this comes down to. And we’re not looking for partners that are going to be half time.
“I don’t think that would be fair to not only the team and staff and ownership and fans, but to be quite frank, not fair on Kyrie either when you are putting somebody out there that potentially can’t get the right ramp-ups and right buildups and so forth and look as good as he or the team should under a different set of circumstances. That is why this decision was ultimately made.”
Asked if Nets stars James Harden and Kevin Durant had a say in the decision to sideline Irving, Marks said that “everyone” in the organization was kept in the loop about the situation, but stressed that he and team owner Joe Tsai made the final call.
“Ultimately, this decision was Joe Tsai and myself, and this decision came down to what we felt was the right move for the organization at this time,” Marks said.
Irving is the only player on the Nets who remains unvaccinated against COVID-19. A New York City executive order requires individuals who work in the city to have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine in order to enter indoor venues such as Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden.
The NBA has stated that players who are ineligible to play in games due to local vaccine mandates will lose 1/91.6th of their salary for each game they miss. While the NBPA has pushed back against the league’s interpretation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the expectation is that Irving’s stance will cost him $381K per game over the course of 43 games (41 in Brooklyn, plus two at MSG), for a total of nearly $16.4MM in lost salary.
Marks confirmed on Tuesday that Irving will only be docked salary for games in New York. As former Celtics and Suns executive Ryan McDonough explains (via Twitter), the decision to continue paying Irving for road games neutralizes Kyrie’s ability to involve the NBPA and file a grievance.
Here’s more on Irving:
- As of now, Irving has no plans to be vaccinated and there’s no indication New York City’s policy on unvaccinated individuals will change any time soon, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic. According to Charania, rival teams think Brooklyn would be open to a “significant” trade offer for Irving, but that kind of offer probably won’t be on the table, given that it’s unclear how willing Kyrie would be to join another team.
- Executives polled by Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports believe an Irving trade is possible, but only under “special circumstances,” since there are concerns he could retire if he’s dealt. “I don’t know if I’d touch him, but you have to look at it, for the sake of your team,” one exec told Goodwill.
- Head coach Steve Nash told reporters today that he supports the Nets’ decision on Irving, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Nash said he’d love to have Irving back with the team if the situation changes, but believes it would have been a “tenuous situation” to have a player with the team off and on.
- Harden said he respects Irving’s stance and would love to have him back in the lineup, but acknowledged that the Nets will benefit from knowing who will be available on a night-to-night basis (Twitter link via Begley).