Believe it or not, we have some more drama-related news regarding Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving. This time, it’s vaccine-related. New York City has a mandate that requires athletes to be vaccinated in order to be eligible to play in home games. Irving, who does not appear to be vaccinated due to his appearance via Zoom on media day (though he has never directly stated that), could end up losing $400K for every home game he misses. But more importantly, the Nets could be without one of their superstars and a top-15 player in the NBA. I am not here to comment on whether or not Irving should or should not get the COVID-19 vaccine. I am, however, here to examine what his absence could mean for the Nets.
Will Irving Actually Miss Games?
When Irving’s teammates were asked about his status for home games, many did not seem too worried. Joe Harris and Bruce Brown, when asked about Irving missing games, smiled at each other, and said that they “don’t have any concerns” over his availability. This response was a bit confusing, as obviously Harris and Brown have heard that Irving could potentially miss games. When head coach Steve Nash was asked about Irving, he had this to say:
“Things could change day-to-day in so many ways, as we saw last year. Right now, we’re just focused on camp.”
Not the most promising answer, as Nash avoided the question. But he did offer some hope that things could easily change in the near future. It is still unknown whether that is referring to Irving potentially getting vaccinated if not already or the mandates in New York City changing.
Kyrie Irving was present at Monday’s media session via Zoom. Irving was of course asked about his vaccine status and availability, each time responding “please, respect my privacy,” and “next question.”
But when the questions were geared towards the basketball side, Irving seemed to offer a sense of optimism. Almost as if none of the vaccine drama was a concern.
“The focus has to be an all-time high, no distractions,” said Irving regarding this upcoming season.
Whether Irving is not addressing his availability to play is because he does not think it will be an issue when the time comes, or just because he wants to keep this information private has yet to be determined. But if he is confident he will be able to play at home, that would be comforting for the Nets.
Who will step up if Irving does miss time?
No matter what angle you look at it, there is the possibility Irving could be out for home games this season. That not only puts the Nets at a disadvantage every time they are home but also decreases their title chances. With Irving, the Nets are the clear-cut favorites to win the championship, as they were last year. But we saw last year what this team looks like when their stars are injured: not championship-worthy. Without Irving, the Nets would be forced to start veteran Patty Mills. Mills is a solid option but comes nowhere close to Irving’s talent. And without Kyrie, even more of the scoring will fall upon 33-year-old Kevin Durant. The Nets would still be a very good team without Kyrie. However, if he indeed is not going to be able to play in home games, expectations for the entire season may have to be reevaluated.