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In this era of player empowerment across the NBA, chalk one up for management.
And I write that not to neccessarily dunk all over the loser in this situation—Kyrie Irving—but more precisely applaud the front office of the Nets for ending the crazy double-standard it had set for one of its three superstars. In a reversal of course Tuesday, after a few weeks of pledging support for his outlier stance despite the fact it could cost Brooklyn the services of an extremely valuable player for over half of the season, the Nets told Irving he had to go away until he does his part.
In a startlingly strong statement put out by Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks, it was revealed that the mercurial Nets guard will not be allowed to play or practice until the notable anti-vaxxer finally gets inoculated for Covid-19. After Irving’s ability to be a fully functioning and productive member of the organization—not playing in games in NYC, but playing in road games, yet maybe or maybe not being allowed to practice at home—seemingly grew murkier by the day, it’s currently crystal clear the Nets are done having him run around with his own set of rules at the expense of the team.
So please give Marks and the rest of the Nets credit for making the right call and telling Irving we’ll see you when you’re ready. Or, more precisely, eligible. For the sake of a championship-caliber squad that still needs to develop chemistry in order to achieve its lofty goals. For the sake of helping finally end a pandemic through the easiest, safest, and most efficient means possible. And for the sake of everyone’s sanity since the never-ending drama that is Irving’s availability was the worst, most exhausting drama in the NBA not related to Ben Simmons.
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Marks said in the statement. “Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction. We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”
If he wants to continue to be selfish, for reasons he refuses to elaborate on, then Brooklyn did the right thing Tuesday. So applaud ‘em, praise ‘em, thank ‘em. Death to double standards while this pandemic still rages.
Strong stuff, for sure. And to back it up, Marks got on a Zoom call with local and national media roughly an hour after the statement was released. There he expanded upon how the Nets came to the decision to tell Irving he has to stay home until he can comply with local vaccine mandates like the rest of his teammates have.
“Ultimately, he has a choice to make and he made his choice,” Marks said. “My job here is to make what we deem the best decision and choices for the organization as a whole. These are hard decisions, just like I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Kyrie, either, to have to not be around his teammates.”
But basically the Nets general manager, in diplomatic, low-key fashion, sounded just a bit relieved and confident that this decision—reached exclusively between himself and Nets owner Joseph Tsai—was the right one. Until Irving complies with a New York City mandate that demands everyone who enters a major indoor facility—like Barclays Center where the Nets play their 41 home games—must be vaccinated, it serves no purpose to have Irving coming and going, popping in for a road game here and there, half committed to a team that’s championship or bust.
You could pull out a few keywords or phrases from what Marks said and released, but the one that stuck out to me was about the need of a team to “pull in the same direction.” Sure, it’s kind of cliche, but Marks ain’t wrong. The Nets have astronomical expectations after last season’s experiment produced the greatest offense the league has ever seen. Yet we barely saw Brooklyn’s big three of Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden play together last season—eight regular-season games and some sparse minutes in the postseason. They need all the practices and early season home games to get situated, straightened out, and completely comfortable with a roster that’s looks a little different this fall. And even on a team featuring two other superstars, who undoubtedly have their own set of less serious and consquential rules because that’s how sports just works, it’s kind of ridiculous for an organization to bend over backward and make special accommodations for a player that’s only willing and able to fulfill his duties and responsibilities half of the time. How would allowing Irving to partially play and practice and stick around the squad, while not complying with the vaccine mandate, serve Brooklyn’s bigger purpose?