Adrian Wojnarowski has launched one of his bombs, news that may be a turning point in the new NBA campaign, a course that is already in full preseason with the bow pointing to an official start, on October 19, each time closest. According to Woj, the situation with Kyrie Irving is definitely going wrong for the Nets. The point guard continues to refuse to get vaccinated against COVID and the team has gone from optimism to pessimism that can lead him to make “tough decisions” regarding one of his superstars. The possibility of him being completely removed from the team for the entire season (unless he is vaccinated) is on the table.
It is, of course, a matter of tremendous depth. The Nets are huge favorites to win the ring. They have a big three of endless talent: Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. And a luxurious accompaniment: LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, Joe Harris, Bruce Brown, Patty Mills, James Johnson … If everyone is there and good health, there are few who believe that the title will not go to the Big Apple, unless there is no team with more arguments on paper to take it away. They just need to accompany chemistry (with three stars who have already had questions about it during their careers) and health, a sensitive issue and that already ruined the Nets’ options in the last playoffs.
In this panorama, the issue of the vaccine, which had been tempered in the League, has crept in. First, it went from 90% vaccinated (when the training camps opened) to 95%. Later one of the leaders of the rebellion against vaccination, Andrew Wiggins, finally agreed to be vaccinated, although he did not miss an opportunity to send another of his not very uplifting messages after doing so. In Brooklyn, meanwhile, optimism grew with Kyrie, always a player and a different guy (for better and for worse), who was thought to end up vaccinated, largely under the influence of Kevin Durant. The Nets publicly supported the point guard and chose to surround him with the best information possible. The rest, they believed, would arrive by inertia.
In San Francisco (home of the Warriors) and New York (Knicks and Nets) the pandemic rules are especially strict: you cannot enter closed public venues or participate in indoor events if you are not vaccinated. You need at least one dose in New York and the full guideline in San Francisco. That means that the players of those three franchises that have not received the vaccine will not be able to be in the activities of their teams at home: neither games (friendlies, 41 in the regular season, those that could be in the playoffs) nor training sessions.
According to Wojnarowski, the Nets’ optimism is fading. Kyrie keeps refusing the vaccine, there is no longer any clarity about its intentions and the time is approaching when the franchise believes it will have to decide if he completely breaks with his efforts to save the point guard for this season or chooses to accommodate him as a part-time player, only for games and sessions outside of New York. A very strange situation that will not cause changes to the letter: the coach, Steve Nash, made it clear yesterday that they will not look for a training place outside the limits of New York so that Kyrie can participate.
Kyrie’s stubbornness makes the franchise begin to realize that he will have to decide and, always according to Woj, “tough decisions” may come. The Nets feel they would also be favorites for the title without Kyrie and with Durant and Harden as banners.. They would lose an incredible talent on the court, it is true, but they would gain a peace of mind that they do not have right now, shaken by this vaccine crisis that has been thrown on them. The NBA chose, unlike what it decided for workers of other ranks in the organization, not to make vaccination mandatory among players.
The Nets, who are training without Kyrie, have two friendlies left on their court, at the Barclays Center, this Friday and next Thursday, and then they start the regular season with two away games. Its premiere at home in the regular season will arrive on the 24th. And the test to Kyrie will not wait: in the second week of competition begins a stretch of six games in a row at Barclays, which will host 20 of the 26 that the team will play between November and December.
For Kyrie, the financial consequences can be dire. The 29-year-old guard has a contract this season worth just over $ 35 million. He has a player option of 36.6 for the next one, 2022-23 and the Nets wanted to negotiate an extension to ensure his continuity. This, which will now obviously be on hold, could be $ 187 million for four seasons. For every game you miss in Brooklyn because you are not vaccinated, you will stop collecting $ 381,181. That implies (they are accounts of the journalist Bobby Marks) 762,000 for the two that remain in the preseason and 15.6 million if he does not play any in the regular season. To that must be added another 762,000 for the two he would have to play at Madison, with the Knicks at home, and 413,000 in bonuses. And all that without counting playoffs. So between the economic and the sports, in Brooklyn they believed that the waters would end up returning to their course. But now, with the matter also airing again in public, doubts multiply And the title favorite doesn’t know if he can count on one of the greatest scoring talents in NBA history. That’s how serious the issue is.