It seems the Brooklyn Nets are coming to terms with the fact that Kyrie Irving will not be available for home games. As Basketball News analyzed, Steve Nash acknowledged "that Brooklyn is going to miss the star guard due to his vaccination status." The only good news the Nets got was that Kyrie can practice with the team in their practice facility but can't play in Barclays Center.
To no one's surprise, rumors of Nets trading Kyrie came up. For a team that has a championship or bust season ahead of them, not having their $35 million guard is an issue - even if you have James Harden and Kevin Durant on the team. While the front office seems adamant they will work with Kyrie around this issue, we know who has the final say.
The only time we've heard that Nets owner Joseph Tsai stepped in was when Kyrie took an announced and unexplained break in the middle of the season. According to reports, that was a bridge too far for the Nets owner, who made it clear such behavior is unacceptable - that's why Kyrie apologized to the team and staff for going AWOL. Now his max player will have a significant negative impact on the team's chances to win the Larry O'Brien trophy by making a choice Joseph Tsai is not OK with.
“Kyrie talks about it as a sort of personal choice issue, which I respect. But we all need to not forget that our goal, what is our goal this year. What’s our purpose this year? It's very very clear -- win a championship. And a championship team needs to have everybody pulling in the same direction. So I hope to see Kyrie play fully and win a championship together with everybody else with all his teammates.
I’m a total believer in having that in the fact that vaccine actually protects you from getting sick, getting real sick. Now the other thing is, I also believe that taking the vaccine is also a social good. It’s just part of social responsibility because you’re not only protecting yourself, but you’re protecting other people. ... Don’t underestimate the social responsibility part of it. It’s not just about yourself, it’s about protecting the people around you. So that’s kind of my view of the vaccine.”
Joseph Tsai, NY Post
As we covered, Kyrie made it known that if the Nets somehow managed to trade him, Irving would seriously consider retiring. So while this public comment from his boss was a shot across Kyrie's bow, seems like he didn't change course. As it became known, the then 10% of unvaccinated players used the NBPA (Players Union) to get a lot of precautions and measures removed or at least significantly reduced. Raja Bell wasn't diplomatic about that attempt.
"The 10%; not only are they railing against getting their vaccinations, but then they also want all of the mandated testing and precautions and protocols lifted and changed so they're not inconvenienced. I find that really entitled and obnoxious."
Raja Bell, The Real Ones
As a former NBA player, Bell said he doesn't find surprising NBA players, and particularly NBA stars think everything revolves around them. The hundreds of team and arena employees work hard so the players can show up and play. Everything in the workers' lives and careers is optimized to the player's liking. The vaccination expectations and COVID protocols are an egalitarian situation; something NBA players are not used to. Even if you don't want to get the shot for yourself, you can't show up for work because your choice significantly impacts everyone around you.
Suddenly Kyrie's team status is on the line as he has to make a choice he doesn't like because of the impact it could have on an usher, a ball boy, or a security guard. Bell made it clear that players hearing "no" and having to do something they don't like is definitely a part of the resistance. But, not the only reason why.
"A lot of guys in that camp of 10% of NBAers that are your typical conspiracy theories people. Kyrie being front and center."
Raja Bell, The Real Ones
At the start of training camp, all reporting was going in the line of "in the end, KD will convince Kyrie to get the shot." Most players that do cave will do it because of peer pressure from the locker room - a sense of duty to show up for their team and teammates. But if there's one guy who's made it clear his life outside of basketball and his convictions are more important than the game, it's Kyrie Irving. The fact Irving already earned over $150 million in his career doesn't hurt as well.
We're all focused on the Daryl Morey vs. Ben Simmons stand-off and the impact it has on the entire NBA landscape. The Kyrie Irving vs. Nets/Joseph Tsai one is equally fascinating and impactful on the NBA. As things stand, the Simmons one could be resolved sooner than the Irving one.