The whole saga around the Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving, and his ineligibility to play due to the vaccination mandates has been one of the most controversial topics of the NBA year. The star point guard has been out of the lineup for the whole season so far, but the Covid outbreak happening in the NBA forced the hand of the Nets to allow Kyrie to play at least in away games. Those news came as a pleasant surprise for NBA fans, but certain people like Shaquille O'Neal aren't the biggest fans of that decision.
Caving in due to the circumstances
Despite Kyrie Irving not playing, the Brooklyn Nets led by Kevin Durant and James Harden have remained at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 21-9 record. They haven't looked like the best team in the NBA despite the expectations, but they are still among elite company. The addition of Kyrie Irving would probably put the Nets over the top and into the conversation with the Warriors or the Suns, but that was not looking likely until recently.
The NBA has been hit hard with the newest wave of Covid cases, causing the majority of the NBA to call up players from the G-league and practically survive however they can. The Nets have been amongst those teams, struggling to find eight available guys on a nightly basis, which prompted the organization to allow Kyrie to participate in road games. Despite not being with the team or practicing, having a player of his caliber would help the Nets tremendously.
But that was cut short due to Irving himself entering health and safety protocols the day after it was announced he was coming back. A really unfortunate series of events for the team and Kyrie, but it seems that in about ten days, we will have the opportunity to see Brooklyn's big three in full power, at least on the road. That decision stirred up a lot of reactions in the world, as NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal criticized the Nets for caving in after making such a big stance.
"I hate when people make a big stand about what they're gonna do. 'Oh Kyrie if you're not all in, don't even come.' The Brooklyn Nets organization wanna be all in, blah blah blah. Now since the Covid thing came up and a couple of guys are out. Oh, well, let you play, Mr. Kyrie. We can do that, Kyrie. I don't respect that. Of course, they panicked. They panicked for no reason. They sound like they're number seventh in the league. You're in first place, dummies. You don't need him."
Shaquille O'Neal, ">The Big Podcast
I can definitely see where Shaq is coming from. The Nets had the opportunity to play Kyrie in half of the games, which would definitely make them even more dangerous, but they decided to make a point and not allow a star to dictate how they operate. It was a decision that warranted respect, and nobody really felt pity for Kyrie sitting out because of his moral beliefs.
But now, when struggling to collect eight players available in a so-called crisis, the Nets have just abandoned their previous stance and caved to Kyrie's demands. It's not like they are struggling or falling in the standings. The Nets are sitting firmly at the top, with their stars returning sooner than later. Kyrie is not needed to stay at the top of the East, but if they want to have the best shot to go all the way when the playoffs arrive, he will be needed.
Maybe this is just the start of Kyrie's complete comeback, in which case this decision would make sense. But as it is looking now, like Shaq said, the Nets only ate their words and crushed their own beliefs for a couple of games.