Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving is unvaccinated and won’t play in any games this season until he gets the COVID-19 vaccine. The All-Star is getting fined $381,181 for every home game he misses. However, the Nets are still paying Irving more than $16 million since they aren’t fining him for the away games he’ll miss.
The billionaire who is paying Irving millions of dollars not to play basketball, Nets majority governor Joe Tsai, hopes Irving gets vaccinated as soon as possible. However, he is unsure if that will happen.
Joe Tsai on Kyrie Irving: “I hope he gets vaccinated as soon as possible”
In an interview with Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, Tsai said he would welcome Irving back if he complies with New York City’s COVID-19 mandate. He’s also confident that New York City won’t change its mandate just for Uncle Drew.
“I don’t know,” Tsai when asked when he thinks Irving will play again. “Either he has to be vaccinated in order to come back if the New York mandate is still in place. And don’t ask me when they may or may not change the New York mandate. Again, if you ask the people that are making decisions at the city level, they are going to say we are going to rely on science, rely on what the health department tells us [in order to proceed]. I hope that Kyrie can be part of the team, part of Brooklyn long term. But I am not going to get into the extension thing. I think we have an immediate question of whether he can play this season, and I hope he gets vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Tsai, who has been a major advocate of getting vaccinated, spent some time talking to Irving, trying to understand his views on why he doesn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, once the seven-time All-Star told the Nets that he didn’t plan to get the vaccine and Tsai and general manager Sean Marks decided not to have Irving be with the team, the two parties haven’t spoken.
Joe Tsai: I haven’t spoken with Kyrie Irving since the decision
Tsai told Youngmisuk he hasn’t spoken to Irving since Oct. 12. He also commented on the group of protesters who gathered outside Barclays Center rallying for Irving.
“Last time [I] talked to him was when we made the decision that he was not going to be playing until something changes,” Tsai said. “We haven’t communicated since then. I just think that it’s cavalier for people to hijack something like this when life and death is at stake. People shouldn’t make it into a political issue. So when you see protestors, they’re definitely making a political statement. These guys are not basketball fans. They could care less whether someone is on the court playing or not.”
Irving said on Instagram Live on Oct. 13 that he isn’t anti-vaccine. However, it doesn’t sound like the one-time champion has any plans to get the vaccine, making his statement somewhat confusing.
Uncle Drew: “This is about my life and what I am choosing to do”
Irving wants people to respect his decision and will remain in basketball shape in case something changes moving forward. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Irving is upset that people are losing their jobs due to vaccine mandates.
“I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice, and I would ask you all to just respect that choice,” Irving said. “I am going to just continue to stay in shape, be ready to play, be ready to rock out with my teammates, and just be part of this whole thing. This is not a political thing; this is not about the NBA, not about any organization. This is about my life and what I am choosing to do.”
If Irving does miss the entire 2021-22 season, the Nets face an uphill battle to win the championship. Despite having Kevin Durant and James Harden, Brooklyn has missed Irving’s scoring and playmaking skills. It’s not easy to replace a player who shot 50/40/90 last season. After all, only nine players in NBA history have accomplished that feat.