The Brooklyn Nets are pegged as the top betting favorite to vie for the 2022 NBA title. However, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving’s reluctance to take the COVID-19 vaccine has jeopardized his status for the upcoming season. Irving‘s decision could also lead the Nets to suffer a worse fate, seeing James Harden leave.
Nets won’t allow Kyrie Irving to play until he’s a ‘full participant’
As the 2021-22 season inches closer, the Nets continue to monitor Irving’s situation.
The star point guard’s resistance toward taking the COVID-19 vaccine has put his status in jeopardy for the upcoming campaign. It initially went from him potentially missing the 41 regular-season home games due to New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate that requires players to get the shot.
It’s now ventured a step further as general manager Sean Marks voiced that Irving won’t be allowed to practice or play in games until he is a “full participant.”
“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 via CBS Sports. “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.”
A report has emerged from The Athletic‘s Shams Charania stating that those who directly know Irving’s decision say that he isn’t anti-vaccine but rather that he’s angered that people are losing their jobs due to vaccine mandates. The 29-year-old wants to be a “voice for the voiceless,” creating another element that will impact the situation.
If Irving stays the course, he stands to lose $16 million-plus in salary this upcoming season along with a $186 million contract extension.
Stephen A. Smith suggests Kyrie Irving’s situation could lead to James Harden’s departure
As Irving‘s situation worsens, it may lead to another troubling development that will impact the Nets’ long-term future.
During a segment on ESPN’s First Take on Tuesday, Stephen A. Smith revealed that the matter could lead to the Philadelphia 76ers led by Daryl Morey to creep into the picture as a landing spot.
“Now you might lose James Harden because Daryl Morey is lurking in Philadelphia,” said Smith. “Don’t think for one second that Daryl Morey ain’t trying to get his hands on James Harden. I’m telling you what I know.”
Morey holds a strong connection with Harden due to his time spent as the Houston Rockets general manager. He also previously attempted to acquire the former league MVP before his trade to the Nets. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old is in the third year of his four-year, $171.1 million extension with a $47.3 million player option for the 2022-23 season.
In an interview with ESPN last month, Harden hinted toward wanting to go through the free agency experience.
“I’m just taking my time with it,” Harden said. “You know, I think over the course of my career I’ve never been a free agent before. I think this season I just want to focus on winning the championship.”
If Irving’s absence contributes to the Nets falling short of winning the NBA title, it could very well see Harden depart next offseason.
Nets must move forward with or without their star point guard
The Nets‘ stern stance regarding Irving’s status puts him in a firm spot.
The rest of the team has obliged by taking the COVID-19 vaccine to prevent any additional hurdles. Irving stands to lose more than $200 million, while it could cost Brooklyn a chance to compete for an NBA title.
The Nets have done everything possible to be patient, but the team must focus on the upcoming season. Brooklyn will have Harden and Kevin Durant lead the charge, and it’s on Iriving to decide whether he wants to be part of that.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.