Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been a polarizing figure for a long time now, he’s certainly no stranger to being the focus of media attention. There are lots of setbacks which have prevented the Nets Big 3 dream of Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden from all taking the floor at the same time.
They’ve played very few games together since the team traded nearly a decade’s worth of draft capital for Harden. If The Beard has been a “poster boy” for rule changes aimed at non-basketball moves, Irving has been a lightning rod for vaccine discourse.
But the Duke product still holds hope he can play home games, despite his vaccine stance. But how?
Irving is not vaccinated and that figured at one point to cost him his entire season and even a long-term max contract extension that had previously been on the table from Brooklyn. Last fall the team made the tough choice to say he couldn’t play as a part-time player. Then when 8 or more players were in COVID protocols, they decided to bring him back. Now with 12 games under his belt, only four of them wins (two of those were when all three of their stars were available), there are no easy answers for GM Sean Marks.
There are several credible reports suggesting James Harden is frustrated with Irving’s part-time status. That and some reported concerns with Harden’s own fit in Brooklyn have combined to give the 2018 MVP a wandering eye; or at least so says these reports. And all of that (and probably more) may have given the Nets reason to explore trades for Ben Simmons with the Philadelphia 76ers.
If Irving were suddenly available for home games so many of the Nets on court problems could at least be addressed, if not instantly solved. Having to make these tough decisions, which impact the next four to five years without home games to use as a Big 3 litmus test isn’t ideal. If you can’t guarantee Irving will be in Brooklyn next year, if you can’t guarantee that if he is here he’ll play full-time, then how can you be sure Harden won’t leave if you think that’s all quite frustrating for him? And if he might leave, do you trade him now for someone under contract long-term?
So many of their issues have critical ramifications for their future. To that point, it sounds like Irving is still optimistic he may be able to play in home games.
My exchange with Kyrie about long stretch upcoming when he can’t play:
Kyrie: Who knows?
Me: what’s that mean?
Kyrie: Who knows? Who knows? I know it’s not a laughing subject to be talking about, but who knows what could happen?
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) February 7, 2022
The Nets guard can’t predict the future, he admits, but he maintains a positive mindset.
“Who knows? …I know it’s not a laughing subject to be talking about but who knows what could happen? …Who you think I am?…I’ve been talking to city day after day, no I’m joking.
-Kyrie Irving says he’s has a ‘positive mindset’ s/t comes up to allow him to play home games. pic.twitter.com/NfFUThIvpb
— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) February 6, 2022
“I can’t do the hypotheticals, we’ll see. I can’t do the hypotheticals. We just gotta keep our heads on straight right now….but for us in this locker room, we’re just rocking with who we have, heathy, day-to-day.”
-Kyrie Irving on if trade deadline passing relieves pressure.
— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) February 7, 2022
Irving was asked by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News what the future holds in terms of him playing home games, and was (half-jokingly) asked if he’s been in contact with city officials about law changes.
“Who knows? Who knows? Who knows? I dunno, who knows? …I know it’s not a laughing subject to be talking about but who knows what could happen? …Who you think I am?…I’ve been talking to city day-after-day, no I’m joking. Nah, I think I’m erring on the side of, I’m keeping a positive mindset that anything can happen these next few days or next week. And just crossing my fingers that something can come up either before all star break or even just after. So I’m definitely keeping a positive attitude in that sense.”
Kyrie is having a bit of fun here, joking that he’s been on the phone constantly with New York Mayor Eric Adams, or the “city” as he says. He’s making fun of the fact he doesn’t have the answers to these types of questions about if there will be local changes to vaccine mandate laws; the kind that keep him from suiting up in Brooklyn.
It sounds like Irving derives some optimism, or at least a “positive mindset” that something could change in New York City. It does not sound like he is changing his mind on his own vaccination stance. Irving said he’s made his decision on that subject back in mid Jan.
These days it seems almost as likely a new COVID variant could hit that might even increase local restrictions as it would that they’d repeal mandates. Still, you never know. More and more of the language from experts lately is about life moving forward amid a new normal.
It doesn’t seem utterly implausible the City could eventually determine enough people have either been double-vaxxed and boosted or have some type of natural immunity and make a change.
But Irving’s time frame of “few days or next week” seems a bit optimistic. Which is probably why he caught himself and changed his wording to “positive mindset.”
So there you have it. For what it’s worth, it does not sound like Nets coach Steve Nash is holding his breath for an Irving return by next week. Here’s what he said after the team’s 8th loss.
“There’s still plenty of games after the All-Star break when [Durant] gets back, where hopefully we have James and Kevin at home, and James, Kevin, and Kyrie [Irving] on the road.”
But if you maintain a positive mindset that helps you drain clutch buckets, it might make some sense to keep the same mentality hoping for a law change.