NBA: Nets' Irving can't train or play until he's vaxxed and fully eligible as vaccine row escalates

NEW YORK (REUTERS) – Brooklyn Nets star point guard Kyrie Irving will not take part in any team activities until he is vaccinated against Covid-19, general manager Sean Marks said on Tuesday (Oct 12).

The 29-year-old has been staunch against getting vaccinated, despite a New York City order requiring the shot if he is to play or practise with the team at home this season.

“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practise with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Marks said in a statement.

“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.

“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organisation must pull in the same direction. We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”

The New York mandate prohibits unvaccinated individuals from working in or attending events at many indoor spaces, including entertainment and sporting venues. Similar rules are in place in San Francisco and will go into effect in Los Angeles on Nov 29.

Irving’s stance potentially could cost him millions, although the players’ association could move to challenge salary withholdings over vaccination status.

Marks said Tuesday that Irving would not be paid for home games he misses while “ineligible”.

The NBA is not forcing players to get vaccinated against the coronavirus but it is going to withhold pay for any player who misses games due to local regulations.

Irving is due US$35.3 million (S$47.9 million) this season in the third year of a four-year, US$136.5 million deal he signed on July 6, 2019.

Marks said the team’s decision is not indicative of a trade and the Nets would”welcome Kyrie back with open arms … under a different set of circumstances”.

“I’m sure this is not a decision that (Irving and his agents) like – he wants to be participating with his teammates,” Marks said. “Again this is a choice that Kyrie had and he was well aware of it. We had multiple conversations and they were good. This is where we stand today.”

The Nets finished last season as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, despite getting limited minutes together from the superstar trio of Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden.

Because of injuries and Covid-19 interruptions, they appeared in just eight regular-season games together.

In the play-offs, Durant carried the team as Harden (hamstring) and Irving (ankle) lost games to injuries.

The eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks eliminated the Nets in the conference semi-finals in seven games.

Irving, a seven-time All-Star, played in 54 regular-season games for the Nets last season and averaged 26.9 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

In 582 career games (all starts) with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2011-17), Boston Celtics (2017-19) and Nets, he has averages of 22.8 points, 5.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds.

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