Kyrie Irving missed the Brooklyn Nets’ media day at Barclays Center on Monday because of New York City’s COVID-19 protocols.
The 29-year-old later joined the press for a virtual sit down, but he ultimately refused to discuss his vaccination status.
“I know that I’ll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team and be there for my growing tribe off the court,” Irving said via Zoom.
“I know the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions. This is the last thing I wanted to create, was more distractions and more hoopla and more drama around this. I’m doing my best to maintain this with good intentions and a good heart.”
New York mandates that pro athletes who practice or play indoors must show proof of at least one vaccine shot. That means if Irving remains unvaccinated, he will not be able to play in the Nets’ home games. Obviously that’s not ideal for a team that many believe is the front runner to win a championship in 2021-22.
That said, it appears as though Kevin Durant may intervene and save the Nets’ season.
According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, Durant might ultimately end up forcing Irving to get the vaccine.
“Irving couldn’t participate in the on-site media day festivities, and league sources believe Irving will wind up taking the vaccine, citing influence from his close friend and teammate Kevin Durant,” he wrote.
Irving himself seemed to leave the door open.
“That doesn’t mean that I’m putting any limits on the future of me being able to join the team,” Irving said at one point on Monday.
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It is something of an open secret at this point that the Nets’ front office is deeply annoyed by Irving and has wanted to deal him for a long time. They briefly eyed a blockbuster trade involving him recently, only to have it vetoed by Durant.
Given how outspoken Durant has consistently been in his defense of Irving, it stands to reason he’d expect some respect back from him.
Will that result in Irving ultimately getting the vaccine? Time will tell.