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Friday, November 26, 2021

Nets’ Kyrie Irving decision is about team, not him

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Joe Tsai admittedly doesn’t know when Kyrie Irving will play again for the Nets.

The team owner told ESPN on Friday that he hasn’t spoken to the unvaccinated All-Star since the decision was made earlier this month to keep Irving away from the team until he complies with local mandates and receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

“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,’ Tsai said, according to ESPN.com. “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].”

The 29-year-old Irving is unable to play in any games at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden without being vaccinated, and Nets brass decided in mid-October to also bar him from participating in games he’d be eligible to play on the road.

“Obviously, Kyrie has his own belief, so I respect that. But we have to make a team decision,” Tsai said. “This is not a decision about him. This is a decision about where we go as a team. And it is just not tenable for us to have a team with a player that comes in and out, no home games, only away games. What do you do in practice then?

Kyrie Irving and Nets owner Joe Tsai
Kyrie Irving and Nets owner Joe Tsai
Corey Sikpin; Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“This week we have a whole stretch of six home games, so we won’t have Kyrie. So it became pretty clear to us. We are very much aligned among myself, [GM] Sean [Marks], [the] coaching staff that this has to be [the decision], especially since we’re a team with pretty lofty aspirations. We don’t see any other way of running this team.”

The Nets also have put on hold any talks of a potential contract extension for Irving, who remains eligible to sign a four-year deal worth $187 million.

“I hope that Kyrie can be part of the team, part of Brooklyn long-term,” Tsai said. “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.”

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