Kyrie Irving’s availability for Brooklyn Nets home games in the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season has been a question mark.
The vaccine mandate in New York City requires professional athletes participating in public arenas to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and Irving’s immunization status is unknown at the moment. For the first time, Nets coach Steve Nash has acknowledged that Irving will miss home games at Barclays Center due to the mandate.
“I think we recognize he’s not playing home games,” Nash told the media people on Sunday. “We’re going to have to for sure play without him this year. So it just depends on when, where, and how much.”
Nash’s comments mark the first time anyone on the team has admitted the possibility and the expectation that Irving will miss home games. Irving has not disclosed whether he has been vaccinated or not, but he has not practiced with his team in New York and was ineligible to attend the home preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.
The city, however, determined on Friday that Irving is eligible to practice at the team’s facility, which is considered private.
“There’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie, and I think I’d love to just keep that private and handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan,” Irving said two weeks ago at Nets media day when he spoke with reporters via Zoom. “So obviously, I’m not able to be present there today, but that doesn’t mean that I’m putting any limits on the future of me being able to join the team.”
If Irving does not comply with New York’s vaccine requirements, he could miss Nets’ 41 home games at Barclays Center and their two road games against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Last week, the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA agreed to a pay reduction of 1/91.6 of a player’s salary for each game missed due to non-compliance with COVID-19 vaccine mandates. According to ESPN, Irving could lose nearly $380,000 each game and possibly more than $15 million this season if he skips every game in New York.
Irving missing the entirety of the Nets’ home schedule would be a major blow to a team that opens the season as a title favorite. Brooklyn opens the season with two away games, on October 19 at Milwaukee and October 22 at Philadelphia, followed by six games in New York for two weeks.