Nets’ Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving enter antivirus protocols
On Friday night, the Nets announced they would allow Kyrie Irving, the star goalie they kicked from the squad until he receives a Covid-19 vaccination, to join the squad on time partiel.
As of Saturday afternoon, that plan was on hold: Irving, who still has not been vaccinated, entered into league health and safety protocols, his team said, as part of a spike at the coronavirus absence league scale.
Irving is just the latest Net on the team’s growing list of unavailable players. Earlier on Saturday, the Nets confirmed that star forward Kevin Durant had also entered protocols and would miss Saturday’s game against the Orlando Magic in Brooklyn.
Durant and Irving became the eighth and ninth Nets to be declared ineligible to play due to virus reasons, a growing list of absences that has left the team in danger of not having enough players to compete. According to league rules, a team must have eight players in uniform for a game.
It is not known if Durant, Irving, or any other Net tested positive for the coronavirus. Players, coaches, and team staff do not have to test positive to be required to enter league health and safety protocols: Close contact with someone who has tested positive or even an inconclusive result may subject a player or coach to return rules.
Once in protocols, players cannot resume play until they have self-isolate for 10 days or return multiple negative test results within a specified period of time.
According to league health and safety rules, Durant, who is vaccinated, may return after recording two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Irving, because he’s unvaccinated, faces much stricter rules before he’s even allowed to practice.
The Nets had revealed their intention to return Irving to the part-time squad in a statement Friday night, despite his continued refusal to get the shot and even as cases of the coronavirus escalate in New York. Due to local health regulations, he will only be able to play certain road games, and none in New York.
The announcement was a surprising about-face for a franchise that had made it clear earlier this year that it was unwilling to use Irving as a part-time player. New York City has since summer mandated that employees and customers of indoor restaurants, gymnasiums and other similar establishments be vaccinated, which means Irving has been banned for months from playing home games at Barclays Center or even training with teammates without a valid medical or religious exemption.
These rules also mean Irving is ineligible to play in games against the Crosstown Knicks, and similar regulations will soon bar him from participating in road games against the Toronto Raptors. The Canadian government, starting next month, will ban unvaccinated athletes from entering the country.
The Nets, who came in on Saturday 21-8 and first in the Eastern Conference, cited their high number of players in league health and safety protocols as the reason for Irving’s return. Nets general manager Sean Marks said on Saturday the decision was made in consultation with the team’s players and coaches.
“Our goal here is to win,” Marks told reporters on a conference call. “Our goal of an organization, the general manager, the coach, the players. Everyone knows why they are here to win basketball games.
“At the end of the day, we are sitting here with a list that has been decimated over the last few days and you know I have to make some decisions.”
When asked if Irving would stay with the team if and when other Nets players return, Marks called the possibility “a little bit speculative.”
“I’m not sure what’s going on around the corner,” he said.
Nets coach Steve Nash told reporters on Saturday he was “happy to be back with Kyrie.”
The coronavirus pandemic: what you need to know
“Obviously he’s an incredible player,” said Nash. He said the decision to ban Irving from playing was initially made in the interests of “continuity,” but admitted on Saturday that the growing number of Covid-related absences on the roster had led the team to review his decision.
“Frankly,” Nash said, “the continuity was thrown out the window.”
Marks said he did not discuss Irving’s vaccine status with him. Irving has never publicly discussed his status, although team officials – in their statements and actions – have confirmed he is not vaccinated.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate right now,” Marks said. “The times I’ve been to see him it’s about bonding and making friendships and having conversations about family.”
Irving’s potential return to the Nets is, at least outwardly, an embarrassing visual for the Nets and the NBA In New York City, the pandemic continued to rage with the arrival of the Omicron variant, and long lines of expectation now surround test sites in the midst of a surge in cases. Marks noted that he had personally seen hundreds of people standing outside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center waiting to be tested.
“I hate to say it, it’s almost like we went back to six months, a year ago, unfortunately, with an increase in cases,” Marks said.
While 97 percent of NBA players are vaccinated and the league has run ads promoting vaccines, Irving remains the most visible vaccine.
Marks and Nets owner Joe Tsai had repeatedly said that Irving would not be allowed to speak part-time for the Nets unless he was vaccinated to comply with the city’s mandate. Tsai told ESPN in October that “it is just not tenable for us to have a team with a player coming in and going out, no home games, only away games”.
That same month, Marks told reporters: “Our goal, that of our coaches and that of our organization is to be focused on the players who are going to be involved here and fully participate,” adding that “this is a choice Kyrie had. , and he was aware of it.
On Friday, Marks changed their tone. “We look forward to Kyrie’s return to the roster,” he said, “as well as putting our entire roster together on the pitch.”