Do the Nets really want to adjust to Kyrie Irving as a part-time player?
It’s looking more and more that the team may have to make that decision.
Kyrie Irving has missed three straight practices in Brooklyn as is not expected to be in the building for the Nets’ preseason home opener tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Barclays Center.
Irving has declined to discuss his vaccination position, but he is unprotected to a New York City mandate that requires people over the age of 12 to have at the minimum one measure of vaccine to go into certain indoor premises that include both the Barclays Center and Nets practice facility. If Irving is unvaccinated, he could miss up to 45 games in New York in addition as every home practice.
Irving did practice with the team in their training camp in San Diego, and for weeks the organization appears to have been holding out hope that he would find a way to join them complete time. That hope nevertheless remains, but seems to be waning as the team moves closer and closer to their season opener.
“I’m envisioning Kyrie being a part of our team,” Kevin Durant said after practice on Wednesday. “Maybe I’m naive, but that’s just how I feel. I want him to be part of this group. He’s a special, special player and person, and we want him to be part of this group. But a lot of stuff is out of our control, and we’ll let him figure that out for himself.
“That doesn’t average I’m going to say that I don’t want him on the team, you know what I’m saying? He’s a huge part of what we do. But guys have got to step up in his absence and move forward.”
The bottom line is that the Nets don’t need Kyrie Irving to win.
They would like to have him. They are a better team with him. But already without Irving on their list, the Nets nevertheless have a substantial shot of becoming the first New York area team in a decade to win a championship.
The Nets are stacked. They have the best player in the league in Durant and another top-10 player in James Harden. They also have a strong supporting cast in Joe Harris, Blake Griffin, Patty Mills, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap.
Do the Nets really need to add a part-time player to that mix? Do they really want to have to juggle their lineups depending on what arena they are playing in?
Is it really fair to the ticket-paying fans at Barclays Center to deprive them of watching one of their star players? Is it really fair to the rest of the team? Is it really fair to Aldridge, who had to retire briefly last year because of an inner heart condition, to ask him to play with a teammate whose vaccination position is unknown?
The Nets are better off with no Irving than they are with a part-time Irving.
The Nets, without Irving on the floor, came within inches of beating the Milwaukee Bucks, the team that went on to win the championship. One of the big things that may have prevented them from doing so was the without of consistency throughout the season. Injuries and the late addition of Harden meant that heading into the playoffs, the Big 3 had played in only eight games together.
Irving, as much as anyone, is the architect of the Big 3, which makes his absence doubly bothersome. It was Irving who convinced Durant to come with him to the Nets, the team he grew up watching in New Jersey. It was the presence of Irving and Durant that made Harden want to come to Brooklyn.
Now, the team he conceived is healthy and poised to play 82 games together. Except they can’t.
Are you in? Or are you out?
Sooner or later, the Nets need to ask Irving that question. And on this, he owes them an answer.
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