Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash says the team made a “difficult” decision to shelve star point guard Kyrie Irving until he gets vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Kyrie Irving is refusing to be vaccinated
- New York City rules say he must get the jab to play or train with the Nets
- Irving’s teammate James Harden says the team “respects” his views but has “a job to do”
“Everyone had their say,” Nash told reporters after training on Wednesday.
“It takes time to make decisions like that. This is a difficult decision. But I think it was a sound one and one that makes complete sense to everyone.”
Star guard James Harden said it was time to proceed without Irving, but both he and Nash said they would happily welcome the Australian-born star back.
“We are just going to move on, and if things change, it would be incredible to have him back in the fold,” Nash said.
“It was a tenuous situation to have a player in and out like that. There’s more clarity, and we can focus on the future and get going.”
Irving, 29, has been staunchly opposed to getting vaccinated, despite a New York City order requiring the shot if he is to play or train with the team at home this season.
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practise with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement on Tuesday.
Harden said he and star forward Kevin Durant talked with the personnel involved in the Irving decision and that all parties saw eye-to-eye.
“Sean, Steve, me, KD, Kyrie, we all had conversations,” Harden said.
“Kyrie believes in his beliefs, and he stands firm and strong on that. And for us, we respect it. We all love Ky. But as far as us, we have a job to do.
“Individually, myself, I am still wanting to set myself up for a championship. And I feel like the entire organisation is on the same path and we are all in this as a collective unit.”
The Nets, who lost to eventual NBA champions Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last season, are scheduled to open the regular season away to the Bucks next week.
New York COVID rules ban unvaccinated individuals from working in or attending events in many indoor spaces, including entertainment and sporting venues.
Similar rules are in place in San Francisco and will go into effect in Los Angeles on November 29.
Irving’s stance could potentially cost him millions, although the players’ association could move to challenge any loss of salary over vaccination status.
On Tuesday Marks said Irving would not be paid for home games he missed while “ineligible.”
The NBA is not forcing players to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but it is going to withhold pay for any player who misses games due to local regulations.
Irving is due $US35.3 million ($47.9 million) this season, in the third year of a four-year, $US136.5 million deal he signed in July 2019.
Marks said the team’s decision was not indicative of an impending trade.
Irving, a seven-time All-Star, played in 54 regular season games for the Nets last season and averaged 26.9 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds.
In 582 career games (all starts) with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2011-17), Boston Celtics (2017-19) and Nets, he has averages of 22.8 points, 5.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds.