Kevin Durant He said he can still imagine it Keri Irving He will be part of the Brooklyn Nets’ championship mission, but he also admits it will be “hard to replicate” if he can’t play at home in Brooklyn.
Irving missed his second straight day of training in Brooklyn, as COVID-19 protocols in New York City allow players who have had at least one dose of a vaccine to train and play. With increasing uncertainty every day about the status of the All-Star shooting guard’s vaccination and whether he will be able to train and play at home with the Nets, Durant said the Nets are “keen to be a full team” but also respect Irving’s personal decision.
“I imagine Kerry would be part of our squad,” the star striker told reporters after training on Wednesday when asked if the talented Nets would have enough to cover Irving if the base had not been with the squad for long. “Maybe I’m just being naive, but that’s how I feel. But I think everyone here has that confidence in himself, in our group, that if we keep building, we can do something special.”
Sources from ESPN have told Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst that the Nets are not clear about Irving’s intentions to get vaccinated and that the organization has made no decision about accepting him as a part-time player this season. There was earlier optimism that Irving would get the vaccination and stick to local government mandates that would allow him to train and play in New York this season. But sources tell Wojnarowski and Windhorst that hope is fading, and Irving’s continued resistance to vaccination has the Nets bracing for the possibility that they will be without him in training and home games for the foreseeable future.
Head coach Steve Nash was asked if things had shifted from the Nets’ earlier optimism that mandating a vaccination in the city would not be an issue at the start of the season and whether everyone was OK by then.
“I don’t know, I can’t answer that,” Nash told reporters. “As it is now, no. So we’ll see what happens. I really don’t want to speculate on something that’s currently on air.”
Durant explained that Irving is vital to what the Nets want to accomplish this season. But I also wanted to give space to the guard on what the base wants to do about getting at least one vaccine.
“He’s dealing with something personal right now,” Durant said. “And as he deals with it, we’ll focus on us here at the gym and keep working. When they’re ready to find out, he’ll find out.”
“I mean he’s a special player, so it’s going to be hard to replicate what he brings,” Durant added. “But professional sport is about the mindset of the next guy, so hopefully the guys will do that role to the best of their ability.”
Irving trained with the Nets at their training camp in San Diego last week. The Nets are currently at home as they play Milwaukee on Friday. They will play in Philadelphia on Monday before ending pre-season with another home game against Minnesota.
After the Nets opened the regular season on the road in Milwaukee and Philadelphia, they will be home for nearly two weeks during a six-game home run.
“I want him to be part of this group,” Durant said. “He’s a special player. We want him in this group. But a lot of things are out of our control and we’re going to let him look for himself. That doesn’t mean I say I don’t want him. I want him in a team. He’s great. It’s part of what we do, but players need to progress in his absence, to be for what they are and moving forward.”
Durant also said he wanted to avoid getting involved in Irving’s decision.
“I’m not really trying to get too involved,” he said. “He’s so much bigger than me and everyone else. It’s a man’s personal decision about his well-being, so I have to sit back and watch what’s going on and keep coming here and working out every day and doing my best repeat.”
“No, I don’t go out to give advice like that,” Durant added while speaking with Irving. “This is his decision, this is his choice, we all respect him, this is so much bigger than basketball. I don’t feel comfortable even talking to him about things like this. I’m just here to support and come here and do my job as one of the captains of the team.”