New York City’s vaccine mandate requires professional athletes playing in public arenas to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and Irving’s vaccination status remains unclear. Now, for the first time, Nets coach Steve Nash is acknowledging that the team expects Irving to miss home games at Barclays Center due to the mandate.
“I think we recognize he’s not playing home games,” Nash told reporters 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 remarks are the first time anyone with the team has conceded not just the possibility that Irving could miss home games but that it expects him to. Irving has not disclosed if he is vaccinated, but he has not practiced with the Nets in New York and was listed as ineligible for Friday’s home preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“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 he does not meet New York’s vaccine requirements, Irving stands to miss as many as 43 games — the Nets’ 41 home games at Barclays Center and their two road games against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association reportedly agreed last week on a pay reduction of 1/91.6 of a player’s salary for each game missed due to local COVID-19 vaccine mandates. According to ESPN, Irving could forfeit about $380,000 per game and potentially over $15 million total this season if he misses every game in New York.
Irving missing the entire home schedule would be a huge blow to a Nets team that enters the season as a championship favorite. Brooklyn opens the season with two road games — Oct. 19 at Milwaukee and Oct. 22 at Philadelphia — before a six-game homestand in which the Nets will be in New York for two weeks.