Ripple effects of Nets’ decision to not allow Kyrie Irving to play, including locker room impact

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Kyrie Irving treated art, sitting on basketball, looking down with grey background

The Nets’ decision to keep Kyrie Irving away from the team until he’s eligible to play will have ripple effects in Brooklyn and across the NBA.

Here’s a look at a few of them:

WILL NETS LOOK TO TRADE IRVING?

Nets GM Sean Marks said on Tuesday that he hopes to have Irving back at some point. As you’d expect, he wasn’t interested in talking about the possibility of trading Irving.

“I don’t know that I want to address the hypotheticals of what may happen in the future here. I think this is pretty raw, pretty fresh. I think we’ve got to let the dust settle,” Marks said.

The GM made it clear that Irving would be welcomed back if he chose to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

But how long can he wait? If Irving informs the Nets that he doesn’t plan to get the vaccine, it may force the Nets to try to move him.

One opposing team said Irving’s value on the trade market was low because of his contract status (free agent after this season) and that lack of assurances that Irving would be on the court. The team cited Irving’s sabbatical last season and noted that local vaccine mandates can change in their city.

“Unless you have assurances (about the local mandate), I don’t see how you can take the risk,” the team official said.

You can make an argument that the Nets have enough talent to win the title without Irving. But his absence clearly hurts Brooklyn.

“Without a doubt, losing a player of Kyrie’s caliber hurts from a talent perspective, no question. I’m not going to deny that,” Marks said. “At the end of the day, our focus, our coach’s focus, the organization’s focus needs to be on the players that are going to be involved here and going to be participating fully.”

You can be sure that the Nets’ decision on Irving was received warmly in places like Milwaukee and Los Angeles. With Irving out, the Bucks’ and Lakers’ chances to win a title have increased.

HOW WILL DECISION IMPACT THE NETS LOCKER ROOM?

Kevin Durant made it clear that he wanted Irving to play in all games and practices with the Nets this season. He was never asked how he felt about Irving playing solely in road games, but his opinion on the matter was almost certainly taken into account. Marks said several times that the decision to keep Irving away was made by owner Joe Tsai and himself. He said that players were kept abreast of the situation.

It would be surprising if Durant was strongly opposed to the Nets’ decision on Irving.

He’ll probably answer questions on the topic later this week.

Irving, obviously, was a driving force behind Durant signing with the Nets in 2019. In turn, having Durant on the roster helped the club to trade for James Harden. Now Harden will be Durant’s running mate in Brooklyn for the foreseeable future.

WHAT ABOUT JAMES HARDEN?

Jun 17, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) guards Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) in the first quarter during game six in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Fiserv Forum.

Jun 17, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) guards Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) in the first quarter during game six in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Fiserv Forum.

Before the season, Durant signed an extension to remain in Brooklyn for five years. Harden and Irving are also eligible for a multi-year extension. In the offseason, Marks said he believed Harden and Irving would sign extensions prior to training camp.

Obviously, neither player has signed an extension. During training camp, Harden mentioned to ESPN that he’d never been a free agent before, possibly a hint about his future plans. Marks isn’t one to speculate on any topic, let alone one as crucial as the extensions for Harden and Irving.

Clearly, extending Irving wouldn’t make sense if the point guard is ineligible to play in home games. Harden’s situation is different. So it will be interesting to see if Brooklyn can lock Harden up to an extension amid all of the uncertainty around Irving.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR IRVING?

Marks said Irving will not be paid for the home games he misses. Irving and the Players Association may dispute that. But if it stands, Irving would lose roughly $380,000 per game. If you factor in the Nets’ two games at Madison Square Garden, that would total roughly $16.3 million (not including the preseason).

So if Irving chooses to remain unvaccinated, it will be at a cost of nearly $17 million. As Marks pointed out several times on Tuesday, Irving has every right to chose whether or not to get vaccinated. Since he is an NBA player based in a city with a vaccine exemption, that choice has significant consequences.

The question now is whether Irving will decide to get the shot and get back on the court. Or if he will continue to sit, forfeiting a lot of money and a chance to win a title with the team he grew up rooting for. There’s a lot at stake for Irving, Marks, Durant and the organization.