The Brooklyn Nets will tip-off the 2021-22 NBA season on Tuesday night in Milwaukee, as they watch the Bucks raise a championship banner on ring night. Next October, the Nets hope it will be them hosting the league’s opening game and raising a banner of their own, but to get there they will, at least to start, have to do so without the services of Kyrie Irving.
The star guard will not play with the Nets at all due to his refusal to this point to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which makes him ineligible to play home games in Brooklyn due to New York City’s vaccine mandate. Irving broke his silence on Wednesday night, but offered little in the way of substance regarding the reasoning behind his choice and it became clear on Thursday night that the rest of the Nets were ready to simply move on.
Steve Nash said as much when he told reporters he didn’t watch his star’s IG Live and didn’t want to talk about the situation anymore. The Nets other two stars, James Harden and Kevin Durant, seem to fall into the same boat when it comes to being tired of the Kyrie questions, as Harden said they have a job to do and the focus is now on the guys in the locker room. Durant addressed the situation for the first time on Thursday night after a preseason game against Minnesota, and offered a similar sentiment, noting that there’s nothing they can do about it so it’s not worth being upset about (via Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News).
“Why am I not upset? Because we still get to do what we love to do every day. We still get the opportunity to play,” Durant said after Thursday’s preseason finale win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. “This is not the ideal situation coming into the season, but some of this, it’s out of our control. So what we can do is come in and focus on our jobs every single day.
“What is being mad going to do? We are not going to change his mind, you know what I’m saying? We’ll let him figure out what he needs to do and the team figure out what they need to do. And us as players, when we are in that locker room, on that floor, we are going to work with each other.”
It’s a very zen approach from Durant and really the best way for him and the rest of the Nets players to look at this. While no one would fault them for being frustrated, there still isn’t a soul around the NBA who would view anything but a title being a success for this team, even without Irving, and as such, they’ve got to shift complete focus to the season.
That Durant, despite being one of Irving’s closest friends (at least in the league), doesn’t feel like he can change Kyrie’s stance on the matter is only further indication that this doesn’t seem like it will be a saga that comes to a happy resolution for the Nets anytime soon. All they can hope is that, at some point, Irving changes his mind or the city lifts the mandate, but until then, they are moving on without Irving and it seems everyone in that locker room is ready to stop talking about the guy who isn’t there.