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Marks: Kyrie Irving won’t play or practice until he’s ‘eligible to be full participant’

This story will be updated.

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Nets released a statement Tuesday morning, making it clear the organization will not allow a player — Kyrie Irving — to be a part-time participant with the team.

The decision was announced by Sean Marks at 11:00 am ET in a statement posted on the team’s website by Nets PR. Here’s the full statement.

“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant. Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction. We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”

The Nets general manager then spoke with reporters an hour after the announcement. The Nets released the full video of the media availability on YouTube...

Here are some of the highlights...

  • The decision was ultimately made by Joe Tsai and Marks. All the players and staff were “made aware” of the discussion and the decision — “it was best for the organization at this point in time.”
  • The Nets GM decision was based on having all players participate full-time rather than part-time. Marks mentioned Irving wouldn’t have a proper ramp up due to the circumstances — “When you make a decision like this, you don’t want to do it hastily. They are never easy decisions but at the end of the day, we are looking at putting a group of people out there that are going to participate fully. This is what it comes down to.”
  • The only 2021-22 salary Irving will lose is for home games — 41 games — and presumably the Nets two games at MSG under the New York City health and safety ruling that unvaccinated players cannot play at venues within city limited.
  • Marks said Irving has made it clear he has a choice in this matter — “Kyrie’s made it clear that he has a choice in this matter. It’s ultimately going to be up to him what he decides. We respect the fact that he has a choice. That we can make his own right to choose. What is best for the organization is the path that we’re choosing.”
  • Marks noted he expects Irving to speak and address the situation — “I don’t want to speak for Kyrie. At the right time, I’m sure he’ll address his feelings and what the path might be for him.”
  • The Nets GM said he hopes to have Irving back with the team under different circumstances. The focus is on the 16-man roster moving forward —“The hope is that we’ll have Kyrie back. We’ll welcome him back in open arms under a different set of circumstances. We need to wait and see how that transpires. In the meantime, we need to focus on the 16 players that are going to be on this roster moving forward with us.”
  • Marks and the Nets' main goal is to still win an NBA championship — “Our goals have not changed. The goals ultimately still are to be the last team standing. That’s where we want to be.”
  • Marks made it clear that all parties were consulted in the decision — “All parties that were needed to be consulted on this were. Will there be pushback from Kyrie and his camp? I’m sure this is not a decision they like... But again, this is a choice that Kyrie had and he was well aware of that.”
  • Bottom line for Marks: “We’re trying to do what’s best for this organization and the group of players that are moving forward here — for those guys to be able to continue to perform, for them to create chemistry collaboration on the court. I think this is the fair time to do it and to do it right now and move on.”
  • Irving is unvaccinated, for any of the doubters at this point. Marks: “If he was vaccinated, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I think that’s probably pretty clear.”
  • When asked if Kevin Durant and James Harden had been “consulted,” Marks would only say: “All our players were made aware that this was the trajectory we’re going down and this was going to happen.”
  • Marks felt that Kyrie Irving left the Nets with no other choice but to make this decision: “Ultimately, yes, I mean, he has a choice to make and he made his choice... I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Kyrie either to have to not be around his teammates.”
  • Marks declined to comment on whether the Nets would seek to move Irving. He’s owed $71 million over the next two years but has a player option for the 2022-23 season.

Marks was not asked about the status of Irving’s contract extension. There’s no deadline on a decision but the four year, $181.6 million deal now seems in doubt. Durant has already signed his extension and negotiations are continuing with Harden, who does have a deadline to sign: October 18, the day before the season opener vs. the Bucks.

As recently as Sunday, the Nets seemed resigned to playing Irving only in road games, with Steve Nash telling the media, “I think we recognize he’s not playing home games. We’re going to have to for sure play without him this year; so it just depends on when, where and how much.”

“Right now we assume he’s not going to be available for home games,” Nash added. “Anything can change. Who’s to say, the city’s ordinance could change? Anything could change.”

Then, on Monday, Irving didn’t accompany the team to Philadelphia and Nash said at shootaround that the reason had to do with his status with the team rather than conditioning. Irving hadn’t practiced in a week.

“We’re just trying to navigate this thing. We don’t really know what’s going to happen tomorrow so I think really we’re just trying to take our time and figure out what everything means,” said Nash. “New information seems to come in every week. More than anything, we’re in that process of trying to navigate not only the information, the parameters, but also what’s coming down the line, how it looks and feels, what we can do to make this work and all those things. That’s all.”

Later Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski indicated that the Nets were not resigned to playing him part-time and said the team’s management was discussing what to do next. The announcement Tuesday carried a public relations advantage. The team was off Tuesday after returning from Philly Monday night, meaning Irving and his teammates were not available to the media.

As of 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, Irving had yet to make a statement or post a response to the Nets on social media. Marks said he expects Irving will ultimately do so.

The NBPA, the NBA players union. has also not been heard from. The union’s options, however, appear to be limited. The Nets have not suspended Irving, but rather ruled him inactive. A suspension automatically carries a right to an appeal. The NBPA’s outgoing executive director, Michele Roberts, has however said the union doesn’t agree with the league’s agreement to dock a player for home games missed due to local regulations. That, of course, only applies to one player, Irving who is coincidentally a vice president of the union.

Publicly, initial reaction appeared to favor the Nets’ decision, with a variety of pundits offering support, if not praise, for the team and criticism of Irving. Fan reaction is more difficult to gauge but social media where Nets fans gather seemed more supportive of the team than the player.

Irving did receive praise from unlikely places, with both Donald Trump Jr. and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) going on Twitter to suggest that Irving had been wronged. It’s the latest indication of how the issue has been politicized...

Meanwhile, On the Celtics Lab podcast, Justin Quinn of Celtics Wire interviewed Andy Slavitt, a former Biden White House senior advisor for the COVID Response Team, on his thoughts regarding Irving’s situation...

“I really don’t understand Kyrie Irving at all. Is he for real? Is he joking? — I don’t really know what’s driving the guy. I do think they have to hold firm with what the Nets are doing, that’s a law for a reason, he’s not above the law. What this requirement says is something basically fundamental and it’s fundamental to what the NBA believes. What it basically says is, ‘none of us are more important than all of us.’ And if you think you’re more important than all of us, if you disagree with that, if you’re Kyrie Irving and you think what you want is more important than everybody else, than the collective, then don’t play ball.”

Irving’s time in Brooklyn has been fraught with injury and controversy. Two years ago, he played only 20 games due to a variety of health issues, including a fractured orbital bone in his face and shoulder displacement that required season-ending surgery. Last season, one in which he joined the 50/40/90 club and averaged nearly 27 points a game, Irving missed seven games due to personal reasons he described as “a lot of family and personal stuff going on.” He lost more than $800,000 in salary for the unexcused absences and was also fined $50,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s COVID protocols when he hosted a birthday party for his father and sister.