Kevin Durant said he isn’t mad or upset with Kyrie Irving’s personal decision to not get the COVID-19 vaccination — or the Nets announcement that he’ll shut down — for an undetermined amount of time. The Nets superstar, who said he hasn’t spoken to Irving since the front office's decision Tuesday, explained how the situation isn’t an “ideal situation” but it’s a situation that isn’t controllable and there isn’t a point of being mad about it because it won’t change Irving’s mind on his stance.
“This is not the ideal situation coming into the season but it’s out of our control. What we can do is come in and focus on our jobs every single day. What is being mad going to do? It’s not going to change his mind,” Durant said after the Nets preseason finale win over the Timberwolves. “We’ll let him figure what he needs to do and let the team figure out what they need to do. Us as players, when we’re in the locker room or on the floor, we are going to work with each other. Life is amazing. I can’t be too mad at somebody making a decision for themselves. Who am I to get upset at that?”
In the same response, Durant added that the team needs to focus on what’s ahead until further developments or an update on the situation arises. He believes when Irving is ready to talk to Nets GM, Sean Marks and Nets Governor, Joe Tsai, both will inform the players after the discussion.
“Just focus on what we got in this locker room and when Kai is ready, I’m sure he’ll talk with Joe and Sean and they’ll figure it out and tell us. Until then, we’ll keep grinding.”
Steve Nash said he didn’t watch Irving’s Instagram Live video late Wednesday night explaining his thoughts and his decision on why he isn’t getting vaccinated. The Nets head coach also didn’t want to further comment on the situation unless new details arise in the future.
“To be honest, I didn’t listen to it. I think I pretty much said everything I had to say about it. If something changes, we can talk about it but I really want to focus on moving forward and our group and solutions to the challenge ahead of us,” Nash said before Thursday’s preseason finale. Nash also admitted that like KD and James Harden he too hasn’t spoken with the superstar guard.
Although Irving, who is unvaccinated, will be away from the team in all capacities until he is eligible to be a full-time participant, Durant added that he definitely wishes Irving well and hopes he’ll be a part of the team — and that this whole situation wouldn’t have happened. He still believes that both parties — Irving and the front office — will work out a solution best for both sides.
“I definitely want Kyrie to be around. I wish none of this stuff happened but this is the situation that we’re in. Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do. He chose to do what he wanted to do and the team did the same,” Durant said.
“It’s on me to focus on me and do my job and let those two parties handle that situation. I want our whole team together. I want us at full strength but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. I’m still positive that things will work out best for both parties.”
There is no secret replacing Irving’s production on the hardwood won’t be an easy task nor fully replaceable. Durant said things will be determined as the games go by and who among his teammates can step up and fill the voids.
“When you’re losing someone like Kyrie Irving, it’s hard on the fly to figure out where you’re going to get that production from. Over time, we’ll start to figure out which guys will step up and play and fill that void of those minutes, shots and opportunities,” Durant said.
Outside of production on the court, Irving played a high leadership role within the locker room. Durant said the locker room currently has “good dialogue” from the players to the coaches with Nash being the main voice of the group. He doesn’t see a drastic effect in leadership.
“I think we’ll do it as a collective but as far as leadership in the locker room, everyone has good dialogue. Steve is the main voice. Coaches do a great job so I think we’re all in conversation about what we need to do and how we feel about the game,” said Durant on leadership. “I feel like everyone will help in that area as far as leadership.”
While the Nets' decision to keep Irving away from the team limits the situation from being an ongoing distraction to a degree, Durant and everyone in the locker room know that the questions about Irving’s situation will come up throughout the season.
“I think it’s going to come up throughout the year. It might not be an everyday thing like it is now, but it’ll come up here and there. We pros. We understand. We know y’all got a job to do so it’s on us to focus in on our job and answer the questions,” Durant said.
“I anticipate it happening throughout the season and we knew what would happen if something like this happened as far as media-wise. Get prepared now and just get locked in on your job and everything else will take care of itself.”
Bottom line though, the Nets players and coaches want to move on. They’ve got games to play, rotations to work on. After a preseason of “Will he, won’t he?” the Nets seem ready to move on. For how long remains to be seen. But for now, as Nash said pre-game, they now have “clarity.”