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Woj: Nets prepared to make ‘hard decisions’ on Kyrie Irving

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

With Kyrie Irving unable to practice — and even banned from HSS Training Center — the Nets organization appears ready to play hardball with their superstar, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

In a story posted late Tuesday, Wojnarowski and Windhorst report that despite “outward” support for Irving’s stand, the Nets are prepared to look at possible options regarding his future with the club.

If Irving remains unvaccinated, the Nets could be faced soon with a decision on whether they’ll allow Irving to come and go with the team in and out of New York — or just keep him sidelined all together, sources said.

The Nets have been outwardly supportive of Irving’s process to consider vaccination and believe they’ve listened, supported, and educated him, but the franchise’s collective patience will be increasingly tested the longer that Irving stops short of committing to join the team on a full-time basis.

Irving has not confirmed he is unvaccinated. Nor have the Nets, but a variety of reports, including from Woj, suggest that he hasn’t even received one shot need for him to re-join the team. Irving missed Media Day at Barclays Center last week, taking questions via Zoom from reporters on everything but his “personal decision” on being vaccinated. Then, Tuesday, he missed his first practice.

On Wednesday, he tweeted out a cryptic message that may or may not have something to do with the current controversy...

Going forward, the Nets have a preseason game at Barclays vs. the Bucks on Friday, then their annual Practice in the Park on Saturday. They also have one more preseason game vs. the Timberwolves in Brooklyn on October 14, then after two road games to open the season, they return home for Opening Night on October 24. Under New York City regulations, Irving is banned from practicing, playing or participating in team activities. He is also prohibited from entering the arena or practice facility.

He will also soon start to lose serious money under the NBA-NBPA agreement on reductions in pay — he will lose 1/91.6th of a his salary for each game he misses in their home market because of local laws. And that will start this week with the preseason game Friday...

However, in a wrinkle reported by Stefan Bondy, the players union said it was not agreed to having players lose money.

“We’ll see about that,” Roberts said Wednesday. “They’ve been reporting that we’ve agreed that if a player who was not able to play because of his non-vaccination status, they could be docked (pay). We did not agree. The league’s position is that they can. We’ll see. If we get to that point, we’ll see.”

The ruling affects only one player, Irving, who is also a union vice president.

Wojnarowski and Windhorst also raised the possibility, if subtly, of Irving being moved if he doesn’t get jabbed.

The Nets believe they’re still a championship contender with a roster constructed around Kevin Durant and James Harden and could ultimately have to make hard decisions on Irving’s future should he remain unvaccinated and unable to play in the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden.

Meanwhile, Jake Fischer told The Glue Guys Tuesday that Irving does not want to leave Brooklyn.

“Anyone who I know who’s been remotely involved with Brooklyn since they signed Kevin and Kyrie in 2019 have maintained that he does not want to go anywhere, but be in Brooklyn. He wants to be in Brooklyn with Kevin and they want to win a championship together,” he said.

Similarly, he said that Harden expects Irving to be back.

“James Harden’s people have told various people around the NBA that they trust who have told me that they expect Kyrie to to be there and be long term,” said Fischer in talking with Mike Smeltz and Brian Egan.

If Irving decides not to get vaccinated, the ultimate decision on what to do will be up to ownership. Joe Tsai, in interviews last week with the two reporters who traveled to training camp in San Diego, said he respected Irving’s decision but told Brian Lewis of the Post that Irving should remember what the team’s goal is this season: a championship. Tsai also disclosed to Alex Schiffer that he’s been vaccinated four times, an indicator his support for vaccination as a safe and effective means of thwarting COVID-19. The Nets in fact have set up a walk-in vaccination site at Barclays Center. Through their foundation, Joe and Clara Wu Tsai have also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in health science.

In his interview with Schiffer, Tsai also spoke about his role in player movement, saying he leaves it mostly to management but is “consulted.”

“If I were to interfere in decisions on draft picks or trades — obviously, I get consulted on — but if I’m trying to stick my hand too deep into the inner workings, then I might as well hire myself and run the team myself. And why would I want to do that?”

This situation, unique as it is, could change that dynamic. The question is at what point will the Nets begin thinking seriously about what to do if indeed Irving is steadfast about not getting the vaccine. That decision will likely come closer to Opening Night.