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Kyrie Irving misses in-person Media Day; calls vaccination status ‘private’

The elephant was in the Zoom ... but not in the room.

After much speculation about whether Kyrie Irving would show for Brooklyn’s Media Day Monday morning, that question was answered — rather swiftly — by ESPN’s Zach Lowe, just 10 minutes before the event was scheduled to start...

The NBA has elected to enforce the COVID-19 regulations passed in New York City and San Francisco, both of which prohibit entry into enclosed locations for those 12 and over without proof of vaccination. What this means for the NBA, as laid out in a September 1 memo, is that unvaccinated players in those cities will not be able to play in home games, practice with teammates or participate in specific indoor events... events like, say, Media Day. Make of that what you will.

Irving was still able to field questions from the media by using Zoom, most of them pertaining to his vaccination status. Very quickly, Irving labeled his vaccination decision a “private” manner and no, he wasn’t going to talk about with all due respect...

“Honestly, I’d like to keep that stuff private. I’m a human being first. Obviously living in this public sphere it’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie,” said Irving, “I think I just would love to just keep that private, handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with the plan.”

Granted, he didn’t necessarily shut down the idea of being able to participate with his teammates for team activities in Brooklyn “at some point.”

“Obviously, I’m not able to be present there today. But that doesn’t mean that I’m putting any limits on the future of me being able to join the team,” said Irving in response to a question from Brian Lewis. “I just want to keep it that way, so we can keep that private. But if anyone has any further questions about that, it’ll be the same response. I would like to keep that private, and just please respect that — my privacy.”

Irving, who streamed his Q-and-A on Instagram, was swiftly asked two follow-up questions, one about why he didn’t want to clear up the rumors of being unvaccinated, to which he replied.

“Please respect my privacy, next question,” he told AP’s Brian Mahoney.

The other was about his status in Brooklyn’s home games and whether he’d be able to participate in them due to New York City’s vaccination rules.

“Again, I would like to keep all of that private. Please just respect my privacy. Just all of the questions leading into what’s happening — please, everything will get released at a due date once we get this cleared up. As of right now, please respect my privacy regarding anything — home games, what’s happening, and vaccination.”

When Irving asked the reporter, ESPN’s Malika Andrews, if she had anything else, she politely deferred. It was that kind of morning. Nothing disrepectful or ornery, but not very revealing either.

Later on Instagram, Irving added that he doesn’t want to create any more drama.

“Don’t want to create any more drama. That’s not what I’m here for…Here to continue to lead in the right way,” he said.

An unvaccinated player could get around the regulations in New York City and San Francisco in two ways: A) by actually getting the vaccine, or B) being granted a medical or religious exemption with approval from the NBA league office. Already, the league has denied Golden State Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins’ request for a religious exemption, so leniency isn’t exactly in the NBA’s plans. That’s something to keep in mind when considering Irving’s comments about “getting this cleared up.”

Irving wasn’t the only one who projected confidence about “getting this cleared up.” His teammate and one of his closest friends, Kevin Durant, expects Irving to be able to participate in full team activities by the time home games start.

“That’s on Kyrie,” said Durant about Irving’s vaccination. “That’s his personal decision. What he does is not on us to speculate. I expect us to have our whole team at some point.”

“Obviously, Kai is a huge part of what we’re trying to do,” James Harden said.

Bruce Brown and Joe Harris echoed Durant’s statements, stating they don’t have any concerns about Irving’s ability to participate in home games. Harris added, “I haven’t talked to him about the vaccine.”

DeAndre’ Bembry, who has known Kyrie since high school in New Jersey, was also questioned about Irving’s vaccination status just given his longstanding relationship with the seven-time All-Star.

“Me knowing Kai, he’s going to make his own decisions. That’s pretty much what it comes down to. We’ve been working out and all of that. The fact that the season is here, he’s going to make his own decision on what he wants to do.” Bembry concluded with, “I’ll just have to leave it at that.”

Irving will travel with the rest of the team to San Diego Monday night for training camp. He’ll be able to participate with the rest of the team because there’s no such COVID-19 regulations in San Diego. From there, the Nets will head to Los Angeles for the first preseason game Sunday against the Lakers.

After that? Who knows. The Nets will return to HSS Training Center to practice after flying home from L.A. Then, they host their second preseason game — and first home game — at the Barclays Center against the Milwaukee Bucks on October 8. Whether or not Kyrie Irving is able to play in that game, that’s the real question.

In a story posted after Media Day, Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Nets superstar may eventually get the vaccine.

Irving couldn’t participate in the on-site media day festivities, and league sources believe Irving will wind up taking the vaccine, citing influence from his close friend and teammate Kevin Durant.

Irving’s comments were limited, but other NBA players, All-Star Bradley Beal of the Wizards and Josh Richardson of the Celtics both revealed they have not been vaccinated. Richardson took the same tack as Irving, calling it a personal issue.

“That subject is pretty personal. I talked about what I’m going to do ... with my family and my circle. I’m not really sure,” said Richardson. “I think it’s good that people are still educating themselves on the subject. Going forward, I’m not sure.”

Beal, on the other hand, expressed doubt that the vaccines work!

“I would like an explanation to people with vaccines – why are they still getting COVID if that’s something that we are supposed to highly be protected from?” Beal said at Washington’s Media Day. “It’s funny that it only reduces your chances of going to the hospital. It doesn’t eliminate anybody from getting COVID. Right?”

A reporter noted that vaccinated people are less likely to die or be hospitalized.

“OK,” Beal said, grinning as if he perfectly set up a gotcha. “But you can still get COVID.”

Beal’s comments, of course, were inaccurate. Not only are you less likely to be hospitalized or die, As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports noted, Vaccinated people are five times less likely to contract coronavirus than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are less likely than unvaccinated people to spread coronavirus.

Wiggins, too, took a hardline in San Francisco.

“My back is definitely against the wall, but I’m just gonna keep fighting for what I believe. Whether it’s one thing or another – get the vaccination or not get the vaccination – who knows, I’m just gonna keep fighting for what I believe and what I believe is right. What’s right to one person isn’t right to the other, you know, vice versa,” he said.

When asked what’s the reason for not explaining his resistance, Wiggins replied, “It’s none of your business – it’s what it comes down to.”

Perhaps the Nets should feel fortunate Irving said as little as he did.