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Adam Silver thinks NYC ban on Kyrie Irving unfair and the mayor agrees, but ...

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New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Was the commissioner hinting of a change in New York City’s vaccine mandate?

In a curious comment on ESPN’s “Get Up,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that things are changing in the city and wondered aloud about whether there needs to be changes in the mandate that’s keeping Kyrie Irving out of Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden as well.

And while Mayor Eric Adams agreed with Silver that the mandate is “unfair,” he also seemed reluctant to make changes. That said, the issue, once reserved for fan comment sections on social media, is now part of the public debate.

Silver’s comment on Irving’s situation was his first since the Nets star returned to play part-time at the end of December. Here’s his response to Mike Greenberg who asked if he anticipated a change in the city’s mandate before the post-season.

“The law in New York ... the oddity of it to me is that it only applies to home players. If ultimately, that rule is about protecting the people in the arena, it just doesn’t make sense to me that an away player who’s unvaccinated can play in Barclays while the home player can’t. To me, that’s a reason they should take a look at that ordinance.

“I’ll say also again being here in the New York market, feeling it particularly in the last week, many of the masking restrictions are being lifted. You can feel it in the city. More people are in restaurants, people out and about.

“So again, while my personal view is that people should get vaccinated and boosted, I can imagine a scenario where Brooklyn, being part of New York City, with a new mayor now who wasn’t in place, Eric Adams, when that original ordinance was put in place. I could see him deciding to change along the way and say it’s no longer necessary to have a mandatory vaccination requirement, particularly one that only affects home players.”

Silver was quick to say that he has “no inside information,” but his comments seem to be yet another indication that the Nets optimism regarding a full-time return by Irving might be justified. While New York City maintains its mandate on vaccines for indoor venues, the state has removed its mask mandate as have other neighboring states including New York, Connecticut and Delaware. The Canadian province of Ontario has removed its vaccine mandate (although Canada still refuses to entry to the unvaccinated.)

In response to Silver’s comments, Mayor Adams admitted the rule is “unfair” jokingly saying “I’m not sure if a Boston fan created this rule. I don’t know.” Former Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose administration wrote the regulation, is openly a Red Sox fan.

“First of all, I think the rule is unfair. I believe we are saying to out-of-town athletes that they can come in and not be vaccinated, yet New York athletes do have to be vaccinated. And they also do this for entertainers, I want people to know that. Entertainers can come here without being vaccinated and perform.

“I think it’s unfair, and I’m not sure if a Boston fan created this rule, I don’t know. I’m really, really leery about sending the wrong message. Having this city closed down again keeps me up at night. The rule was put in place, to start changing it now would send mixed messages. So I’m struggling with this, just to be honest.”

In other words, he was non-committal...

Before Wednesday night’s game vs. the Knicks at the Garden, Steve Nash said the team is “hopeful.”

“Obviously we’re hopeful,” Nash said. “But it’s really out of our hands. We just have to be patient and hope that the oddity of it prevails in a sense. But it’s that’s not in my job description to write the city and state mandates. So I think we’re hopeful and we’re patient and we will wait for hopefully the best outcome; but whatever outcome it is is out of our hands.”

Nash said he had no idea if Nets owner Joe Tsai had been in touch with mayor’s office.

Irving himself has on multiple occasions suggested the NBA could play a role in the city lifting the mandate but not provided details. However, there are other issues that could delay any change. The city has just fired a little less than one percent of its workforce for not adhering to another mandate for city employees and a new city medical director won’t take office until next month and presumably Adams would wait until Dr. Aswin Vasan gets a chance to weigh in.

Over the past weeks, government data has shown dramatic drops in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in New York over the past two weeks with cases dropping more than 60 percent and hospitalizations more than 45 percent.

Still, the trend seems to going Irving and the Nets way. As of now, Irving is only eligible to play in eight of the Nets remaining games.

Silver spoke as well as players pushing to get out of contracts, a seeming reference to the key players in last week’s blockbuster trade: James Harden and Ben Simmons.

“Now what we’re seeing in the league, first of all, shorter contracts, which I don’t think is a bad idea because one of the things we tried to do with our players association back beginning around 10 years ago was tie performance to pay in a closer way. And I think that’s what we’ve seen with shorter contracts.

“The data shows that superstars moving isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it allows bad situations to [resolve] in an orderly way, to change. It gives teams that may not be in a competitive position hope that they can sign one of those players.

“But shorter contracts to me is something very different and free agents moving at the end of contracts is different than what we just saw where you have players actively seeking to move while they’re under contract. The data is clear on that, that’s not good for the league.”

Silver did not discuss the possibility of a tampering investigation.