It’s the age old question for NBA fans: is Woj speculating or is Woj working?
The latest example came Wednesday when appearing on ESPN’s NBA Today when Adrian Wojnarowski offered some “optimism” on a full-time return for the unvaccinated Kyrie Irving.
On NBA Today, Woj said there’s “optimism” around the Nets, league office, and players association that Kyrie Irving will be full-time. pic.twitter.com/igRwlI0SRV— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) March 9, 2022
Does he know something we don’t? He often does and his carefully chosen words suggests that he might this time as well.
“I think around the Nets there’s still a confidence, maybe even more than an optimism that they’re going to get Kyrie Irving on a full-time basis at some point,” Woj said Wednesday, adding “Certainly you’ve seen a progression in the mayor’s office of alleviating restriction but still the performer restriction that keeps Kyrie Irving out hasn’t changed.”
The “performer restriction” is apparently a reference to the city’s private employer mandate, whose modification that Mayor Eric Adams has said is not currently on the table.
In an interview with CNBC on February 28 and a press conference four days later, Mayor Adams reiterated his unwillingness to lift the private employer mandate, In that March 4 press conference, in which he announced the end of the indoor venue mandate, the mayor left only a tiny bit of wiggle room for Irving who is both the most prominent NBA player and most prominent New York figure left unvaccinated.
“Not at this moment. It’s part of our continuation of releasing as the better and better we get with these numbers. Not at this moment,” he said when asked if there was an expiration date for the employer mandate.
When specifically asked directly about whether Irving can play at home, Adams - “Under existing rules he cannot.”
Adams would have a hard time politically ending the private employee mandate when he’s faced so much criticism for the city employee mandate that has already cost more than 1,400 municipal workers their jobs. The city’s powerful police, fire and sanitation workers unions have vigorously opposed that mandate.
On Sunday after the Celtics game, Irving publicly praised the mayor, thanked him for his comments that the indoor mandate was “unfair” to the city’s pro athletes and even suggested maybe the two could “break bread together” at some point.
“Man, shoutout to Eric Adams. It’s not an easy job to be the mayor of New York City, and with COVID looming, vaccination mandates, everything going on in our world with this war in Ukraine and everybody feeling it across the world right now, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes right now trying to delegate whether or not one basketball player can come and play at home.” Irving said.
“I appreciate his comments and his stance. He knows where I stand and I know one day we’ll be able to break bread together and he’ll be able to come to the games. Hopefully, we’ll move past this time like it never happened in our sense, but it’s just the reality that it’s been difficult on a lot of us in New York City, so I know he’s feeling it and I’m just grateful that he’s on my side as well as the commissioner.”
The mayor has not responded.
There’s no doubt that the Nets are trying to get the mandate lifted. Last week, John Abbamondi, the CEO of BSE Global, Joe Tsai’s holding company, told the media at the opening of the Nets food pantry, “we’re in close contact with the city,”
And Sean Marks has on more than one occasion used some of the same words Woj used on NBA Today. So again, we wait.