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Nets fined $50,000 for letting Kyrie Irving in locker room at halftime; Kevin Durant clarifies remarks

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New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

If you’re looking for good news on Kyrie Irving joining the Nets full-time, this is not the place to look.

The NBA has fined the Brooklyn Nets organization $50,000 for violating New York City law and the league’s own health and safety protocols during the team’s March 13 game against the New York Knicks by permitting Kyrie Irving to enter the Nets locker room at Barclays Center during halftime.

At roughly the same time, Kevin Durant issued clarifications of his remarks Sunday criticizing New York’s mayor, Eric Adams.

Here’s the official release from the NBA announcing the fine...

NBA Communications

Adrian Wojnarowski explained the league rationale for such a large fine...

For the first time since the public sector vaccine mandate was dropped on March 7, Irving was at Barclays Center, sitting in his family’s courtside seats at both for Saturday night’s ACC championship and during Sunday’s game against the Knicks. The guard entered the arena with his wife and sister during the second quarter and warmly greeted Nets Governor, Joe Tsai, who was sitting along the same sideline.

All that was permitted. The issue was Irving walking from those seats to the Nets locker room at halftime joining his teammates and coaches in the locker room. On his way to the locker room, fans in the Barclays Center crowd chanted “Free Kyrie.”

After halftime, the Nets guard went back to his seat to watch the remainder of the game.

Although New York’s indoor venue mandates were dropped on March 7 the city’s private sector mandate remains. Under it, unvaccinated New Yorkers cannot enter the workplace. So, Irving is not allowed to play at the Barclays Center (or Madison Square Garden.) He is eligible to enter the arena as a spectator but is not eligible to sit on the Nets’ bench or enter the locker room.

Not long after the fine was announced (and Durant was named the East’s Player of the Week), Durant released a statement through NetsPR clarifying his remarks Sunday in which he criticized Mayor Adams.

“The last two years have been a difficult and painful time for New Yorkers, as well as a very confusing time with the changing landscape of the rules and mandates. I do appreciate the task the Mayor has in front of him with all the city has been through. My frustration with the situation doesn’t change the fact that I will always be committed to helping the communities and cities I live in, and play in.”

Following Brooklyn’s 110-107 victory over New York, multiple Nets players expressed their displeasure and frustration with Irving’s situation. Of all the players who directed comments at Adams, Durant’s comments were the most hard-hitting ... and he is Kevin Durant. Specifically, Irving suggested that Adams was “looking for attention.”

“It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it at all. I don’t get it,” Durant said. “It just feel like, at this point now, somebody’s trying to make a statement or point to flex their authority. Everybody out here is looking for attention. That’s what I feel like the mayor wants right now; some attention. He’ll figure it out soon. He better,”

He didn’t stop there.

“It didn’t make any sense. There are unvaxxed people in this building already. We got a guy who can come into the building. Are they fearing our safety? I don’t get it. We’re all confused. Pretty much everyone in the world is confused at this point. Early on in the season, people didn’t understand what was going on but now, it just looks stupid. Hopefully Eric, you got to figure this out.”

Although Adams has not commented publicly, the mayor couldn’t have been happy with KD’s criticism. It also suggests that the Nets are still talking to City Hall about Irving. Still, the combination of Irving’s presence in the Nets locker room at halftime and Durant’s criticism of the mayor can’t be making the situation any easier.

What made Durant’s original comments a bit head-scratching was that Irving himself had given a shoutout to Adams after the Celtics game on March 6. Irving’s comments that night mirror a lot of what KD said on Monday.

“It’s not an easy job to be the mayor of New York City. And with COVID looming, the vaccination mandates, everything going on in our world, with this war in the Ukraine, and everybody feeling it across America, 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.

“I appreciate his comments and his stance. He knows where I stand.”

This is the second big fine assessed against the Nets ownership in recent weeks. It was revealed last week that the Liberty had been fined $500,000 by the WNBA for using charter jets to ferry the team around the country rather than forcing them to fly commercial.