Kevin Durant talks Kyrie Irving's absence from Nets due to COVID-19 health and safety rules

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Nets Kevin Durant Kyrie Irving high five grey jersey
Nets Kevin Durant Kyrie Irving high five grey jersey

Kyrie Irving, who is reportedly not vaccinated against COVID-19 and has refused to answer questions on the matter, was not at Nets practice in Brooklyn on Tuesday or Wednesday due to local COVID health and safety rules.

On Wednesday, Kevin Durant -- who said he hasn't given Irving advice on the situation -- weighed in on Irving's absence.

"I'm envisioning Kyrie being a part of our team," Durant told reporters. "Maybe I'm just naïve, but that's just how I feel. But everybody here has that confidence in themselves and our group, that if we keep doing it we can do something special."

Irving will not be allowed at the Nets' facility in Brooklyn or to play in home games this season unless he gets the vaccine.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Oct. 5 that the Nets remain unclear of Irving's ultimate intentions to get vaccinated and "have made no decision on whether the organization will accommodate him as a part-time player this season."

Wojnarowski added that the team previously had optimism that Irving would eventually receive the vaccine, but "that hope is waning."

Players who do not get the COVID vaccine will not be paid for games they miss due to not being allowed at their home arena.

Speaking last Friday, Nets GM Sean Marks weighed in on the uncertainty surrounding Irving.

"Our hope is that our roster that we envisioned earlier this summer is all available for all the games," Marks said during an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio. "That's our hope. When it comes to Kyrie, that's a private matter that he's gonna deal with, and we'll address at the right time.

"But again, we've made our stance pretty clear. I know that New York City has made their stance clear. And it's about us supporting our players and making sure that we're all abiding by those protocols, and out there and hopefully achieving our ultimate goal."

Last Thursday, Nets owner Joe Tsai discussed Irving.

“Kyrie talks about it as a sort of personal choice issue, which I respect," Tsai told Brian Lewis of The New York Post. "But we all need to not forget that our goal, what is our goal this year. What's our purpose this year? Its very very clear -- win a championship. And a championship team needs to have everybody pulling the same direction. So I hope to see Kyrie play fully and win a championship together with everybody else with all his teammates."

Irving was not at Nets media day last Monday due to the New York City COVID rules.

Speaking on Monday via Zoom at a location away from media day, Irving would not discuss his vaccination status or whether he expected to play home games this season.

"Honestly, I'd like to keep that stuff private," Irving told reporters. "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. And 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.

"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. And 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."

SNY's Ian Begley reported in September that the league sent a memo breaking down the new protocols for teams in areas with local COVID-19 requirements, such as New York City.

Per a New York City executive order, visiting players are exempt from the vaccine requirement, but Nets and Knicks players are not. There is a similar local ordinance in San Francisco, impacting the Golden State Warriors.

If an unvaccinated Knick or Net player doesn’t have a medical or religious exemption (determined by the NBA, which recently rejected Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins' request for an exemption), the player won’t be allowed to enter home arenas or practice facilities or participate in any games, practices, or other team activities conducted at the arenas/practice facilities in those states.