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New York betting: Nets still big NBA Finals favorites, despite unprecedented Kyrie Irving situation

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As we've found out, predicting anything in the COVID-19 world a few months out can be foolish. Good or bad.

Here's what we know now: Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is back, but can only play road games. Because he is unvaccinated, he's not allowed to play in New York. The New York Daily News pointed out recently that it's a $5,000 fine for breaking the mandate in New York, which might be a lot for most people but not much for the Nets or Irving. We'll see if the Nets push it.

Things can change, but let's assume Irving will be on the road-games-only plan through the postseason. We've never seen anything like that before. Can it work for the Nets to win a title?

Nets still the favorite

The Nets are still the clear favorite to win it all at BetMGM — even after Kevin Durant's MCL injury news. They're +250. The Golden State Warriors are +450 and the Milwaukee Bucks are next at +700.

The Nets with Irving are a force. On Jan. 12 the Nets had Kevin Durant, James Harden and Irving in the lineup and they smoked the Chicago Bulls, 138-112. The Bulls had the best record in the East going into that game. Irving only scored nine points in that game and the Nets still beat the Bulls by 26.

The Nets haven't been dominant for most of the season, but like most teams they've been dealing with injuries, COVID-19 absences and the uncertainty about Irving, who didn't make his season debut until Jan. 5. Even if the Nets haven't been blowing the doors off of opponents this season, everyone understands their potential. That's why the championship odds have them favored. Even with news that Durant would miss multiple weeks the NBA championship odds didn't budge because everyone understands how good the Nets will be in the postseason if they get to full strength.

Yet, if Irving continues to just play road games, that'll get a little weird in the playoffs.

Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving is playing in road games for the team but not in New York. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving is playing in road games for the team but not in New York. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

What impact will Kyrie Irving have?

Let's say the Nets face the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. They might play without Irving in Games 1 and 2 at home. Then they could get him back for the next two games, shifting their plan to add a seven-time all star back to the lineup. Then it would be back to no Irving for Game 5, Irving back in for Game 6, and Irving out for a winner-take-all Game 7.

You'd rather have Irving for half of your games than none of them. It will still be weird. Preparing one way for home games and another for road games is far from ideal. Nothing like that has happened before.

The Nets might not even need Irving at all to win a title. Harden and Durant are the best 1-2 punch in basketball, with respect to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Nets almost beat the eventual champion Bucks in the playoffs last season with Irving out and Harden a shell of himself due to a hamstring injury. Irving just makes them even more imposing.

There's not a lot of value in betting the Nets to win it all at short odds, though everyone knows they're capable. Either way, they'll be the most fascinating team in the NBA when the playoffs come around.