BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo: Getty Images)
So much for the Nets to stand up for their principles about players needing to be vaccinated.
Part-time unvaccinated Nets point guard Kyrie Irving is expected to make his season debut Wednesday night when the Nets play the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
The Nets okayed his return to be a part-time player by playing games on the road a few weeks ago after not letting him play to start the season because he did not get vaccinated. They did not let him be part of the team early on because they did not want him as a part-time player. They thought it would be a distraction to have him for 38 games only. Remember he can’t play at Madison Square Garden and Scotiabank Arena because New York and Toronto want people vaccinated in public buildings, which explains why he can’t play Nets home games at Barclays Center.
No one could have been surprised the Nets caved in at the end. They were not going to waste their season by not having Irving the entire season in a season that is championship or bust. No doubt Kevin Durant was going to see to that.
Shame on the Nets for doing the wrong thing. They were right the first time for not letting him play because he was not vaccinated. It turned out this was nothing more than lip service at the end. They were better off just letting him play as a part-time player from the start rather than go through this charade.
The Nets can talk about they were running out of players since some of them tested positive for COVID. Don’t believe it. They were going to bring back Irving one way or another this season. This just sounds convenient to them to mention they need players as to why they brought back Irving.
With everyone getting sick in town with the presence of Omicron, Irving increased his odds of getting COVID since he is not vaccinated. There’s no guarantee he can play through this without getting COVID. It’s a risk the Nets are willing to take.
Here’s the problem with that: If he gets COVID, he can spread it to several of his teammates. This would really put the Nets in a bind.
Plus, why should he get to be a part-time player while his teammates get to grind out for all 82 games? There’s something wrong with this picture. Obviously, they are okay with it since he helps them win. That’s a joke. Players should be treated the same. It’s another example the NBA is different in the sense it’s a player’s league, in which the players can dictate everything on their own terms whether or not they want to play or what team to play with.
Irving knew what he was doing all along. He realized he could get away with it because he can. The Nets need him more than he needs them. They are a good team without him, but they don’t have a shot of winning a championship without him. Even if he plays road games only, that helps the Nets’ championship chances.
What Irving needs to realize he has a responsibility to his employer and to the citizens of New York to be vaccinated. This isn’t just about entertaining or shooting from the 3-point line. Sadly, fans, especially young children, look up to athletes as role models whether it’s fair or not. What message does the petulant Nets star send by not being vaccinated? It’s already a problem as it is that people refused to be vaccinated because of “freedom”.
It’s hard to take him seriously as a leader when he is like that. Now in his own admission, he does not admit to being a leader. He’s a follower. He does not like the responsibility of that role. Maybe that’s why he made the decision not to be vaccinated because he did not think it’s his responsibility. For him, it’s about his rights. He does not want to be vaccinated, which is his prerogative, but again he has a responsibility to the Nets and to the public with COVID surges in New York and New Jersey along with the rest of the world. By being vaccinated, it slows the spread of the virus, and just one day, we can get rid of the coronavirus once in for all.
The Nets seem to accept it mainly because he helps them win games, and Durant and James Harden take more of the role of being the face of the team. Irving accepts it because he just doesn’t care about the responsibility of being an NBA player. For him, it’s just fun and games.
Irving’s act can only be worth the squeeze if the Nets win a championship and he avoids being injured.
The latter could happen to him since he is always injury-prone.
If Irving constantly tested positive for COVID to the point he could be useless, he and the Nets deserve every bit of ridicule.