The Kyrie Irving-Nets drama has incited countless questions. The Post’s Brian Lewis answers some of the most-asked:
Q: Does this mean that Irving will not play for the Nets at all this season?
A: With Irving, all things are possible. His stance against getting vaccinated is strong, but so is Nets owner Joe Tsai’s going the other way. “It’s just part of social responsibility,” Tsai told The Post. In the end, only one of them is the boss. The best bet to see Irving playing again might be either New York changing its mandates or finding a loophole in the current ones, like the “non-resident performer” language.
Q: How much money will Irving lose if he continues to remain unvaccinated?
A: Brooklyn will pay Irving for the road games. Still, he could lose $380,000 (or 1/91.6th of his salary) for every home game missed under the “reasonable cause” clause, so more than $17 million. Neither Irving’s camp nor the NBPA returned calls. The union will likely fight the reasonable cause distinction, but paying Irving for road games may undercut his ability to file a grievance.
Q: How are his Nets teammates privately viewing his decision? After all, they are the favorites to win the NBA championship — as long as Irving is playing.
A: Unclear, with Tuesday an off-day from practice. What’s certain is Kevin Durant and James Harden were looped into this decision, and Durant clearly stated just practicing at home and being a part-time player wasn’t preferable: “We want him here for the whole thing. We want him here for games, home games, practices, away games, shootarounds, all of that. Hopefully, we figure this thing out.”
Q: Could the Nets trade him to a team in a city that doesn’t have the same vaccination laws?
A: Sure; but it’d be at fractions of a penny on the dollar. And who’d trade for him, with Irving having torpedoed his value? Teams remember him going AWOL for two weeks last season, and now have to wonder what would happen if he blows off his physical, or if their cities come up with similar vaccine mandates.
Q: If Irving doesn’t play the regular season this year, he’ll have played, including the playoffs, only 81 out of a possible 241 games across three years. Do the Nets regret signing him?
A: Not per se, since it wasn’t done in a vacuum. Signing Irving paved the way to get Durant as a package deal, and that duo’s presence in turn landed them Harden. Durant has inked a long-term extension, so it paid off. But the Nets outwardly are saying the preference is for Irving to relent so they can get him back on the floor.
Q: Just a few days ago, the Nets appeared resigned to allowing Irving to be a part-time member of the team. What changed in the last few days?
A: When The Post asked GM Sean Marks that exact question, after he replied they didn’t want to be hasty and weighed every possible option on the table or path to take, he finally summed it up succinctly: “We’re not looking for partners that are going to be half-time.” In the end, he and Tsai made the final call.
Q: What does this mean for Harden’s future? Durant has signed his extension but Harden hasn’t — and his deadline is next week. Does he still want to be here for sure long term on a Nets team potentially without Irving?
A: Harden can guarantee an extra $62 million by waiting until after the season to sign an extension, which just seems like good business. Tsai told The Post that the former MVP has already said he wants to stay long term. But ESPN reported that 76ers GM Daryl Morey — who was with Harden in Houston — could try to pry him out of Brooklyn, so it bears watching.
Q: What does the starting lineup look like now for opening night?
A: Defensive-minded Bruce Brown has gotten the nod in place of Irving, starting opposite Harden. With sixth-man Patty Mills more of a creator than Brown, it could be logical to have he and Jevon Carter serve as Harden’s backups.
Q: Could Irving retire?
A: Again, trying to predict Irving is like trying to figure out which way the wind will be blowing a year from now. But as much money as he’d lose, there is a feeling in NBA circles that he’d at least consider it, according to Marc Stein and Fox Sports.