Over 95 percent of NBA players are fully vaccinated against Covid -19, yet only one name dominates the headlines at the moment – and for all the wrong reasons.
A true league superstar whose decision not only has a direct impact on his team’s own championship aspirations, but already triggers premature trade discussions.
What is just one pick from Kyrie Irving could have far-reaching consequences for the entire league and title race.
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Irving has refused to disclose his vaccination status, saying he “would like to keep everything private”.
The opposite has happened, with Irving’s decision played out in the public opinion court, and it already has one very genuine influence on the NBA pre-season.
Although he has since been approved to practice at home, Irving will still not be able to play games at the Barclays Center, effectively making him a part-time member.
It has ignited a debate in the NBA community.
This is a Brooklyn side that were overwhelming favorites if they were healthy, to best Bucks and Lakers on their way to the glory of the championship in the 2021-22 season.
Kevin Durant signed a $ 198 million (A270 million dollar) four-year contract in September, while Brooklyn is also close to extending James Harden’s entitlement to a $ 161 million ($ 320 million) supermax extension over three years .
Irving, meanwhile, is looking at a $ 187 million (A256 million) four-year deal if he chooses to stay in Brooklyn.
All in all, it’s $ 546 million ($ A746 million) against a long-term empire in Brooklyn, but could Irving’s position be in the way?
Nets owner Joseph Tsai certainly seems to believe that, and he gave the Brooklyn superstar a timely reminder last week.
“Kyrie talks about it as a kind of personal choice issue that I respect,” Tsai said New York Post.
“But we must not all forget our goals, what are our goals this year? What is our purpose this year? It’s very, very clear: Win a championship. And the championship team must have everyone pulling in the same direction.
“So I hope to see Kyrie play to the fullest and win a championship with everyone else with all her teammates. It is the best result for everyone. ”
However, it is the result that is still very much in the air, with Irving currently not available for the Knicks, Nets and Warriors home games.
“This is a huge story,” NBA insider Zach Lowe continued ESPN’s The spring.
“The idea of Kyrie Irving as a part-time player, away player – what are we talking about at all? Is it durable?
“I do not even think that the Nets have had that conversation. Can you imagine if they start having trade discussions about Kyrie Irving? If he is not vaccinated and becomes a full-time player? What does his trading value look like? What do the other teams think?
“This is an absolutely unprecedented situation.”
There is another unprecedented situation unfolding right now in the league in Philadelphia.
You know, the guy Ben Simmons, the one with four years and $ 147 million ($ A202 million) back on his current deal who wants a fresh start somewhere else.
Naturally, a rival GM floated the idea of an Irving-Simmons trade with The athlete, who describes it as “a problem for another”.
NBA insider Marc Stein quite quickly shot down on that proposal earlier this week, revealing that Irving is more likely to retire than be swapped for another team.
“There’s no indication yet that the 76ers have an interest in investigating the Simmons-for-Kyrie Irving deal being tossed around as the natural ‘solution’ for two Atlantic Division teams facing major headaches for start the season, “he wrote.
Stein also added that while Simmons’ playmaking and defense could take Brooklyn to another level, it’s not exactly a reliable solution for Philadelphia to gamble on.
“[Irving] is also a challenge to cope in the best of times and can become a free agent as early as next summer if he rejects his lucrative player opportunity for the 2022-23 season, ”he wrote.
“Does any of this sound like a tasty solution for Philly?”
Either way, Brooklyn already has another Australian on the books who can help fill the void Irving leaves behind – Patty Mills.
The 33-year-old, who was already considered a strong candidate for the league’s sixth man for this year’s award, signed as a free agent in July.
It was considered a wise move at the time, but could end up being much more than that.
“He’s not Kyrie Irving, but he’s a starting level guard in the NBA,” said Brian Windhorst. ESPN’s This only in.
“You can give him many more minutes.”
While Irving is the most high-profile case, Brooklyn is not the only franchise to deal with a vaccine-related dilemma.
Washington’s Bradley Beal, Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., Dallas’ Trey Burke and Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac are all currently unvaccinated.
Boston’s Josh Richardson and Washington’s Kyle Kuzma have also not yet confirmed their status.
The vaccination decision for both Beal and Porter Jr. are particularly interesting given their contractual situations.
Porter Jr. has recently signed a new maximum contract worth $ 207 million ($ A283 million) over the next five years, showing Denver’s trust in him as an important part of his offense.
Beal, meanwhile, is likely to sign a five-year contract worth about $ 235 million ($ A322 million) with Washington next low season.
Russell Westbrook tried to get him to request a trade out of Washington, but a revised list has Beal excited about the franchise’s future.
Both are important gears in their organization’s offensive, but risk being inaccessible to all away games against the Knicks, Nets and Warriors.
Of course, there is also the possibility that other cities will follow suit with a similar vaccine mandate, which would further complicate the matter.
And then there is the scientific fact that both players have an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 and therefore spreading it without vaccination.
Porter Jr. had previously contracted the disease, but re-infection remains an option, albeit rare.
The guardian Oren Weisfield argued that the NBA’s vaccine dilemma goes far deeper than “a few high-profile holdouts.”
“The league and the players’ association were not prepared for how important and divisive a political issue vaccines have become over the past year, and they failed in their responsibility to get out in front of it,” he wrote.
“Instead of being the leaders in the vaccine issue that the WNBA was – and like the NBA was when it came to Black Lives Matter protests last year – the NBA waited too long to find out how polarized the league was on the subject.”
Instead, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has once again put his voice forward to lead and start the conversation, while the league delicately dances around the subject.
“The NBA should insist that all players and staff be vaccinated or removed from the team,” said Abdul-Jabbar Rolling stones.
“There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, staff and fans, simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or carry out the necessary research.
“I do not think they behave like good teammates or good citizens. This is a war we are involved in. And masks and vaccines – these are the weapons we use to fight this war. ”