Kyrie Irving feels ‘no guilt’ missing games as reeling Nets return home

The Brooklyn Nets will miss the services of the unvaccinated Kyrie Irving as they head back to Barclays Centre, but the club insists it doesn’t affect the team culture.

Irving can play only eight of the remaining 26 dates for the Nets. Picture: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Irving can play only eight of the remaining 26 dates for the Nets. Picture: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Here comes the homestand. And there goes Kyrie Irving.

With Irving ineligible due to his unvaccinated status, the Nets are losing their lone available star at the worst possible time. They return to Barclays Center on Monday against the visiting Kings stuck in a league-worst 11-game losing skid, and now bereft of Irving for the next four straight games.

“Me and [general manager] Sean [Marks], we talk often. It’s not anything new. We talked about this when we were at New Jersey at my house and what this whole situation looked like, and it wasn’t going to be perfect,” Irving said. “I still wish I could be out there at home. Some people say it’s as simple as go get this, go get the shot. It’s not as simple as that. … I’m still praying for a better outcome.

“It’s always tough. It’s been tough since the beginning.”

After the Kings, the Nets are at the rival Knicks on Wednesday (where the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates also sideline Irving), versus Washington on Thursday and finally against the Celtics coming out of the All-Star break. Irving won’t play until at least Feb. 26 in Milwaukee.

This comes as Brooklyn has plummeted from atop the East to eighth and the play-in during the slump. Still, Irving bristled when asked if he felt guilt over not being available to help the Nets.

“We’re back here. Play your media games with somebody else bro, please,” Irving said. “I understand there’s a lot going on in our world and I’m here as a human being just like you, bro. Please respect my boundaries, man. That’s all I’m asking, bro. There’s no guilt that I feel. I’m the only player who has to deal with this in New York City because I play there. If I was anywhere else in another city then there probably wouldn’t be the same circumstances.

Irving cheering on the Nets against the Wizards. Picture: Greg Fiume/Getty Images/AFP
Irving cheering on the Nets against the Wizards. Picture: Greg Fiume/Getty Images/AFP

“This hasn’t been easy for anybody. The more that you guys keep hammering in on this and then also in public spaces I’m noticing people like to make jokes about what’s going on: Half game or half man. My family has to see that stuff, my teammates have to see that … I wish circumstances were different, but obviously it’s impacting a lot of people and I didn’t want this to happen. But it’s the reality.”

The reality is after a heartbreaking loss at East-leading Miami, the Nets have three straight against lottery foes outside the play-in. With newcomers Seth Curry and Andre Drummond available, they need to right the ship before hosting seventh-place Boston, 2 ½ games ahead of them and winners of seven straight.

“This next one we’re coming in with the mindset we’re winning this no matter what,” Day’Ron Sharpe said.

That means Irving or no Irving, who can play just eight of the 26 remaining dates.

“I’m sure some people wish it were different,” injured Kevin Durant said. “But everybody’s spirit, when Kyrie wasn’t here and then when he was here, everybody has just been … there hasn’t been any change in the atmosphere or the mood or the culture. Everything’s been sweet.”

While Steve Nash admitted Irving’s part-time status is unheard of, he insists it’s not sapping morale.

“They’re adapting fine. It’s not a normal thing. They haven’t wavered at it and very shorthanded. They’ve had some opportunities here recently and [Saturday] against a top team in the East. They’ve proven that that’s not a big factor for them as far as their mentality and spirit,” Nash said.

“I’ve never seen this situation. Going back 15 months to my first training camp, we’ve had a non-stop amount of things that have led to a lack of continuity. So on the one hand, not ideal. But on the other hand, we’re used to being as adaptable as possible. So when you don’t know any better, it doesn’t have as much of an effect on you, because we’ve just have constant change so we’re not used to having a steady run of health. Hopefully that changes in short order here.”

-New York Post

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