The Nets’ season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks looms just over a week away on Oct. 19 as a question continues to hang over Brooklyn: Will Kyrie Irving be with the team in a full-time capacity at that point?
It’s contingent upon Irving getting vaccinated, something that he’s deemed a private matter. But as its required by a New York mandate that stipulates for professional athletes to be vaccinated in order for them to play indoors, Irving’s vaccination status is key for the 2021-22 Nets.
With things still in limbo in that regard, rumors have continued to swirl about the Nets potentially looking to offload Irving in a trade that yields them substantial return. In that sense, Ben Simmons would certainly qualify.
The 76ers are dealing with their own star-related headache with Simmons refusing to report to training camp as he tries to force Philadelphia into trading him.
Could an Irving-Simmons swap solve both teams’ problems? Perhaps, but one prominent NBA insider reported Saturday that a deal of that sort is, at the moment, not being considered by the76ers.
“There is no indication the Philadelphia 76ers have interest in exploring a potential Ben Simmons for Kyrie Irving trade with the Brooklyn Nets,” Marc Stein wrote. “Irving is currently not allowed to play home games for the Nets due to his vaccination status. There is some belief around the league that Irving would retire, or at least seriously consider it, if the Nets traded him. Irving can also be a free agent in 2022. The 76ers continue to explore a trade of Simmons while he remains away from the team.”
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Could Blazers Enter the Trade Discussion as a Third Team?
As NBA Insider Sam Amick of The Athletic pointed out in a recent story, a trade that sent Irving to Portland, Damian Lillard to Philadelphia and Simmons to Brooklyn works when entered into the ESPN trade machine. But it makes only the the Sixers a better team (plus-7 wins for Philly vs. minus-six for the Nets and minus-1 for the Trail Blazers).
Still, that deal won’t happen, Amick notes, first and foremost because Lillard has been less adamant about finding his way to another team.
(Lillard’s) stance could certainly change if the Blazers get off to a bad start, but sources say Lillard wants to see how this early season goes while giving first-year coach Chauncey Billups a genuine shot at success along the way. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I don’t think Kyrie is going anywhere anytime soon. Especially because of the personal dynamics that are in play in Brooklyn.
A quick reminder: It was Irving and Durant who — by their own admission — were seen discussing their plans to team up in 2020 free agency at the 2019 All-Star game in Charlotte. They built this thing together, and their presence obviously sparked the James Harden trade that was to come.
Amick noted that there’s been no indication that the current Irving saga has done anything to alter Durant’s affinity for Irving.
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Nets Owner Shares Thoughts on Vaccination
At the heart of the Irving saga, as previously mentioned, is his vaccination status. It will be important for the Nets to have Irving on the floor for them at Barclays Center this season, and it’s also clear that the organization is very much him in favor of vaccination.
Nets owner Joe Tsai recently expressed that in an interview with Alex Schiffer of The Athletic.
“It’s part of social responsibility, when you think about it, to do the socially responsible thing,” Tsai told Schiffer. “I know that there’s just so many scenarios where there’s a conflict between personal choice and what is good for the greater goal. And guess what? Our greater goal for the Nets is that we want to win a championship. That’s very, very clear. And I want to make sure that people don’t lose sight of that.”