Kevin Durant and, yes, Kyrie Irving, have entered the chat, err, COVID protocols, becoming the eighth and ninth Nets player to do so, and Brooklyn seems to be going the way of the Chicago Bulls, who are on a break from action due to a similar rash of positive tests.
This is Durant’s second time catching COVID, and even though he’s vaccinated and recovered the first time without incident, it’s a sign that the NBA, like the NFL, EPL and NHL, has mass postponements, cancellations and possibly even a stoppage of play in its future.
That Irving also is in protocols before coming back from sitting out the entire season because he didn’t want to get vaccinated is an afterthought (along with a beautiful touch of irony). Something, something, don’t count your chickens before they hatch, etc., can be said about Irving, but not about Durant.
I wouldn’t be surprised if his reaction this time around was the same as it was the first time — which, in typical Durant fashion, was to play it cool.
“I’m alive,” he told Ben Golliver of the Washington Post in May after recovering the first time. “That’s it. That’s all I can tell you. I’m good. The unknown is always scary, but I had a lot of support.”
Well, now that he’s been through it before, it’s known and a bit less scary, but his departure leaves a lot unknown as there’s a Durant-shaped hole in a Christmas lineup featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo-, Russell Westbrook- and James Harden-shaped holes already.
We’re a week away from the league’s biggest regular season showcase, and you can preach the shut it down rhetoric all you want, but capitalism probably won’t allow that to happen until after the Christmas Day massacre games.
You can call it cynical, sure. However, with a majority of athletes being vaccinated and less susceptible to serious bouts of COVID, would you be shocked if the unofficial start to the season went ahead without Durant? The Nets play the Lakers, who could be without Anthony Davis due to his umpteenth leg injury/MRI scare, but, as it stands, will have LeBron James. (Yeah, I laughed, too.)
Shutting down the Nets means no LeBron on Christmas, and that’s a complete disaster for the league. James and the Lakers versus a bunch of scrubs is a slight upgrade — like going from sitting in seat 45B on an airplane to 44A — but said scrubs (and LeBron) have to make it a week without catching COVID for that to even be a possibility.
Anytime good-to-great players miss games it sucks for all hoops’ fans but even more so when it’s such a high-profile occasion. We’ll see how many superstars entering COVID protocols and depleted teams taking breaks it takes to force Adam Silver’s hand or if he’ll go the NFL’s route and loosen rules around vaccinated players returning, but you get the feeling that a drastic move happening is about as likely as KD making a 15-footer.