Kyrie Irving took a gamble on his health when he began his crusade against New York City’s vaccine mandate. The mandate states that residents cannot enter indoor spaces, such as gyms, if they have not received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson. His stance already caused ripples through the league. Since entering the league, he’s been in a few bar brawls with common sense, but his anti-vaccine stance was a new level of obstinance. He’d always been a bit of an oddball, but he’s become a bit more complicated over the years.
After missing the first two months of the season, the Nets decided to bring Kyrie back part-time and he has existed in that limbo ever since. However, his precarious position as the road point guard created divisions between him and James Harden, who was traded at the deadline.
On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who previously served as the Brooklyn borough president, delivered a small victory to his constituents.
During a news conference Wednesday, Adams announced the ordinance that kept Irving from playing at home, but didn’t apply to unvaccinated visiting players, would be phased out. There’s been speculation that the mayor would do something to this effect. The preamble to this announcement ramped over the weekend when Commissioner Adam Silver and Adams echoed one another on the same day.
During an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up last Wednesday, Silver discussed what he thought about the mandate.
“This law in New York, the oddity of it to me is that it only applies to home players,” Silver said. “I think if ultimately that rule is about protecting people who are in the arena, it just doesn’t quite make sense to me that an away player who is unvaccinated can play in Barclays, but the home player can’t. To me, that’s a reason they should take a look at that ordinance.”
At a later news conference, Mayor Adams said the rule keeping Irving from playing was unfair but also added that he was hesitant to change anything yet.
“First of all, I think the rule’s unfair. We are saying to out-of-town athletes that they can come in and not be vaccinated. Yet New York athletes, you have to be vaccinated. And they also do this for entertainers. I want people to know that. Entertainers can come here without being vaccinated and perform. I think it’s unfair,” Adams said. “And I’m not sure if a Boston fan created this rule. I don’t know. But I am really, really leery about sending the wrong message.”
The NBA would love nothing more than for its only most viable franchise in America’s largest media market to reach the NBA Finals. Mayor Adams would love nothing more than for all the benefits of the Nets to sprinkle onto his approval rating. Everyone wins. The only downside will be Irving viewing himself as a conquering hero during his home debut.
The mayor has been adamant about getting the city back on a normal footing and phasing out policies that were instituted at the height of the pandemic.
Since the trade deadline, Brooklyn’s been on a karmic roll. First, they exchanged a version of Harden who was in the fourth week of his two-week notice mood, for Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and Ben Simmons. Then, they snapped an 11-game losing streak, mounted a 28-point comeback in a win over the Knicks, and are now set to get Irving back in uniform full-time.
Simmons expects to make his Nets debut sometime in the next few weeks, and Durant’s return from an MCL sprain in his left knee is right behind Simmons. We may never know what led to Silver and Adams coordinating their vaccine mandate messaging, but it likely had something to do with the ratings a Nets-Sixers Conference Finals storyline would deliver. Irving being available to play at home improves the chance of that reality happening and in the end, everyone wins — except the rest of the Eastern Conference.