Well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of Kyrie Irving’s own actions.
The Nets had a big game (by early January standards) on Friday night, and since it was a home game, and since Irving remains unvaccinated, Brooklyn only had two superstars available against Giannis Antetokounmpo and friends. With all due respect to Patty Mills, who’s picked up more of the slack than anyone had any right to ask in a season that has included more than a quarter of the starts in his 13-year NBA career, well, he’s not a suitable replacement for Irving against the defending champs.
Mills scored three points in 32 minutes, while Kevin Durant scored 29 with nine rebounds and seven assists. James Harden had the same board and assist tallies on a 16-point night, and the Nets lost, 121-109, to fall into a virtual tie for second in the East with Milwaukee.
It’s a different dynamic now than when Irving wasn’t a part-time player for the Nets. You could just forget about him. But now, his absence is noticeable courtesy of his road return and his impact there. And now the Nets have to answer more pointed questions about their prodigal star, which is going to get real uncomfortable, real fast, as my colleague Criss Partee wrote about the other day.
It’s understandable that Durant and Harden don’t want to talk to Irving about getting his vaccine, but Harden also talked about how the Nets “gotta mesh and find ways to win games,” and that’s obviously harder to do when one of your best players is in and out of the lineup. It’s not that the Nets are a better team without Irving, but it’s easier for any team to find a consistent rhythm when it has a consistent rotation. It’s not a coincidence that Brooklyn won 14 of 18 games from mid-November until mid-December, when the omicron variant arrived and the Nets had to start signing 10-day contracts and eventually panicked and let Irving return to the fold after having told him at the start of the season to get lost until he was vaxxed.
The Nets may had been doing Irving a favor by keeping him away. The team played well enough, and his selfishness was out of sight, out of mind. Now he’s back, except when he isn’t, and the Nets have to deal with the dual reality of needing Irving and of his choice creating headaches for everyone around him.
It’s on a much lower level of importance than more easily catching and transmitting a deadly virus, but this is exactly why “we need to respect people’s personal choices about the vaccine” is bullshit. When you make a choice that has an adverse effect on other people, especially people who you purport to care about, your personal choice isn’t merely personal, and neither the choice nor you deserve respect.
Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night. Wait, no, they blew up the football stadium in Corvallis.
Totally different thing.