The Nets wrapped up their preseason on Thursday night with a 107-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Barclays Center, but much of the attention remains on the team’s decision to not allow Kyrie Irving to practice or play until he’s eligible to be a full-time participant.
Kevin Durant spoke to the media for the first time since the Nets announced their decision to not play Irving, who addressed his situation Wednesday night on Instagram Live, explaining why he remains unvaccinated despite NYC’s COVID vaccine mandate.
“I definitely want Kyrie to be around. I wish none of this stuff would happen, but this is the situation that we’re in,” said Durant, who scored 19 points against the Timberwolves. “Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do, he chose to do what he wanted to do and the team did the same. It’s on me to just focus on me and just do my job and let those two parties handle that situation. I want our whole team together. I want us to be at full strength, but sometimes it don’t work out that way. But I’m still positive that things will work out in the best for both parties.”
When asked if he’d spoken to Irving since the team announced their decision on Tuesday, Durant responded briefly by saying “No, I haven’t.”
Under the NYC mandate, Irving is permitted to practice at the Nets’ facility in Brooklyn and play in road games (except against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden). But he can’t play in home games at Barclays Center, and the Nets decided they didn’t want Irving to be a part-time player.
Irving will be docked roughly $380,000 for each home game that he misses.
Nets head coach Steve Nash addressed the situation before Thursday’s game as well, saying that he hadn’t seen any of Irving’s 20-minute monologue on Wednesday night.
“To be honest, I didn’t listen to it,” Nash said before the game. “And I think I’ve pretty much said everything I have to say about it. If something changes, we can talk about it. But now I really want to focus on moving forward and our group, and solutions to the challenge ahead of us.”
Durant was also asked about how the team’s rotations have to change without Irving, and he said it’s something the team will figure out over time. And as for the locker room implications, Durant is confident in the group the Nets have.
“When you’re losing somebody like Kyrie Irving, it’s hard to on the fly just figure out where you’re going to get that production from. So, I think over time we’re going to figure out which guys are gonna step up and play and fill that void, those minutes, those shots, those opportunities,” Durant said. “I think we’ll do it as a collective. But as far as leadership in the locker room and James being vocal, I mean everybody has good dialogue. Steve is the main voice, coaches do a great job. So, I think we’re all in conversation about what we need to do and how we feel about the game. I feel like everybody will help in that area as far as leadership.”