Kyrie Irving

May 11, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Injured Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) leaves the game against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

  • Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks says Kyrie Irving will not train or play with the team until he’s vaccinated
  • Irving has refused to get vaccinated despite current New York rules stopping him from taking part in team activities
  • Brooklyn’s title odds are +230 with FanDuel; Should you bet them at that price?

The latest update on the Kyrie Irving vaccination saga took place on Tuesday. Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks released a statement saying Irving will not take part in any games or practice until he can be a ‘full-time participant’. This wording means Irving is effectively away from the team until he gets vaccinated, something he has previously refused to do.

While still favorites in the NBA Championship Odds, the Nets’ title credentials clearly take a major hit if Irving is absent for a prolonged period.

The seven-time All-Star was meant to be part of arguably the most talented ‘Big Three’ in league history. It is now unclear if he will play for the Nets in 2021-22 at all.

2022 NBA Championship Odds

Team Odds to Win NBA Title
Brooklyn Nets +230
Los Angeles Lakers +400
Milwaukee Bucks +800
Golden State Warriors +1200
Utah Jazz +1400

Odds as of Oct 12 at FanDuel

Restrictions In Place

Beginning on September 13th, at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has been required to enter Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden. This rule extends to other ‘covered premises’ in the city. Irving not having a vaccine meant he could not practice or play for the team in New York.

It was reported by Tim Bontemps on ESPN in September that the NBA intends to enforce this rule for all personnel associated with teams, and that has been the case with Irving.

A religious or medical exemption can be a way of dodging these restrictions, but there has been no such reporting of that for Irving.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Andrew Wiggins had an application for a religious exemption rejected. Wiggins eventually got the vaccine, enabling him to play in the Warriors’ home games.

Irving Getting the Shot

Wiggins and Irving are different characters. Reporting of Wiggins’ situation often seemed to suggest people around the Warriors thought he would get the shot eventually. That is ultimately what happened, and Wiggins can take a full part in practice and all games at Oracle Arena.

When it comes to betting on any Nets futures this season, Irving’s vaccination status has to be a primary factor to consider. This latest news makes it even more significant in the long-term, and raises questions about Irving’s future in the NBA.

Outspoken, strong-willed and sometimes controversial, this sort of ultimatum doesn’t seem likely to have an impact on Irving’s vaccine stance. It’s quite possible this only entrenches his views further.

The Nets Rollercoaster

It’s always going to be a rollercoaster when a team compiles a Big Three and becomes strong title favorites. That rollercoaster becomes wilder still when one of those stars is Kyrie Irving in the midst of a pandemic. There is no way to know how this changes the Nets’ chemistry, although it’s fair to assume that Kevin Durant and James Harden are on board with this hardline stance from Sean Marks.

Harden and Durant had injury issues last season and both are bound to load manage throughout the regular season. We saw how close the Nets got with one-and-a-half stars in the postseason last year, but the prospect of having no Irving whatsoever clearly changes how we project them this season. Perhaps they are still favorites for the title, but they are definitely not good value at +230.

Just as with the Ben Simmons mess in Philadelphia, this story is far from over. Irving might follow Wiggins’ path. He might just retire.

Hold off backing the Nets for now. The odds won’t get much shorter, and there’s a chance they lengthen significantly over the coming weeks if Irving digs his heels in.

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Sam Cox

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