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Nets' Kyrie Irving declines to discuss COVID-19 vaccination status

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets acknowledges the

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets acknowledges the fans prior to Game 1 of the Second Round of the playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks at Barclays Center on Saturday, June 5, 2021. Credit: Steven Ryan

Kyrie Irving was the only member of the Nets who did not show up in person to take part in media day interviews Monday at Barclays Center, even though the Nets said he would accompany the team on an afternoon flight to San Diego and take part in training camp, which begins Tuesday.

Irving did speak to reporters from what appeared to be his home via a Zoom session, but he deflected a bevy of questions about his COVID-19 vaccination status and whether he expects to comply with a New York City mandate that all people over the age of 12 must be vaccinated to enter a covered premises unless they have a medical or religious exemption. That means every home team player must be vaccinated to play games in New York.

Asked to address speculation about his vaccination status, Irving said, "I appreciate your question, but honestly, I like to keep that stuff private. I’m a human being first and obviously living in this public sphere, there’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie and I just would love to just keep that private and handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan.

"Obviously, I’m not able to be there today, but that doesn’t mean I’m putting any limits on the future of me being able to join the team. So if we can keep that private, anybody that has any further questions about that, it will be the same response."

Moments later, Irving was asked why he chose not to address speculation about his stance toward taking the vaccine. "Please respect my privacy," Irving said. "Next question."

Told that fans are interested in his playing status, Irving repeated himself. "Next question."

Irving was nothing if not consistent. When an ESPN reporter asked directly if he expects to play home games in light of the New York City vaccine mandate, he said, "Again, I would like to keep all that private. Please just respect my privacy … Everything will be released at a due date once we get this cleared up. But as of right now, just please respect my privacy regarding anything about home games, what’s happening, vaccination. Please."

The NBA has not required players to be vaccinated but has issued a mandate requiring all other league personnel — front-office staff, coaches, medical staff, security, communications staff and scorer’s table workers — to be vaccinated. The Nets are one of three teams, along with the Knicks and Golden State, who are requiring all of their players to be vaccinated because of the mandates issued in New York and San Francisco.

The other two members of the Nets’ Big 3, Kevin Durant and James Harden, sidestepped questions about Irving’s vaccination status. "I’ll let you guys listen to what he has to say about that," Harden said of Irving. "Obviously, Ky is a huge part of what we're trying to do."

Durant declined to offer his thoughts on Irving’s situation, but when asked if he thought it might be an issue for the Nets to overcome during the season, he said, "I expect it not to be. It’s on Kyrie, and that’s his personal decision. What he does is not on us to speculate what may happen. But we trust in Kyrie, and I expect us to have our whole team at some point."

Toward the end of his 11-minute interview, Irving said he expects to be present every day alongside his teammates in their quest to win an NBA title. "I know that the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions," Irving said. "This is the last thing I wanted to create was more distractions, more hoopla, more drama around this."

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