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Remaining unvaccinated will be costly for Nets' Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving of the Nets attempts a jump

Kyrie Irving of the Nets attempts a jump shot against the Bucks in Game 2 of the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 7. Credit: Steven Ryan

Now that the Nets have completed the California portion of their training camp, an air of mystery surrounds their first home practice Tuesday at Barclays Center in terms of whether or not Kyrie Irving will be present.

Irving was the only Net to stay home for media day on Sept. 27. He declined to discuss his vaccination status in a Zoom interview that day when asked if his absence was related to a New York City mandate requiring everyone over the age of 12 to have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to enter an indoor premise.

Following the Nets’ 123-97 win over the Lakers in their preseason opener Sunday at Staples Center, coach Steve Nash said he had no update on whether Irving would practice Tuesday.

According to the current collective bargaining agreement, when a player "fails or refuses, without proper or reasonable cause or excuse, to render the services required by the Player Contract," he is subject to a salary reduction. The formula changes every year, but the current formula calls for a reduction of 1/91.6th of a player’s salary for each preseason or regular-season game missed.

That is not a specific agreement related to local COVID mandates, but it is expected that formula will apply to games missed for that reason. Only New York and San Francisco have mandates that could impact players on the Nets, Knicks and Golden State.

The Knicks previously announced their roster is fully vaccinated, and Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins, who had expressed his opposition to the vaccine, now is fully vaccinated and will not miss any games or practices because of the local mandate.

"Andrew got vaccinated," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said on Sunday. "He just told me today that he was fine with us acknowledging it, and that will be the end of it."

That leaves Irving as the only player subject to a local vaccine mandate whose status remains in doubt. Under the CBA formula, Irving stands to lose $365,290 for every game he misses based on his $33,460,350 annual salary reported by Basketball Insiders. An ESPN report estimated the pay reduction might be as much as $380,000 per game.

Irving practiced five days in San Diego with the Nets but was one of seven veterans who sat out the preseason opener in Los Angeles. Asked if he was tempted to play Irving because of the uncertainty about his availability for home games, Nash said, "Not really. That was never a consideration."

Describing how Irving looked in his first week of practice, Nash said, "I just think he was one of the many that were locked in and performed well all week, were focused. To a man, everyone was really good this week. It was a positive week, but we’ve got two more weeks together before we start."

The Nets’ preseason home opener is Friday against the Bucks, and they face the Timberwolves Oct. 14 at Barclays Center. They open the regular season with road games Oct. 19 in Milwaukee and Oct. 22 in Philadelphia and then play six straight home games starting Oct. 24 against the Hornets.

Notes and quotes: LaMarcus Aldridge started against the Lakers in his first game since retiring last season with a heart condition, scoring six points in 15 minutes. "I thought he looked good," Nash said. He had a good week of camp, and it looks like he’s moving well. Confident. Doesn’t look like he’s missed a beat."

New York Sports