This was supposed to be the Nets’ season to jump to the top of the NBA pack while teaming superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but 10 games into the season, that pair is making as much news for not playing as they are for playing. Durant missed his third straight game while in quarantine for exposure to COVID-19 when the Nets faced the Grizzlies Friday night at Fed Ex Forum in Memphis, and Irving sat out his second straight game for undisclosed "personal reasons."
Durant obviously is subject to NBA health and safety protocols, and coach Steve Nash said he might return earlier than the original projected seven-day quarantine and play against his former Thunder team Sunday at Barclays Center.
"Kevin is still on track for Sunday, so we just have to hope his tests continue to be negative and everything stays as is," Nash said. "It appears he’ll be ready to go Sunday night."
Irving’s situation is shrouded in uncertainty. Clearly, he is deeply involved in the social justice movement and unrest regarding racial politics that has swept the country. He sat out on Thursday against the 76ers one day after right-wing insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump overran the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to overthrew results of the presidential election won by Joe Biden.
"I messaged with Ky [on Thursday], but I want to keep all that stuff private," Nash said. "We don't have any decision on Sunday yet. But we'll figure it out before we go on Sunday . . . It was a personal matter, so, we’re going to respect privacy."
Understanding Irving has given no clear explanation for his absence, Nash was asked if political unrest has been unsettling to many in the NBA. "Well, there's no question that social justice is way more than basketball," Nash said. "We're all disappointed, and in lockstep that change needs to come . . . It's not fast enough, but it can’t deter us from our collective belief that change is imperative."