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Brooklyn Nets say Kyrie Irving will not play until vaccination status is resolved

General manager Sean Marks insisted the team has no qualms with Irving's decision not to get inoculated.
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The Brooklyn Nets benched superstar guard Kyrie Irving, one of the NBA's most prominent players not vaccinated against Covid-19, the team said Tuesday.

“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant," general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.

The Nets had been anticipating an uncomfortable 50 percent availability for Irving because the team plays home games at the Barclays Center in the New York borough of Brooklyn. City health codes mandate at least one Covid vaccine shot to enter indoor gyms.

Marks said the team did not want to operate in a part-time arrangement for Irving, adding it would fly in the face of efforts to "build chemistry as a team." He insisted the team has no qualms with Irving's decision not to get inoculated.

"Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose," Marks said. "Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice."

The Nets are favorites to win the NBA title, with established stars such as Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden.

"Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction," Marks said.

"We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”

The Nets tip off their 2021-22 campaign Oct. 19 in Milwaukee against the Bucks, the defending NBA champions.

If Irving misses any games, it could reportedly cost him $400,000 per contest.

A representative for Irving could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

The enigmatic Duke University alum, who once floated theories of the earth being flat, tweeted Saturday: "I am protected by God and so are my people. We stand together."

Two weeks ago, the NBA said players will not be paid for games they miss due to failures to meet local health codes.

That announcement put the heat on Irving and Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors because San Francisco has a vaccine mandate similar to that of New York.

Days after the NBA announcement, Wiggins got his jab and a relieved coach Steve Kerr said, “that will be the end of it.”

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, perhaps the world's most famous basketball player, had been quiet for months about his own vaccination status before telling reporters two weeks ago that he had been inoculated.

More than 187 million people in America, 12 and older, have been fully vaccinated, which is 56.4 percent of the total population, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The coronavirus has killed more than 719,000 Americans since it reached the United States in the first quarter of 2020, according to the latest count by NBC News.