Kyrie Irving attended his first home game of the season. But not as a player, but as a fan.
Irving arrived fashionably late for Sunday’s nationally televised game between crosstown rivals Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. He had a courtside view of his teammate and friend Kevin Durant’s masterful 53-point performance that carried the Nets to a 110-107 win at Barclays Center.
After the game, Durant hugged an unmasked and unvaccinated Irving and went to the locker room together. Nets coach Steve Nash confirmed that Irving joined them in the locker room at halftime and postgame but did not address the team.
Kevin Durant on Kyrie Irving not being able to play at home:
"We're all confused. Pretty much everybody in the world is confused at this point. Early on in the season, people didn't understand what was going on but now, it just looks stupid. Eric, you gotta figure this out." pic.twitter.com/t8aBEBEZEA
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) March 13, 2022
A ‘confused’ Durant wondered why Irving could not play but could attend their home games.
“It’s ridiculous,” Durant said. “I don’t understand at all.”
“It just feels like, at this point now, somebody’s trying to make a statement or point to flex their authority. Everybody out here is looking for attention. That’s what I feel like the mayor wants right now; some attention. He’ll figure it out soon. He better.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has already modified the vaccine mandate that allowed Irving and other unvaccinated fans to attend the games in person. But the private business mandate remains active, keeping Irving or any unvaccinated employee from a city workplace.
“It didn’t make any sense. There are [unvaccinated] people in this building already. We got a guy who can come into the building. Are they fearing our safety? I don’t get it. We’re all confused. Pretty much everyone in the world is confused at this point. Early on in the season, people didn’t understand what was going on, but now, it just looks stupid. Hopefully, Eric, you got to figure this out,” said Durant calling out the city mayor to soften his hardline stance.
On Sunday morning, a few hours before the game, Mayor Adams addressed Irving’s situation again when a heckler shouted “Let Kyrie play!” during his public appearance at an event with the New York City Parks Department.
“Listen, you’re right,” Adams responded. “Kyrie can play tomorrow. Get vaccinated.”
The city mayor still aims to have all New Yorkers get vaccinated. That includes Irving, who works in New York.
Irving is only eligible to play in four of the Nets’ 14 remaining games if the city mayor continues his hardline stance. The Nets have five more road games, but one is against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Durant will have to continue to carry the heavy load like he did Sunday playing 43 out of possible 48 minutes. The Nets (35-33) will need every ounce of Durant’s brilliance as they continue their chase for an outright playoff spot. Despite winning three straight, they are still 3.5 games behind the sixth seed Cleveland Cavaliers (38-29).
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