Nets GM looks forward to crucial meeting with Kyrie to see if it’s the ‘right fit’

The Brooklyn Nets are fed up with off-the-court drama.

Nets general manager Sean Marks doubled down on this in a taped interview aired over YES Network on Monday, a few days after his end-of-the-season press conference with reporters.

Once the rising star GM for plucking the Nets out of the mud, Marks is taking the flak for acceding power to superstars who have fulfilled their part of the bargain. He is hell-bent on bringing the culture back that he sold to superstars who have yet to deliver a championship for the franchise. Recalibrating their vision would include a total buy-in from their mercurial star guard Kyrie Irving.

“You want people here to be part of something bigger than themselves. It’s a team sports team game. It’s not individuals,” Marks said. “We want people to be here for the right reasons, and buy into their roles, find their roles, high-character guys.”

“We want to avoid the drama; we want to avoid the distractions. These last couple years here, whether it was expectations set on the team or some of the outside circumstances that were going on in the world, they affected our guys, both individually and as a group, really poorly, unfortunately.”

Irving, who recruited Kevin Durant to come with him in Brooklyn, is in hot water after missing a chunk of games in his first three seasons with the team for personal reasons. His refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine cost the Nets their title window this season as he was only limited to 29 games.

While Irving wants to remain with the Nets, the organization is not too keen to commit right away. Irving’s long-term future with the team remains a big question mark as both parties are at a crossroads.

The 30-year-old Irving has a $36.9 million player option which he could decline to sign a more lucrative, long-term extension with the Nets. He is eligible to extend for up to four years, $183.6 million, which other teams could also offer. But he could earn more with the Nets as they could sign him up to five years, $247.6 million.

“We have not had any conversation yet [about contract extension],” Mark said. “I look forward to getting in a room with him and Joe (Tsai) and his team, and we will. We’ll see what it looks like for Kyrie moving forward here, what he needs from us, and so forth.”

“So, again, it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on what hypothetical could happen because we don’t know. We haven’t had those conversations with Kyrie yet. But when they do, we’ll see if it’s the right fit for both sides.”

In other words, shape up or get ready to be shipped out.

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Nets’ Kyrie Irving reflects on his time with LeBron: We would’ve won more championships

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

When Kyrie Irving recently declared he wants to co-manage the Brooklyn Nets, he must have referred to how LeBron James exerted his power to construct rosters around him.

Irving reflected on his time with James and their eventual breakup in the latest I Am Athlete podcast.

“I was just a young kid trying to help Cleveland patch their relationship with [LeBron]. I got drafted the year after [LeBron left for Miami]. So when I first came in, the first question they [media] asked me was, ‘are you going to be better than LeBron?’ So it was mixed emotions the whole time we were competitors and when he came back as my teammate,” Irving said.

Even after taking the game-winning shot that gave Cleveland its first NBA championship, it was clear to him that the Cavaliers were still James’ team.

“That’s his home,” Irving said. “That’s not somewhere where he just goes and vacates. He’s from there. That’s like having my family in Brooklyn.”

A big part of the narrative that led to Irving’s decision to leave Cleveland was to be his own man and step out of James’ large shadow. While Irving pushed back with that idea and adamantly said he wanted to experience the league outside of Cleveland and not James per se, it’s still hard to buy that.

“That’s not what I mean — building your own brand, my own thing. Like again, it was, ‘let me go experience the league. Let me experience what my trade value is. Let me go’,” Irving explained.

Five years since that decision, Irving has yet to lead a team to an NBA title. He is now with his second team in Brooklyn, where Durant is viewed as the alpha.

While he had no regrets about his decision when he was only a 24-years-old rising star, he admitted they could have won more championships had he stayed.

“I definitely feel like if I was in the same maturity level now and understanding of who I am, and I look back, we definitely, definitely would’ve won more championships because there would’ve been a better man-to-man understanding about what I’m going through,” Irving said. “I didn’t know how to share my emotions. I didn’t know how to do that. So instead of sharing, I isolated myself.”

The Cavaliers failed to defend their crown in the following season. Irving eventually asked to be traded in the aftermath of the loss.

“I just started pouring myself more into the game — I had one of my better seasons, but I wasn’t connecting with everybody as much during the championship year. So 2017 was a different year for us. We went against Golden State. We went against a great team. When you’re not a great team and not clicking on all cylinders, and together, you’re easily defeated. You’re defeated before you can get to the arena.”

Irving left in the middle of one of the greatest rivalries. While the Cavaliers still managed to go to the NBA Finals without Irving, they couldn’t match the Golden State Warriors’ star power and folded up quickly in four games.

Irving had the urge to experience something different as the Cavaliers’ front office and James had different futures in mind. His only regret is not talking to James right away, as words of his trade demand leaked out while he was on a Nike Tour in China.

“We didn’t talk during that time,” Irving said. “When I look back on what I was going through at that time, I wish I did because it would’ve been a good understanding of what the future will hold for both of us, and we know how much power we both had together. Me and him in the league together running Cleveland, and then being able to put a better team together every single year would’ve definitely been worth it.”

Irving saw first-hand how James wielded his power in roster construction. He admitted that being around James accelerated his understanding of the game and the business that they are in.

“I watched him deal with it in front and off the camera,” Irving said.

But James’ teams from Cleveland to Miami and now in Los Angeles were not built for sustainable success. His previous teams hit rock bottom when he left them.

So when Irving said he wanted to co-manage the team, it raised eyebrows.

During his end-of-the-season press conference, Nets general manager Sean Marks indirectly shut down the idea and cast dark clouds over Irving and his long-term future with the team. Durant was the only player Marks mentioned as part of the stakeholders regarding personnel decisions though he explicitly said that he’s the one making final decisions.

Marks took a jab at Irving when he said they’re looking for “guys that want to come in here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball, and be available.”

During Irving’s exile from the Nets due to his unvaccinated status, the Lakers reportedly thought about reuniting him with James.

Irving has a big decision to make this summer.

He has a $36.9 million player option. If he opts out, he is eligible to extend for up to four years, $183.6 million, or up to five years, $247.6 million with the Nets. At the same time, he would become a free agent and could choose to go anywhere.

With another big decision looming, will Irving finally make the right one this time?

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Kyrie Irving’s future in Brooklyn in limbo after Nets GM sends stern warning

Following an embarrassing sweep at the hands of his former team Boston Celtics, Kyrie Irving immediately committed long-term to the Brooklyn Nets.

Irving wanted to run it back with Kevin Durant and declared that he wanted to ‘co-manage’ the team.

But it seems the feeling isn’t mutual.

During Wednesday’s end-of-season press conference, Nets general manager Sean Marks was non-committal on Irving’s future with the team.

“That’s something we’ve been discussing, and we will continue to debrief on and discuss throughout this offseason,” Marks said. “We haven’t had any of those discussions yet, so it’d be unfair for me to comment on how it looks with Kyrie and us because, to be quite frank, he has some decisions to make on his own. He has to look at what he’s going to do with his player option.”

Irving has a $36.9 million player option which he will likely decline to become an unrestricted free agent. He is eligible to extend for up to four years, $183.6 million, or up to five years, $247.6 million with the Nets.

Considering how Irving played a significant role in wasting a championship window with the second-highest luxury tax bill in addition to a net loss amounting to $50-100 million — giving Nets owner Joe Tsai the worst financial losses in the NBA — they are carefully weighing handing out a max extension to a player who only played 103 regular-season games in three years.

Marks did not mince words and sent out a stern warning to Irving.

“We know what we’re looking for. We’re looking for guys that want to come in here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but for everybody here,” Marks said.

The Durant-Irving partnership has only brought one postseason win in three years. It’s not the ‘Nets Level’ jump they expected from the previous era, which overachieved for one playoff appearance, that attracted the superstars to come over.

Marks indirectly acknowledged their mistake of selling their culture in exchange for mercurial stars such as Irving and James Harden.

“There’s been far too much debate, discussion, scuttlebutt — whatever you want to call it — about distractions and about things that are outside of basketball, whereas we’d like to focus on doing the things that got us here in the first place,” Marks said. “That’s focusing on the grit, the resilience and putting a team together that encompasses that and the borough of Brooklyn can be proud of.”

“It starts with roster construction, starts with our preparation, and starts with the summertime. We’ve prided ourselves in the past on finding players with a chip on their shoulder, with resilience, with something to prove. We’re going to have to go back to that. We’re going to have to go back to looking more in their development, more at finding the right characteristics of a player that fits here.”

The Nets want to right the ship that sailed away. Does that mean cutting off the anchor that delivered them Durant but also the deadweight that pulled them down in the last three years?

Toward the end of the press conference, Marks curiously left out Irving when he mentioned the team’s key stakeholders.

“At the right time, talking to all stakeholders, obviously myself, Joe (Tsai), Steve (Nash) and Kevin (Durant), we’ll all be talking about whatever free agent that comes in here. That’s how that all works,” Marks said, “but at the end of the day, more often than not, it’s myself making those decisions.”

If this was posturing ahead of new contract negotiations, the Nets don’t have the leverage. Irving can walk away from the Nets if he declines the player option. Marks can’t replace a player of Irving’s caliber without cap space.

The Los Angeles Lakers thought about trading for Irving and pairing him again with LeBron James during his exile after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They can revisit that as they try to move on from a failed Russell Westbrook experiment.

Will the Nets do a sign-and-trade with Irving for Westbrook or a package from other teams that will net them complementary pieces around Durant and Ben Simmons to have the size and depth they sorely lacked in the playoffs?

Asked specifically if Marks consider going away from a Big 3 and instead build around a two-star team to get their culture back, he was again non-committal.

“I’d be foolish to say yes or no because you just never know,” Marks said. “Three years ago, I couldn’t have predicted that Kevin and Kyrie were going to say, ‘hey, we want to sign up and play in Brooklyn.’ So you just never know. We wouldn’t have predicted that James harden would have come about.”

“Obviously, we knew we were moving James to a certain extent, but you just never know what’s around the corner, and comes July, things could look quite different or things could look a little bit similar. What I can tell you that will look different is how we approach it and the processes that are involved here.”

Perhaps Marks just wanted to nudge Irving. But by publicly admonishing his star guard, it might blow up in his face again like the way last season unraveled.

Sometimes, things are better left unsaid or much better discussed privately.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Lakers thought about trading for Nets star Kyrie Irving

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers were two of the most disappointing teams this season. They entered the season as the top two favorites to win the crown but fell way short.

The Lakers did not make the playoffs, while the Nets’ season ended in an embarrassing first-round sweep.

Kyrie Irving’s decision to remain unvaccinated was a sliding door moment for the Nets this season. Anthony Davis and LeBron James’ injury woes and the ill-fated Russell Westbrook trade scuttled the Lakers’ championship aspirations.

It’s fair to wonder if they could have fared better had a trade swapping their star point guards materialized.

SNY’s Ian Begley reported Saturday that the Lakers thought about reuniting Irving with James. The pair won Cleveland’s first NBA championship in a dramatic 3-1 comeback against the Golden State Warriors in 2016.

“Several outlets, including SNY, reported that the Nets had been open to talking to teams about potential Irving trades during that time. Obviously, nothing came to fruition. But some members of the Lakers organization discussed the possibility of trading for Irving during that stretch of the season, sources say,” Begley wrote.

Irving also wondered about his uncertain future during his exile from the Nets due to his ineligibility to play at home.

“I was wondering at home what my future was going to look like, you know? Whether I was going to be traded, whether I was going to be released, whether I was going to get the opportunity to be on another team, how I was going to spin this for myself in a positive way,” Irving said on Boardroom’s The ETCs podcast.

With everything that went wrong with the Lakers, it’s safe to assume that Westbrook was the player they planned to send out to the Nets had they pursued the Irving trade.

The Nets would have to add player/s to match salaries.

Irving-James reunion in Los Angeles. Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden reunion in Brooklyn.

That would have shaken the NBA. And it will go down as one of those great “what if’s” in the league’s history.

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Nets star Kyrie Irving wondered about his future after refusing COVID-19 vaccine

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

After the Brooklyn Nets‘ turbulent season ended in a first-round sweep at the hands of his former team, the Boston Celtics, Kyrie Irving was so sure about his future.

“I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” Irving told reporters.

It was not the case when Irving was asked to stay away from the team after he refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Nets came into the season as the title favorites. But Irving nor the Nets did not expect the curveball that torpedoed their best shot to win the elusive NBA crown finally.

“When we got to the training camp in San Diego, I wasn’t expecting a mandate to be brought down that it was not gonna allow me to play at all,” Irving said on Boardroom’s The ETCs.

Irving wondered about his future with his team and his career as days turned into weeks, weeks into months, waiting for the New York City to lift the vaccine mandate that kept him from playing in their home games and at Madison Square Garden.

“I was wondering at home what my future was going to look like, whether I was going to be traded, whether I was going to be released, or whether I would get the opportunity to be on another team. How was I going to spin this for myself in a positive way? I kept affirming to myself that things are going to change,” Irving said on Boardroom’s The ETCs. “I have people around me, and I’m grateful for them for affirming things are going to change.”

The Nets were able to survive the early months of the season without Irving until a knee injury to Kevin Durant and a wave of COVID-19 infections caused the team to fall from the top of the Eastern Conference. It was the opening Irving needed to get back on the court.

The Nets eventually relented and took Irving back as a part-time player for their away games.

“But I never felt like myself throughout the season because I’m usually sustaining a level of growth instead of trying to catch up with everybody that’s been playing for four to five months. They’ve been at it since October. I was at it, maybe September or October. I was healing from my ankle injury and still dealing with that,” Irving said.

Irving tried his best to catch up since his return in January and peaked in March when he scored 50, 60, and 43 points in three of a four-game stretch in a span of two weeks. But despite returning to the lineup, the damage has been done. James Harden eventually asked out, in part, due to Irving’s messy situation.

“I had the opportunity to play away games still, but there was no plan in place or vision of how it’s going to work for our team. I think that really impacted not just me but a lot of people. So I just had to sit on the hot seat for a little bit and handle it,” Irving said.

It was a little too late when newly-elected New York City Mayor Eric Adams lifted the mandate for Irving and other athletes. With Ben Simmons, the headliner in their Harden trade haul, unavailable, the Nets folded up quickly with little chemistry in the playoffs.

The good news is they will have Irving to run it back with Durant and, hopefully, a healthy Simmons and Joe Harris. But it comes with a heavy price tag for another championship-or-bust season that keeps on digging Joe Tsai’s pocket, which also lost between $50 million and $100 million combined in the 2021-22 season.

Irving is expected to decline his $36.5 million player option next season and sign an extension for up to four years, $183.6 million or for five years, $247.6 million.

As Irving wondered about his future early in the season, the Nets were left wondering at the end of another lost season what could have been if only their superstar guard adhered to the city mandate.

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Report: Knicks remain a cash cow, Nets losing money

new york knicks, julius randle

The New York Knicks may have missed the NBA playoffs, but James Dolan still raked in more money than Joe Tsai did with his star-studded luxury tax team Brooklyn Nets.

According to a New York Post report, the Knicks have brought in about $900,000 more than the Nets’ average gate receipts per game. A team headlined by struggling Julius Randle and ascending RJ Barrett at Madison Square Garden was the hotter ticket in town, drawing 18,621 fans per game, which ranked eighth in league attendance. On the other hand, the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving star power drew 17,354 spectators per game at Barclays Center, good for 13th in league attendance.

Those numbers translated to $3 million per game for the Knicks, a 9 percent jump from the pre-pandemic in the 2018-19 season. But while the Nets lagged with just $2.1 million per game, it was still much better than the pre-Durant-Irving era.

Before Durant and Irving chose Brooklyn over New York’s beloved Knicks, the Nets were only averaging $1 million per game from about 15,000 tickets sold, after giveaways, in the 2018-19 season. That 26-percent improvement represents the biggest bump in the league, which they share with the resurgent Phoenix Suns.

But still, Tsai, who bought the Nets franchise for a record $2.35 billion and the Barclays Center for $1 billion in 2019, is losing money with the second-highest payroll in the league.

Tsai bankrolled the Durant-Irving-Harden and later with unplayable Ben Simmons for a staggering $172,836,362 with an estimated tax bill of $97,731,568 this season. In contrast, despite his Knicks front office going on a spending spree in the last offseason, Dolan had the third-lowest payroll in the league, spending just $120,376,240, avoiding the luxury tax bill.

Now, Tsai and his GM Sean Marks, have a $247.6 million decision, among other things, to make this summer to retain the uber-talented but mercurial Irving.

Meanwhile, Dolan and his team president Leon Rose also have crucial decisions to make on their extension-eligible young core pieces, Mitchell Robinson and RJ Barrett.

Robinson is eligible for a four-year extension maximum of $58 million until June 30 while Barrett can be extended this summer up to five years, $181 million.

If not extended, Robinson will enter unrestricted free agency this July, while Barrett becomes a restricted free agent after next season.

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Kyrie Irving plans to re-sign, ‘co-manage’ Nets

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving could not wait for a fresh start after a tumultuous third season with the Brooklyn Nets mercifully ended in a first-round sweep.

A promising season that started with championship aspirations wound up with so many questions.

Foremost is the future of Irving with the team. But the seven-time NBA All-Star guard quickly answered that in the aftermath of their 116-112 loss to his former team, Boston Celtics, in Game 4 at home on Monday night.

“I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” Irving told reporters. This [sweep] is an added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years. And I’m just looking forward to the summer and just building with our guys here.”

Irving is expected to decline his $36.9 million player option next season. He is eligible to extend for up to four years, $183.6 million, or up to five years, $247.6 million.

Durant signed a four-year, 198 million extension last summer.

Three seasons into their partnership, they have only one playoff win to show.

In the first year of their partnership, Durant did not play as he recovered from an Achilles heel injury. Irving only played 20 games after suffering a shoulder injury.

In their second year, Irving hurt his ankle in the playoffs.

Irving was reduced to a part-time player before the playoffs and played only 29 games this year.

There is plenty of blame to pass around, but their woes started when Irving decided not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think it was just really heavy, emotionally the season. We all felt it. I felt like I was letting the team down to a point where I wasn’t able to play. We were trying to exercise every option for me to play, but I never wanted it to just be about me. And it became a distraction at times, and you know, as you see, we just had some drastic changes,” said Irving, who admitted for the first time that his costly decision tolled heavily on the team.

It alienated James Harden, who held a silent protest and eventually got his wish to be traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Ben Simmons, who never played a single minute on the court this season.

“We lost a franchise player. And we got a franchise player back. But we didn’t get a chance to see him on the floor, and there was no pressure for him to step on the floor with us,” said Irving.

Simmons backed out of his planned season debut in Game 4 last-minute after waking up Sunday with a sore back. The Nets were reportedly confused and disheartened by Simmons’ last-minute decision, but his co-stars have publicly supported him.

“We have his back. He’s going to be good for next year,” Irving said. “But now, we just turn the page and look forward to what we’re building as a franchise and really get tougher because this is a league that’s getting younger. It’s getting more athletic, taller, and more competitive, and these young guys are hungry out here, and you see it. I can feel it.”

The Nets’ aging veterans fizzled out against the much younger, more athletic Celtics, whose size held the soon-to-be-34-year-old Durant to his worst playoff performance.

The 34-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge, who unretired to chase a ring, has not played since sustaining a hip injury earlier this month. Patty Mills, 33, regressed after the All-Star break. Goran Dragic, 35, played his best game on Tuesday night but came too late. Blake Griffin turned in spirited performances in Games 3 and 4, but clearly, he is only a shell of himself.

The Nets are limited in what they can do once Irving re-signs. They only have the $6.3 mid-level exception to offer aside from the veteran minimums. Their best assets are the two first-round picks they acquired from the Harden trade.

“When I say I’m here with Kevin, I think that it really entails us managing this franchise together alongside [team owner] Joe (Tsai) and [GM] Sean (Marks), and just our group of family members that we have in our locker room in our in our organization,” said Irving.

“So it’s not just about me and Kev. I don’t want to make it just about that. We are cornerstones here. But we have a few other guys that are on contract. And I think we just got to make some moves this offseason and really talk about it. And really be intentional about what we’re building, and have some fun with it, make it enjoyable.”

They have six guaranteed contracts (Durant, Simmons, Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Cam Thomas, and Day’Ron Sharpe) for next season. It will become eight once Irving re-signs and if Mills opts into his player option.

Unless they trade Joe Harris, it is increasingly likely, that the Nets will return next season with the same core of Durant, Irving, Simmons, and Harris.

“Hopefully, we get to start from day one just as a squad and as a family, and we just really worry about us. Sometimes I feel like the noise on the external world, and outside noise can seep in,” Irving said.

“I’m not the type of person to allow that to happen. So as we build together as a squad, I just think we need to be tougher mentally. And just be more honest about what we want to accomplish and just stick to the goal, stick to the mission.”

Sounds like a plan. But a plan without commitment usually leads to results like they had this season.

Irving has a lot of catching up in his commitment to the franchise he said he grew up watching.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Ben Simmons set for Brooklyn Nets debut in Game 4

ben simmons, knicks

After getting swept in the first two games of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics on the road, the Brooklyn Nets are looking forward to playing at home.

It’s not only for the fact that they have won their last five home games — four in the regular season and the play-in game — to march into the playoffs. But finally, having their most prized acquisition from the James Harden blockbuster trade.

Ben Simmons is reportedly ready to make his season debut in Game 4 of the series scheduled on Monday. The Nets, though, need to win Game 3 on Saturday to make Simmons’ late push to return worthwhile.

“There’s no other way than him to say, ‘I’m ready,'” Nash told reporters before Game 2. “Especially after an absence this long. So whenever he is ready, it’s going to have to be on him to say, ‘I feel comfortable. I feel ready to go. I want to play and I want to contribute.’

“We can’t push him places when you have been out this long. It’s got to be something where he is definitely comfortable and ready to play.”

Perhaps the Game 2 loss in which the Nets blew a 17-point lead has fast-tracked Simmons’ timeline. Whether Simmons is 100 percent healthy or not, the Nets need every help they can get to avert a disastrous first-round exit.

Simmons, who hasn’t played since last year’s playoffs, could be the Nets’ trump card in swinging back the momentum to their side after the Celtics’ defense suffocated their top stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

If Simmons could make plays and impact the Nets’ defense even in 15-minute spurts, it would be huge to loosen up the Celtics’ defense on Durant (4-17) and Irving (4-13), who were both held to under 32 percent shooting in Game 2. It’s the first time it happened in 55 games they have played together as teammates.

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Kyrie Irving set for home debut after NYC Mayor Eric Adams expands vaccine mandate exemption

It’s official!

The unvaccinated Kyrie Irving will be making his home debut this season on Sunday when the Brooklyn Nets host LaMelo Ball and his Charlotte Hornets. The Barclays Center is expected to have an electric atmosphere to welcome back Irving on the floor after a near season-long standoff with New York City regarding its strict vaccine mandate.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams finally relented Thursday. He officially announced the exemption of the city-based athletes and performers from the private employer vaccine mandate “to level the playing field” and boost the economy.

“Day one as a mayor, I looked at the rule that stated that hometown players had an unfair disadvantage for those who are coming to visit. Immediately, I felt we needed to look at that, but my medical professionals said, ‘Eric, we’re in a different place. We have to wait until we have a place where we are in a low area, and we can re-examine the mandates.’ We’re here today,” Adams said in a press conference Thursday at Citi Field.

Irving and the Nets aren’t only the beneficiaries of Adams’ latest decision. The exemption will also allow unvaccinated members of the New York Yankees and New York Mets to rejoin their clubs in time for the Major League Baseball Opening Day two weeks from now.

Shortly after Adams’ announcement, the NBA and NBA Players Association released a joint statement throwing support to Adams’ decision.

“The NBA and NBPA have achieved a 97% vaccination and 75% booster rate among players, required both for league staff, team staff, and referees, and will continue to be strong advocates for vaccination and boosters. With today’s announcement, we support the Mayor’s determination that the old rules treating hometown and visiting players differently no longer made sense, particularly because unvaccinated NBA players will continue to test daily. We applaud the Mayor for listening to the concerns of our New York teams, players, fans, and communities and for leveling the playing field for home teams and their opponents,” the statement said.

The timing of Adams’s decision couldn’t be more perfect as Irving celebrated his 30th birthday Wednesday. But Irving’s birthday celebration was spoiled by a 132-120 road loss in Memphis against the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies. Irving scored 43 points but still was not enough to lift the Nets, who are 2.5 games behind the seventh seed Toronto Raptors and 3.5 games behind the sixth seed Cleveland Cavaliers with nine games remaining.

The Nets will visit the slumping Miami Heat on Saturday, the front end of a back-to-back schedule. Irving will have little turnaround time for his much-awaited home debut on Sunday.

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Nets fined $50K for Kyrie Irving’s locker room entry; Kevin Durant backtracks

Kyrie Irving attended his first home game of the season, but it cost the Brooklyn Nets a $50,000 fine.

The NBA said the Nets organization violated the local New York City law and league health and safety protocols after allowing the unvaccinated Irving to enter the team’s locker room.

Nets coach Steve Nash confirmed that Irving joined the team in the locker room during halftime and postgame.

“[Irving] didn’t have a message for us. He was just there sitting with his teammates,” Nash said.

Irving was able to attend the Nets’ home game in person after New York City Mayor Eric Adams relaxed on the vaccine mandate allowing unvaccinated people to enter public events venues. Previously, Irving was only restricted to entering and practicing at the HSS Training Center, the Nets’ practice facility in Brooklyn.

Kevin Durant, who carried the Nets offense with a season-high 53 points and nine assists in 43 minutes in Irving’s absence, called out New York City Mayor Eric Adams to lift the private sector mandate, which prohibits unvaccinated employees from working in New York-based businesses.

But just minutes after the Nets were fined, Durant released a statement backtracking from his strong words against Adams.

“The last two years have been a difficult and painful time for New Yorkers, as well as a very confusing time with the changing landscape of the rules and mandates. I do appreciate the task the Mayor (Eric Adams) has in front of him with all the city has been through. My frustration with the situation doesn’t change the fact that I will always be committed to helping communities and cities I live in and play in,” Durant said in a statement released through the Nets PR.

Irving is scheduled to return to action Wednesday when the Nets visit the Orlando Magic in Florida. The Nets’ superstar point guard is only eligible to play three more road games for the remainder of the regular season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo