Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving Credit: Bill Moore photo

The new NBA regular season, the NBA’s 75th anniversary, begins next week. Amended COVID protocols such as players and coaches sitting side by side on the bench will have a look and feel of the pre-pandemic days. But one of those seats, for now, won’t be occupied by Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.

“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,” Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said in a statement on Tuesday morning.

Irving was told on Tuesday about the Nets’ decision made by Marks and team owner Joe Tsai. “This decision came down to what we felt was the right move for the organization at this time.” Their message to Irving is, get vaccinated! The Nets reached this judgement despite their practice facility recently being deemed an office building by the New York City government. The city government has mandated all individuals seeking entry into sports venues in New York City such as the Barclays Center be vaccinated.

The NBA recently announced in an agreement with the National Basketball Players Association that players will lose a portion of their salary for every game missed due to local vaccine mandates.

“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team, and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice,” Marks said. “Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose.”

Marks added the important point that “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.”

Even though Irving, the league’s NBPA vice president, has the right to choose, and the Nets acknowledge that right, not being vaccinated will place his $34.9 million salary for this season in jeopardy.

The Nets, who will play their last preseason game tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves Barclays Center, open their regular season schedule with two games on the road facing the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday followed by the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

As a point of reference, it was the Bucks who defeated Brooklyn in seven games last season, winning the Eastern Conference championship, and going on to win the NBA Finals because of the tip of Durant’s foot being on the line, limiting his shot at the buzzer to a two and not a three, sending the game into overtime instead of the Nets to the NBA championship.