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The point guard said he wasn’t expecting any mandate to bar him from playing. Once it did, he was unable to play home games for some time, and Brooklyn kept him away from team activities for the beginning of the season. He wasn’t allowed to play road games until it became a dire situation for the organization.
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets warms up before a playoff game between the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn April 25, 2022. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Irving opened up about the entire ordeal.
“I was not expecting a mandate to be brought down in a way where it wasn’t going to let me play at all,” Irving said in an interview on the Boardroom’s “The ETC” podcast this week. “I had the opportunity to play away games still, but there was no plan in place, there was no vision of how it was going to work for our team.”
“And I think that not only impacted not just me, but a lot of people. Just had to sit in that hot seat for a little bit and deal with it. The life of a martyr, bro.”
Irving made his Nets 2021-22 season debut Jan. 5. In 29 games, he averaged 27.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game and was a big reason why Brooklyn was able to limp into the playoffs before eventually being swept by the Boston Celtics.
“[The mandate] completely caught me off guard. I didn’t expect to come into the season with all this put on my plate. It was an ultimatum given to me, it’s either you work and get vaccinated just like this ultimatum was given to other people, or you sit at home, and now we get to talk s— about your decisions and me personally and make all these judgments and stuff,” he added.
Kyrie Irving (11) of the Brooklyn Nets brings the ball up court while guarded by Terry Rozier (3) of the Charlotte Hornets during a game at Spectrum Center March 8, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
“I had to deal with both ends of the spectrum. I sat right in the middle. I knew I was doing the right thing for me. And I had to stay rooted in that decision. And I’m grateful I had a great support system to get me through it because it wasn’t easy.”
Irving has played with the Nets for three seasons. He decided to team up with Kevin Durant in the summer of 2019 to join Brooklyn, but the partnership has yet to yield success.
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets during a game against the Boston Celtics March 6, 2022, at the TD Garden in Boston. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Irving has a $36.5 million player option for the 2022-23 season.