Kevin Durant has reiterated that he will not force or persuade Kyrie Irving to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Irving had been removed from the Brooklyn Nets’ original list for the 2021-22 season because he had chosen not to receive a vaccine.
New York City’s vaccination mandate means the seven-time all-star won’t be able to play home games unless he’s vaccinated.
Irving would have been available for most of the street games, although the Nets chose not to involve him at all.
That all changed when Irving was recalled due to an exhausted squad caused by a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases and the point guard returned with a 22-point display in Wednesday’s victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Irving was unable to perform on Friday, however, as the Nets lost at home to the Milwaukee Bucks 121-109.
Durant insisted that the Nets accept Irving’s decision.
“I told him how important he is, how much I want him to play, play every game,” Durant told reporters.
“But I’m not going to force anyone to get a vaccine like that isn’t my thing. So that he can play basketball? No, I will not do that.
“We’ve had talks about him being part of the team and talks about him being here full-time, but that’s his time. Whatever decision he wants to make, he will make.
“It’s up to us to be professionals no matter what, getting our jobs done. All of us, from the owner to the device manager, so he’s always ready when he’s ready.”
In Irving’s absence, Durant and star colleague James Harden scored 29 and 16 points respectively for the Nets, but Milwaukee, inspired by Giannis Antetokounmpos’s 31 points, had too much.
“I haven’t even asked for an explanation,” Durant continued. “This is not my place, I think. So I’m ready for anything, that was my whole mentality.
“It’s a strange situation, who knows? I don’t understand most of this shit. COVID, all this stuff was crazy. “
Harden added, “It honestly felt good to have him back [on Wednesday]. It feels good. It felt like an extra life we had.
“But we have to live with what we are dealing with and those are home games that we have to find and even street games.
“Just because Ky is on the road with us doesn’t mean it will be easy for us too. So we have to mesh, we have to find ways to win games.”
Buck’s talisman Antetokounmpo was asked if he would do otherwise.
“When it comes to basketball, I can talk to them,” he replied. “I have to let her make her decision. They are grown men and every situation is different.
“I can’t pressure someone to do something they’re not comfortable with. I can tell you why I did it. Why I felt comfortable doing it. To protect my family, my mother and so on go on, stay safe and you “I just hope he understands. But if he doesn’t want to, I can’t put any further pressure on him. “