Brooklyn Nets star James Harden says he’s eager to have teammate Kyrie Irving return to the court.
The Nets said Thursday that Irving will be ineligible to play in Friday night’s home preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks due to New York’s COVID-19 vaccination rules for indoor businesses.
Mandates in New York prohibit unvaccinated individuals from working in or attending events at many indoor spaces, including entertainment venues. Similar rules are in place in San Francisco and will go into effect in Los Angeles as of Nov. 29.
Irving has made clear he does not want to receive the vaccine, even if that means missing 41 home games plus road games against the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers.
“If (Irving’s) not on the court, yeah (it would hurt us). He’s one of our best players and one of our leaders,” Harden said after practice Thursday. “I want him to be on the team, of course.”
Harden was asked if he hopes Irving gets vaccinated.
“He’s been a huge part since I’ve been here, a huge part of our success,” said the 2018 NBA MVP. “The success we did have last year, we were kind of finding a rhythm, that chemistry that we’ve built.
“He’s just a special talent that you don’t really see often, so of course I would want him to be on the team. He’s one of the reasons why I came here.”
Harden was traded to the Nets in January, and Irving joined the team in 2019.
The NBA is not mandating players receive the vaccine, but is imposing strict rules for those who decline it. The league and the players association agreed on a pay reduction equivalent to 1/91.6 of an individual’s salary for each game missed due to local markets’ vaccine mandates.
–Field Level Media