The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have agreed to a reduction in pay of 1/91.6th of a player’s salary for each game an unvaccinated player misses because of local COVID-19 vaccine mandates, sources told ESPN, a decision that stands to impact Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving.
The decision on a reduction was agreed to as a way to account for preseason, regular season and playoff games. Teams, however, will not receive any luxury tax relief for the reductions in player salary due to these reductions, sources said.
Currently, two cities — New York and San Francisco — have COVID-19 mandates that could impact players on the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors. In New York, to enter any gym — including Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center — individuals need proof of at least one COVID-19 shot; in San Francisco, individuals must be fully vaccinated.
There are exemptions in those mandates, both of which were passed in the past several weeks, that cause them to not apply to visiting players. That left two known players — Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins and Irving — who were poised to miss games as a result.
Wiggins, however, has since gotten vaccinated.
“Andrew got vaccinated,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told the media Sunday. “He just told me today that he was fine with us acknowledging it and that will be the end of it. I’m not going to answer any questions beyond that.”
That leaves Irving, who, if unable to participate in home games, would lose roughly $380,000 per game — which would become more than $15 million if he doesn’t get vaccinated at any point this season.
Irving was unable to attend Brooklyn’s media day last week because it was held at Barclays Center. Instead, he joined via a Zoom call from his home, and he asked for privacy.
“I know that I’ll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team and be there for my growing tribe off the court,” Irving said.
“I know the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions. This is the last thing I wanted to create, was more distractions and more hoopla and more drama around this. I’m doing my best to maintain this with good intentions and a good heart.”
Irving then traveled to San Diego to be with his teammates for training camp this past week, though none of Brooklyn’s stars played in Sunday’s preseason opener in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
The Nets are expected to practice back in Brooklyn on Tuesday, which would be the first time Irving would be impacted in a basketball sense by the mandate — assuming he hasn’t gotten a COVID-19 shot. Brooklyn plays preseason home games Friday against Milwaukee and Oct. 14 against Minnesota before playing its first regular-season home game on Oct. 24 against the Charlotte Hornets.
When asked last month about his team’s vaccination status ahead of the start of the preseason, Nets general manager Sean Marks said he expected everyone would be ready to go by the start of the regular season.
“Regarding if they could play today, I can’t comment on who could play and so forth,” Marks said Tuesday in the team’s preseason news conference. “There would obviously be a couple people missing from that picture.
“I won’t get into who it is, but we feel confident, in the following several days before camp, everybody would be allowed to participate and so forth.”
When asked if he believed the issue would be resolved before regular-season games begin, Marks simply said, “Correct.”