Durant said he has not spoken to Irving since the Nets decided on Tuesday that their starting point guard will not practice or play with the team until he complies with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for players. But Durant remains optimistic that the situation “will work out” eventually.
“Definitely want Kyrie to be around,” Durant told reporters on Thursday after the Nets completed their preseason with a 107-101 win over the Timberwolves. “I wish none of this stuff would happen but this is the situation that we are in. Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do and he chose to do what he wanted to do and the team did the same.
“It’s on me to just focus on me, and do my job, and let those two parties handle that situation. I want our whole team together, and I want us to be at full strength, but sometimes it don’t work out that way. But I am still positive that things will work out the best for both parties.”
Irving said Wednesday night on Instagram that while he still hopes to play this season for the Nets, he has chosen not to receive at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot as required by New York City to play in home games at Barclays Center and at Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks.
Irving said he not pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine and that he respects both sides. He also reiterated that he is not at odds with the Nets organization or making a political statement.
Durant, who teamed up with Irving to come to Brooklyn in free agency in 2019, said he isn’t upset that he isn’t able to play with Irving as the Nets enter this season with championship expectations.
“We still get to do [what] we love to do every day,” Durant said. “… This is not the ideal situation coming into the season. But some of this, it’s out of our control. So, what we can do is come in and focus on our jobs every single day. What is being mad going to do? We are not going to change his mind, know what I’m saying? We’ll let him figure out what he needs to do and the team figure out what they need to do.”
Durant later told reporters that “I can’t be too mad at somebody making a decision for themselves.”
“Who am I to get upset at that? Just focus on what we got in this locker room,” he said. “When [Irving] is ready, I am sure he will talk to [team owner] Joe [Tsai] and [general manager] Sean [Marks] and they’ll figure it out and they’ll tell us. Until then we are going to keep grinding.”