The rubber has finally met the road for Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets.
Following the seven-time All-Star's refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the Nets have banned Irving from participating with the franchise until he receives the shot. That effectively takes the Nets from a big three to a dynamic duo with Kevin Durant and James Harden leading the way.
Irving has not budged on his stance to remain unvaccinated and according to New York City's vaccine mandates, Irving would not be allowed to play home games at the Barclays Center. He was recently permitted to practice in Brooklyn, but he would only be able to play road games, which basically makes him a part-time employee that could potentially ruin any on-court chemistry the team needs to build to be NBA championship contenders.
While Irving has the personal choice whether to get the vaccine or not, he's hurting his team's chances to win the title this season ... or is he?
Are the Nets so talented that they might not even miss Irving in their quest for a ring?
No Place Like Home
It is pretty obvious that athletes tend to perform better when playing at their home arena. However, Irving's career home-road splits are pretty telling. Irving enjoys some home cooking.
Throughout his career, Irving's +/- at home is a whopping +1301 while on the road, Irving is actually at a -83. Last season, Irving had a +/- of +204 at home in 28 games while only having a +25 in 26 road games. For his entire Brooklyn Nets career, Irving has played in 39 home games and is sitting at a +251 while he is at -29 in his 35 career road games with the Nets.
The Brooklyn Nets are just simply getting outscored on the road when Irving is on the court. If the Nets allowed Irving to play part-time, which they won't, he would only be hurting the team. It is clear that he is just not as good as a player when he is on the road. The stat sheet will always look pretty because Irving is just that talented, but his actual impact on the road is troubling.
Playoffs?! We're talking about playoffs?!
Unless a meteor comes hurtling towards Earth in the near future, the Nets are going to the playoffs.
Durant and Harden are too good of a pair to miss the playoffs in a top-heavy Eastern Conference. Irving would, of course, help to lighten the offensive load for the two former MVPs, he wouldn't add much on defense — which takes on greater importance in the postseason.
Even though Irving is a +71 in his 37 career road playoff games, having a key member of your team not playing at home in the playoffs is not good for the team. The Nets are probably going to have homecourt in every series they play in. What happens when it is game seven at the Barclays Center? Now, vaccine mandates may change from now until April-June but as of now, Irving would have to sit out a do-or-die game.
Do you really want the questions hovering over you all postseason about Irving's availability? You would of course rather have Irving just be available to play in every game, but that is not reality at this point.
Us Against The World
What happens when the Nets go on a three-game losing streak at home, and then they immediately pick up a road win? That scenario is very specific but it is likely that the Nets will go on a losing streak at some point.
If something like that happens, the media, especially the New York media will try and rip this team apart. This is no different than what happened with Durant and the Golden State Warriors. The second Durant put on a Warriors jersey he was ostracized from the team. It was never "The Golden State Warriors" it was always "Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors."
Any sign of turmoil within the team will be used to break them up, especially considering how talented they are. With the current situation the way that it is, turmoil is not a possibility it is inevitable.
There is no doubt that this will happen with Irving and the Nets, especially considering Irving's reputation of "my way or the highway." Stubborn maybe a little harsh to describe his personality, but he is cut from that same cloth. He will not do anything that doesn't appeal to him and that is fine, but Irving is a weird cat.
Will The Nets Miss Him?
Yes, Brooklyn will absolutely miss a talent like Irving if he decided to not comply. Irving is unbelievably talented and has proven to be a big-game player.
I am a Cavs fan so any excuse I have to use this clip, I will.
Anyway, Irving is a Hall-of-Fame talent that the Nets would love to have, but they do not need him. Adding Irving to a roster that includes Durant, Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Joe Harris, and a plethora of other talented role players is more of a luxury than a need. With or without him, the Nets are a championship contender.
Time will tell what Irving's next move is, but that could literally be anything. There is not a single thing imaginable that would be shocking if Irving went that route. I have yet to rule out the possibility that Irving has been creating his own vaccine.
The answer is simple, the Nets will miss Irving's talents but they will not miss the extra baggage that comes with it. He is polarizing both on and off the court. The latter is just a different level of extreme that makes him not worth the headache.
Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration