NEW YORK — Kevin Durant, like James Harden the day before, said Thursday that he hasn’t spoken to Kyrie Irving since the Brooklyn Nets announced Irving wouldn’t be permitted to be a part-time player. Durant also echoed Harden by saying that he wishes Irving, who is ineligible to play in New York City because of its COVID-19 vaccination regulations, were with the team. The team, however, is trying to move on.
“I wish none of this stuff would happen, but this is the situation that we’re in,” Durant said after the Nets’ 107-101 preseason victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do. He chose to do what he wants to do and the team did the same. It’s on me to just focus on me and do my job. I let those two parties handle that situation. I want our whole team together, I want us to be full strength, but sometimes it don’t work out that way.”
Durant said he is not upset with Irving. It is “not the ideal situation,” he said, “but it is out of our control.” At the same time as he explained that he accepts that this is how it’s going to be, he projected a sense of optimism that Irving will eventually return to the Nets. This would require Irving to get vaccinated or the city to loosen its regulations.
“What is being mad going to do?” Durant said. “You’re not going to change his mind, you 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. And us as players, when we’re in the locker room, we’re on the floor, we’re gonna work with each other. Life is amazing, so 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. And when Ky’s ready, I’m sure he’ll talk to Joe (Tsai) and Sean (Marks) and they’ll figure it out and they’ll tell us. So until then, we’re going to keep grinding.”
Reiterating coach Steve Nash’s comments about adjusting to life without Irving, Durant said that Brooklyn would have to make up for what’s missing as a team. He also preached patience, saying that the Nets have the long view in mind.
“When you’re losing somebody like Kyrie Irving, I mean, it’s hard to, on the fly, just figure out where you’re going to get that production from,” Durant said. “So I think over time we’re going to start to figure out which guys are going to step up and play and fill that void of those minutes, those shots, those opportunities. I think we’ll do it as a collective.”
Irving himself was all but silent throughout the preseason until his Instagram Live on Wednesday. His only press conference this season was done remotely on media day, and he declined to answer questions about being unvaccinated and ineligible to play at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden.
After saying that he supports the franchise’s decision on Wednesday, Nash was not particularly excited to revisit the subject. “I think I’ve pretty much said everything I have to say about it,” Nash said. “I mean, if something changes, we can talk about it, but I really want to focus on moving forward and our group and solutions to the challenge ahead of us.” Nash said he did not listen to Irving’s comments on Instagram Live.
Durant acknowledged that the storyline is not going to go away. He said he is OK with that.
“I think it’s gonna come up throughout the year,” Durant said. “I mean, it may not be an everyday thing like it is now, but I’m sure it’s going to come up here and there. But we’re pros, we understand. We know that [we’ve] got a job to do, so it’s on us to focus in on our job and answer the questions. I mean, I’m not gonna get irritated at what y’all ask. It’s just a part of the job. I anticipate it happening throughout the season and we knew what we were getting ourselves into with something like this were to happen, as far as media wise. So, get prepared now and just be locked in on your job and everything else will take care of itself.”