Much has been made of the role that Kyrie Irving‘s refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine may have played in James Harden‘s tenure with the Brooklyn Nets coming to an end. While Harden has said this played a “very minimal” role in his decision, a new report indicates that the current Philadelphia 76ers star was concerned about Irving’s potential availability in one particular postseason matchup.
According to Ian Begley of SNY, Harden had some worries about Brooklyn drawing the Toronto Raptors in a playoff series. Irving is not able to go to Toronto due to Canada’s regulations regarding the vaccine, and per Begley, “the prospect of playing the Raptors in the postseason was one of the reasons James Harden was concerned about Irving’s vaccine status earlier in the season.”
It’s a concern that could end up playing out — Toronto currently has the 7-seed in the Eastern Conference while Brooklyn sits in eighth, meaning the two teams would play one another in the play-in tournament in Toronto. That is the worst-case scenario for the Nets with regards to Irving’s availability, because if they lost that game, they’d host the winner of the 9/10 game. And while New York City mayor Eric Adams rolled back the city’s vaccine mandate on Friday, it still exists for a collection of workers that contains Irving.
“He has decided to keep vaccine mandates for city workers and for employees at private companies who are working in person,” per this NYT article.
That means Nets guard Kyrie Irving is still sidelined for games in Brooklyn/Manhattan. (1/X) https://t.co/cJMXagLxxR
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) March 4, 2022
Brooklyn currently sits three games behind Toronto for the 7-seed in the Eastern Conference and five games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 6-seed, which would give them an automatic berth in the postseason. As for their ability to make the play-in, the team did get a boost on Thursday night when Kevin Durant returned from injury, but the currently find themselves 2.5 games of the Washington Wizards and the 11-seed.