‘I want our whole team together’

Kevin Durant backing down Timberwolves defender white uniform

Kevin Durant joined Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn in 2019 to win an NBA title together. So you’d think he might be upset about Irving’s decision to remain unvaccinated.

But Durant doesn’t see it that way.

“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 said on Thursday night in his first comments since the Nets decided to keep Irving away from the team while he’s unvaccinated.

“And us as players, when we are in that locker room, on that floor, we are going to work with each other. So life is amazing. 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. When Ky is ready, I am sure he will talk to (Nets owner) Joe (Tsai) and (GM) Sean (Marks) and they’ll figure it out and they’ll tell us. Until then we are going to keep grinding.”

Irving’s vaccination stance – and the Nets’ reaction to it – has been the biggest topic in the NBA over the past few days.

But, as Durant alluded to, the Nets have chosen to focus solely on basketball after Marks and Tsai decided that Irving shouldn’t be around the team until he’s vaccinated.

“This is not the ideal situation coming into the season. But some of this, it’s out of our control,” Durant said after the Nets’ preseason win over Minnesota. “So what we can do is come in and focus on our jobs every single day.”

Steve Nash and James Harden echoed Durant’s message when they spoke to the media on Wednesday. Nash said on Thursday that he hadn’t even seen Irving’s 20-minute discussion on Instagram Live about his decision to remain unvaccinated.

“To be honest, I didn’t listen to it,” Nash said before the game. “And I think I’ve pretty much said everything I have to say about it. If something changes, we can talk about it. But now I really want to focus on moving forward and our group, and solutions to the challenge ahead of us.”

Under New York City’s current mandate, Irving needs to be vaccinated to play home games at Barclays Center. The city ruled last week that he could practice at the team’s facility in Brooklyn. Irving is eligible to play in all of the Nets’ road games outside of New York.

But Tsai and Marks decided earlier this week that they didn’t want Irving to be a part-time player for Brooklyn.

Durant seemed to understand the reasoning behind the decision.

“I definitely want Kyrie to be around. I wish none of this stuff would happen, but this is the situation that we’re in,” said Durant, who scored 19 points against the Timberwolves. “Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do, 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 just do my job and let those two parties handle that situation. I want our whole team together. I want us to be at full strength, but sometimes it don’t work out that way. But I’m still positive that things will work out in the best for both parties.”

When asked if he’d spoken to Irving since the team announced their decision on Tuesday, Durant responded briefly by saying “No, I haven’t.”

Irving will be docked roughly $380,000 for each home game that he misses.

The mandate was written by current New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. His term ends on Dec. 31, 2021. The next mayor will have the power to change or rescind the mandate. If it remains in place, Irving will need to be vaccinated in order to play for the Nets.