NBA-Nets owner Tsai unsure when unvaccinated Irving will play again

FILE PHOTO: Jun 5, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts after a three point shot against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first quarter of game one in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai said he is not sure when Kyrie Irving will play for them again, with the guard unable to join the team having chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The NBA does not require players to be inoculated but Irving is not eligible to play in home games because a New York mandate requires proof of at least one shot of the vaccine to enter large indoor spaces.

The Nets announced ahead of this season that Irving, a seven-times All-Star who joined Brooklyn in 2019 after stints with Cleveland and Boston, would not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant.

"I don't know," Tsai told ESPN in an interview when asked about Irving's return. "He has to be vaccinated in order to come back if the New York mandate is still in place. Don't ask me when they may or may not change the mandate.

"If you ask the people that are making decisions at the city level, they're going to say 'we're going to rely on science, rely on what the health department tells us'."

Tsai said he had not spoken to Irving since the team took a stance on his participation.

"Kyrie has his own belief so I respect that. But we have to make a team decision. This isn't a decision about him. This is a decision about where we go as a team," Tsai said.

"And it's just not tenable for us to have a team with a player that comes in and out, no home games, only away games. What do you do in practice then? This week we have a whole stretch of six home games, so we won't have Kyrie.

"We're very much aligned ... that this has to be, especially since we're a team with pretty lofty aspirations. We don't see any other way of running this team."

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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