Talks have escalated within the New York City government that would loosen the restrictions for unvaccinated people, allowing Kyrie Irving to play home games.
Analyst Stephen A. Smith believes that if Irving is allowed to be a full-time player, the Brooklyn Nets will have no excuses if they do not win an NBA title this season.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has recently given several news conferences saying he is excited to end COVID-19 mandates. That has made Nets fans' ears perk up, as Irving could soon be allowed to play home games. But with Irving’s availability comes the pressure of winning the championship.
Smith voiced those pressures on ESPN's “Stephen A.’s World,” saying:
“Brooklyn’s excuse is going away, too. Because with Kyrie Irving at full availability, the Brooklyn Nets are the clear favorites to win the chip, in the eyes of most people. That is the expectation. This is the bar Kyrie set when he convinced Kevin Durant to forgo Madison Square Garden to avoid the Knicks.”
When Kevin Durant and Irving joined the Nets, it made them clear title contenders, the team has fallen short over the past two seasons. This seems like the season to win the title. The team traded James Harden for Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond and Seth Curry at the trade deadline.
However, Smith makes it seem like it would all be Irving’s fault if they do not win the NBA Finals this year. He even said the rest of the team can step up, and they are just waiting for him.
It's a little unfair, seeming to be a personal vendetta Smith has for Irving, to put the season on one player’s shoulders. The Nets have dealt with injuries and have less than 25 games to gel before the playoffs, which can contribute to missing the NBA Finals this season.
Should the Brooklyn Nets be title favorites with Kyrie Irving playing full time?
The change in the New York City vaccine mandate hasn't happened yet. But if Kyrie Irving can be a full-time player, the Brooklyn Nets' odds of winning a championship will skyrocket. However, it might be unfair for everyone to see them as outright favorites.
Injuries have plagued the Nets over the last two seasons, with Durant, Irving and Harden missing time last season. Durant has missed extended time this season, and it seems like Joe Harris won't return this season. Irving has, of course, missed time because of the COVID-19 restriction. Simmons hasn't played all season while he held out for a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Nets' new Big Three of Durant, Irving and Simmons has yet to play together, so we have no idea how they will work. Many analysts who still have faith in the Nets to win the title are making their predictions purely based on theory.
No one knows how they will play together and how long it might take for them to be comfortable on the court together. That might not happen within the limited time frame before the playoffs start.
This season should still have excuses, just because, once again, the Nets' Big Three might not play enough games together. Next season might be the real test for Irving and the Nets, as they will have a whole offseason to get ready.