Sunday afternoon’s home opener could have gone a lot better for the Nets, but their blown 4th quarter lead wasn’t the only thing to go wrong.
Ahead of tipoff, a crowd of protesters gathered in front of the Barclays Center, holding up signs in support of Kyrie Irving.
The Nets guard will not be taking the floor for Brooklyn this season due to the league’s vaccine mandates, announced ahead of its 75th season. While he would have been eligible to play in away games, the team decided not to allow any part-time participants as they hunt the first NBA title in franchise history.
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability,” said Sean Marks in his statement a few weeks ago. “It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice.”
Irving hasn’t said much about his reasons to refuse the vaccine, just that he hopes his decision and privacy will be respected. Reports have since hinted the reasoning could be related to New York City’s vaccine mandates on city workers and those out of jobs for turning down the shot.
With the mandates in place, Irving is the only one actually capable of getting himself back on the court, but that didn’t stop the protesters from demanding he take the floor.
“Let Kyrie play!” yelled the crowd, growing more and more raucous as tip-off approached. Eventually the crowd even broke past the gated barriers around the entrance, forcing security to close the doors momentarily.
The delay at the gates led to more than a few empty seats as play got underway at the Barclays Center for the 2021-22 season, but it didn’t take long for order to be restored outside.
In the arena, the Nets weren’t able to hold off the Hornets. The young and hungry Charlotte team, led by LaMelo Ball, were able to keep pace with Brooklyn before outscoring them 32-17 in the fourth quarter.
The team still has plenty of work to do to click and gel as the season gets underway. Without Kyrie, the path to a title is significantly more difficult, but the Nets are still in good hands with Kevin Durant and James Harden.
After falling to the Hornets on Sunday, the Nets responded with a big 104-90 win over the Wizards.