Mark Murphy: Celtics keeping options open re: Tacko Fall and his training camp contract. With Yabu gone, extra roster spot gives flexibility that can be used in variety of ways.
The Celtics have until Wednesday to make decisions on three players’ futures. Two are dead-lock certainties. One is not. While the club will clearly be exercising their 2019-20 options on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the call on Guerschon Yabusele is more complicated. Tatum will get his third-year slot of $7,830,000 next season and Brown will get his fourth-year number, $6,534,829. The Celtics aren’t letting either get out of their sight.
And even though Yabusele’s third-year guarantee would be for a relatively modest $3,117,240, the real dollars are much greater. The club would be committing more than double that because of the luxury tax implications. And at present, Yabusele isn’t part of the main rotation and doesn’t figure to get there without injuries or roster moves that open playing time. It’s possible the Celts could decline the option and sign Yabusele to a more team-friendly deal next summer. But if the C’s pass now, the Dancing Bear will be an unrestricted free agent -- and if he shows something this season, he could be wanted elsewhere. What’s more, if there is demand, Boston would be able to start a new deal at an amount no higher than what it declined. If the option is picked up, the process will play out again at this time next season, when a call will have to be made on $4,781,846 for 2020-21.
But he’s not concerning himself with that just now. “I would love to be back here with the team,” Yabusele said. “The Celtics are a great organization, so if I have a chance to be back here, I would love to do that.”
September 26, 2021 | 6:15 am EDT Update
“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tells Rolling Stone. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research. What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”
Irving, who serves as a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union, recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that “secret societies” are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.” This Moderna microchip misinformation campaign has spread across multiple NBA locker rooms and group chats, according to several of the dozen-plus current players, Hall-of-Famers, league executives, arena workers and virologists interviewed for this story over the past week.
When asked directly about Irving’s vaccination status — or his plans to change it — multiple people familiar with his thinking declined to answer directly. But one confidant and family member floated to Rolling Stone the idea of anti-vaxx players skipping home games to dodge the New York City ordinance… or at least threatening to protest them, until the NBA changes its ways.
“There are so many other players outside of him who are opting out, I would like to think they would make a way,” says Kyrie’s aunt, Tyki Irving, who runs the seven-time All-Star’s family foundation and is one of the few people in his regular circle of advisors. “It could be like every third game. So it still gives you a full season of being interactive and being on the court, but with the limitations that they’re, of course, oppressing upon you. There can be some sort of formula where the NBA and the players can come to some sort of agreement.”
A spokeswoman for Irving declined to respond to a list of questions regarding his vaccination and playing status, and Irving did not immediately respond to a message from Rolling Stone. But as teams return to pre-season training camps next week, fifty to sixty NBA players have yet to receive a single vaccine dose, league sources tell RS. Most are considered merely reluctant skeptics. Some of the holdouts, however, amount to their own shadow roster of anti-vaxxers mounting a behind-the-scenes resistance to Covid protocols — and the truth.
Isaac considers un-vaxxed players to be vilified and bullied, and he thinks “it’s an injustice” to automatically make heroes out of vaccinated celebrities. He rejects the NBA’s proposal for a vaccine mandate and social distancing for players like him during team travel: “You can play on the same court. We can touch the same ball. We can bump chests. We can do all those things on the court. And then when it comes to being on the bus, we have to be in different parts of the bus? To me, it doesn’t seem logically consistent. “If you are vaccinated, in other places you still have to wear the mask regardless. It’s like, ‘OK, then what is the mask necessarily for?’” Isaac continues. “And if Kyrie says that from his position of his executive power in the NBPA, then kudos to him.”
Enes Kanter — the veteran center, devout Muslim and outspoken liberal — senses a creep of the religious right upon his workplace, which just happens to involve players like Isaac sweating all over him and yelling in his face: “If a guy’s not getting vaccinated because of his religion, I feel like we are in a time where the religion and science has to go to together,” he tells RS. “I’ve talked to a lot of religious guys — I’m like: ‘It saves people’s lives, so what is more important than that?’”
In their sit-down interview back in August, Durant and Green rehashed the incident and how it ultimately affected KD’s decision to leave the Warriors. Surprisingly, KD claimed it wasn’t the beef itself that pushed him away, but the way Steve Kerr, Bob Myers and the front office handled things. “It wasn’t the argument,” the former Warriors star said. “It was the way that everybody … Steve Kerr acted like it didn’t happen. Bob Myers tried to just discipline you and think that would put a mask over everything. I really felt that was such a big situation for us as a group, the first time we went through something like that. We had to get that s— all out.”