As NBA teams go deep into training camp, the league will make a push before the season opener to get more players vaccinated. By Oct. 8, all teams must “hold at least a 15-minute education and awareness session (in which a team physician and the team GM must participate) with players and Tier 1 personnel,” the NBA said in its 61-page COVID-19 healthy and safety document for the 2021-22 season.
Brian Lewis: I asked #Nets owner Joe Tsai if he’s worried that Kyrie Irving will miss games due to vaccine hesitancy and local mandates: “Kyrie talks about it as a sort of personal choice issue, which I respect. But we all need to not forget that our goal, what is our goal this year…” #nba
Where do you stand on some players, such as Kyrie, Andrew Wiggins and Bradley Beal, declining to take the COVID-19 vaccine? Shaquille O’Neal: “In this line of work, sometimes you have to be selfless. The day I decided it wasn’t all about me and it’s about us is the day I started winning and really started dominating. I understand the issues and all that. But I took the vaccine because I’m not trying to get my mother sick, or my sister or my brother or people around me. I know people say, ‘The vaccine came too fast and is it healthy.’ To each his own. But sometimes you have to think about the overall picture and you have to think about more than yourself.
Shaquille O’Neal: "I wouldn’t want to be part of a team that couldn’t get together and couldn’t win a championship because you did this. So sometimes you have to look in the mirror and say, ‘It ain’t about me; it’s about other people.’ As men, you have to respect a guys’ decision. But if I was on the team and I was a guy that had a say on the team, I would say, ‘You have to get him out of here; he’s a distraction.’ They have a really good shot to win. With him there, they have an even better shot. But I don’t want to come to practice every day having to answer questions about him. I’ve been through that before, and it’s nerve-wracking. We want to come to play and win and focus on what we have to do. We don’t want to focus on him not doing this or not doing that. Or the NBA can say, ‘If you don’t want to follow the laws and the guidelines, we’ll forfeit all of your money.’ I think a lot of times when you have the guaranteed contract, guys think they can do whatever they want to do. I’m not bashing him. It’s his decision. But they’re trying to win there and need to get this done. If everyone else on the team could do it, he should think about that."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Last summer up to 26 million Americans marched in the streets in support of Black Lives Matter, specifically police brutality toward African Americans. George Floyd and Breanna Taylor put faces to a violent practice in law enforcement that has taken hundreds of innocent Black lives. America was outraged. They’d had enough. It was one of the proudest moments in American history. Which is why it is so disappointing to me that many of the same people who took to the streets a year ago to protest racism are okay with standing by and letting it take hundreds of Black lives every day. The principle is the same: systemic racism encouraged and allowed police to target Black people with excessive, sometimes fatal violence. And systemic racism is allowing COVID-19 to kill a disproportionate number of Blacks.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: According to the COVID Race Tracker, at least 73,462 Blacks have died in the U.S. from COVID-19. The CDC reports that Black people are 2.8 times more likely to become hospitalized by the virus and 2 times more likely to die from the disease compared to Whites and Non-Hispanics. To put it simply, if COVID was a racist cop choking out a Black person on the street, would you lift your voice in protest? Or would you say, “It’s his choice. He didn’t have to leave his home to go for a jog or grocery shop.”
Irving and his vaccination stance have been an elephant in the room for some time, but Steve Nash insisted he hadn’t spoken to his All-Star point guard about the prospect of being unable to play or even practice at home, with the Nets’ HSS Training Center also falling under the city guidelines. “No, I haven’t talked to him about it,” Nash said when asked by The Post. “I know he’s been great in camp, playing well and I’m excited to have him back on the floor. I’ve missed watching him play, coaching him. So, yeah, it’s just been great to have him back. So I really haven’t been involved with that side of things.”
With the Nets seen as one of the biggest favorites for the NBA championship, to see their run potentially derailed or hampered by something non-basketball related is definitely a shame. That reality is not lost on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who sent a plea to Kyrie Irving to get the Covid-19 vaccine. “I’m a fan of Kyrie. I would just appeal to him — get vaccinated,” de Blasio said on the Nets star. “Your fans want to see you. We all want you back. Your teammates want you back. Look, there are teams now that are 100% vaccinated. That’s a great example to everybody else.”
Across the Atlantic Ocean, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez appeared to reference Irving during a session of parliament over the star’s purported backing of COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories. “I have been a basketball fan for many years, and I follow the NBA basketball league a lot,” Sanchez told the parliament. “Nowadays, there is a problem in the NBA itself. There are several players who have spoken out against vaccinations. “There is an NBA star who says he does not want to vaccinate because there is a conspiracy to vaccinate blacks and connect them with a computer that has a Satanic plan. This is verbatim.” To be clear, it’s not exactly verbatim and Irving has not said that.
Luka Doncic, who earlier this year said he contracted COVID-19 last offseason, was asked point-blank on Monday whether he is vaccinated. “I mean, yeah, but I want to keep it private,” he said. “Everybody should have their own choices, what they do.”
Mayor de Blasio made a public plea Wednesday for Nets’ guard Kyrie Irving to get his COVID shots as the city continues its push for more New Yorkers to get vaccinated. “I’m a fan of Kyrie. I would just appeal to him – get vaccinated,” he said. “Your fans want to see you. We all want you back. Your teammates want you back. Look, there are teams now that are 100% vaccinated. That’s a great example to everybody else.”
When asked if Irving was letting fans down, de Blasio declined to go there. “It’s not time to say that yet. We have weeks and weeks before the season begins,” he said. “I think his fans are going to say to him, ‘C’mon, join us, help us, let’s keep everyone safe — keep your own family safe, keep your teammates safe, keep your community safe.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) said that he “stands” with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving and other NBA players who have shared their hesitancy about the COVID-19 vaccine. “I stand with Kyrie Irving. I stand with Andrew Wiggins. I stand with Bradley Beal. I stand with Jonathan Isaac,” Cruz wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, along with the hashtag #YourBodyYourChoice.
Cruz also applauded Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James for his comments Tuesday, when the superstar shared that he decided to get vaccinated after researching it, but didn't intend to try to influence others to follow his lead. "I’ve never said this before: I agree with @KingJames,” Cruz said in the Twitter thread. “With his box-office power, he could be even more courageous—he could SOLVE the problem—by saying: “I stand w/ my fellow players. And I won’t play in any arena that bans another NBA player because they make a personal healthcare choice.”
Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. isn’t comfortable taking the vaccine for COVID-19 and is adamant there shouldn’t be a mandate for NBA players to take it. Porter, in an interview with The Denver Post, said his opinion is based on two separate bouts with COVID. “For me, I had COVID twice, I saw how my body reacted, and although the chances are slim, with the vaccine, there’s a chance you could have a bad reaction to it,” Porter said. “For me, I don’t feel comfortable”
Michael Porter Jr: “My stance on the mandate is it definitely shouldn’t be a mandate. It should be everyone’s decision. I see it both ways. If you want to get it because you feel more protected and you feel safer, and it’s protecting people around you, get it. That’s good for you. But if you feel like, ‘Oh, for me, I don’t feel safe getting it, then don’t get it.’”
Porter isn’t the only Nuggets player unvaccinated. He, along with any unvaccinated teammate, will be subject to onerous testing and other restrictions. The guidelines are outlined in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Tim MacMahon: Mavs reserve G Trey Burke confirms he is not vaccinated and says he’s “not trying to rush into a decision.” He says he wants to do more research. Asked what more research he feels he needs to do, Burke mentioned potential long-term effects. Mavs want 100% vaccination rate.
Mirjam Swanson: Ty Lue on COVID protocols: "Our guys are vaccinated, so we just try to abide by the rules... do what we do to play the game we love... "Our guys are fully vaccinated."
Ben Rohrbach: If the NBA applies the same standard to missed games for violation of local vaccine mandates as it does unpaid suspensions, Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins stand to lose almost $250K per game and nearly $15 million for the season.
According to the Census’ Household Survey, about 90 percent of adult Americans who earn $150,000 or more a year have been fully vaccinated. Given that every NBA player earns more than that, I think it’s safe to say that a 90 percent vaccination rate is the least we should expect. In other words, telling fans not to lose sight of the fact that 90 percent of the league is vaccinated is like when I tell my upset girlfriend not to lose sight of the fact that 90 percent of my piss made it into the toilet.
Ian Begley: In statement, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts notes that over 90% of players are fully vaccinated. “The real story is not why vaccination isn’t mandated in the NBA. The real story for proponents of vaccination is how can we emulate the Players in the NBA.” Full statement: pic.twitter.com/DS46qtvju4
Asked what makes him “hesitant” to get the vaccine, Isaac started by recalling his own experiences, having already been infected with Covid-19. “I would start with I’ve had Covid in the past and so our understanding of antibodies, of natural immunity has changed a great deal from the onset of the pandemic and is still evolving,” Isaac said. “I understand that the vaccine would help if you have Covid, you’ll be able to have less symptoms from contracting it. But with me having Covid in the past and having antibodies, with my current age group and physical fitness level, it’s not necessarily a fear of mine. “Taking the vaccine, like I said, it would decrease my chances of having a severe reaction, but it does open me up to the albeit rare chance but the possibility of having an adverse reaction to the vaccine itself.
“I don’t believe that being unvaccinated means infected or being vaccinated means uninfected. You can still catch Covid with or without having the vaccine. “I would say honestly the craziness of it all in terms of not being able to say that it should be everybody’s fair choice without being demeaned or talked crazy to doesn’t make one comfortable to do what said person is telling them to do.
Ted Cruz: 1/2 Jonathan Isaac is absolutely right: "It is my belief that the vaccine status of every person should be their own choice, completely up to them, without bullying, without being pressured, without being forced into doing so."
Same with Bazemore, who you’ll remember said last spring he would not be taking the vaccine. On Tuesday, he said, among other things, “I’m a big energy person, and I didn’t feel the right energy toward it.” This is where the Lakers organization and, specifically, Rob Pelinka deserve a ton of credit. Bazemore cited a conversation with Pelinka during free agency in which the Lakers’ vice president of basketball managed to persuade the 10th year swingman it was in his best interest. “He laid it down to me in the most fairly honest way that I ever heard,” Bazemore said. “To pass up an opportunity like this to be on a roster with so many greats, especially during my era, it would be a hard opportunity pass up.”
“At the end of the day,” Bazemore said, “one thing you don’t want to have is regret. If I go to another team or miss this season because I didn’t do it, or I got to watch (these) guys probably with the Larry O’Brien Trophy, I’m gonna be pretty hurt. … This is a situation I can’t pass up. I’m glad I’m putting it behind me.”
Although the 100 percent vaccination rate the Lakers talked about would seem to suggest Howard either is fully inoculated, has received one or more shots or has committed to, he declined to reveal his vaccination status. “I’m just going to keep that out and not talk about any of the vaccine,” he said. “I’m sorry. I can’t do it. I have a lot of opinions, but not on camera. I have nothing to say.” Smiling, he invoked “HIPAA laws.” As I said at the time, “That’s not what HIPAA is, but OK.”
Shams Charania: NBA's 65-page health and safety protocols for ‘21-22 include restrictions on non-fully-vaccinated players, such as: No dining indoors in same room as other player, 6 feet of distance in team meeting, distant locker, remain at residence or hotel, prohibited from public venues.
Tim Bontemps: The NBA and NBPA are in the process of finalizing an agreement on COVID-19 health and safety protocols for the upcoming season, sources told ESPN.
Tim Bontemps: The impending agreement will cover the way vaccinated and unvaccinated players will be monitored, sources told ESPN. Unvaccinated players will have restrictions similar to what was in place last season, while vaccinated players largely won’t.
Tim Reynolds: The NBA has given teams a draft of the health and safety protocols for this season. As reported, unvaccinated players will be tested (almost) daily, vaccinated players will not be. Unvaxxed players will also be limited in how much they can be around vaxxed players in team areas.
Ben Rohrbach: Dwight Howard on a change of heart on vaccines: “I’ve got a lot of opinions on that, but I’m going to keep that private. HIPAA Law.” Reporter tells Howard, “That’s not what HIPAA is, but OK."
Bill Oram: Kent Bazemore on his initial vaccine skepticism: “I’m a big energy person and I didn’t feel the right energy around it.” But after talking to Rob Pelinka, he said, he changed his mind. Said he has had his first shot and his second is forthcoming.
Bill Oram: LeBron says he was very skeptical of the vaccine but after doing his research decided it was the right choice "not only for my family and for my friends, that's why I decided to do it."
Tim Reynolds: LeBron on vaccinations and the Lakers planning to get to 100% by the start of the season: "It was never a team discussion, but I think at the end of the day you're figuring out ways to always be available and protect one another."
Kyle Goon: Anthony Davis: "I think everybody on the team is vaccinated, if I'm not mistaken. We all have families. I did it for my family. ... I just wanted to make sure I'm always protecting my family, first and foremost."
Ben Rohrbach: Bradley Beal is asked again about how he came to the personal decision not to get the COVID vaccine: "I’m still considering getting the vaccine, so one thing I want to make clear is that I’m not sitting up here advocating that you shouldn’t get the vaccine.”
Chase Hughes: Bradley Beal clarified today after yesterday’s comments that he does not believe “the vaccine is bad” and says he doesn’t want anyone to think he was advocating against others getting them.
Adrian Wojnarowski: In response to inquiry to NBA concerning vaccination mandates for players, league spokesman Mike Bass tells ESPN: “A vaccine mandate for NBA players would need an agreement with the Players Association. The NBA has made these proposals but the players’ union has rejected any vaccination requirement.”
Though roughly 90% of NBA players are vaccinated as training camp approaches Tuesday, tension exists between those around the league mandated to be vaccinated and the nearly 40 unvaccinated players, league sources told ESPN.
In some instances, vaccinated staffers say they're concerned about the health risks of being exposed to unvaccinated players. In others, staffers say they're upset that players aren't facing the same vaccine requirements as most team staff and referees. In still others, there's animosity toward the league itself for not imposing such a mandate.
One vaccinated Western Conference strength and conditioning coach said they're concerned about a potential breakthrough case that could affect family members. "For me, it's a problem because my parents are very sick, and I'm in close contact with these guys and I would hate to bring this home and my parents pass away from it," the coach told ESPN.
Health and safety protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players have not yet been finalized, league sources said. But it's expected, as ESPN previously reported, that unvaccinated players will face more testing and be asked to sit in separate areas of team meetings, team meals, locker rooms, on the team plane and bus.
But a second league source also tied to training staffs noted that many peers "believe the league is prioritizing the athletes' lives over their own. On the opposite side, some members don't want to force anyone to vaccinate if they feel uncomfortable with it, but it should be a standard set across the board instead of the league one way and the players the other."
NBA insiders say they’re not aware of any games being missed because of a reaction to the vaccine. Beal, though, did miss time. His case of COVID cost him a spot in the Olympics and the chance to compete for a gold medal.
There’s still time. The Warriors’ regular-season home opener is three weeks from Thursday and it’ll take two weeks from a Johnson & Johnson shot (the one he’d be offered, per sources) to be fully vaccinated. So Oct. 7 is the consequential date. He is eligible to practice this week and appear in the first four preseason games, since the San Francisco rule doesn’t enact until Oct. 13.
Irving couldn’t participate in the on-site media day festivities, and league sources believe Irving will wind up taking the vaccine, citing influence from his close friend and teammate Kevin Durant. “That doesn’t mean that I’m putting any limits on the future of me being able to join the team,” Irving said later.
According to Rolling Stone, Isaac was “studying Black history and watching Donald Trump’s press conferences” to inform his vaccine stance. (Former President Donald J. Trump was vaccinated in January, but states that he won in the 2020 election have much lower vaccination rates than those that favored President Biden.) On Monday, Isaac disputed the magazine’s characterization of him. “I’m not anti-vax. I’m not anti-medicine. I’m not anti-science. I didn’t come to my current vaccination status by studying Black history or watching Donald Trump press conferences,” Isaac said. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for every health care worker and person in Orlando and all across the world that have worked tirelessly to keep us safe.”
Evan Barnes: Desmond Bane had no problem getting vaccinated against Covid-19 since he grew up getting vaccines for other viruses. “Whatever happens down the road, I’ll be fine knowing that I was one of those people that was at least trying to save the other people”
CJ McCollum: I think it’s important we don’t lose sight of the fact that 90% of the league is vaccinated. Happy Monday.
Dieter Kurtenbach: Nemanja Bjelica to Andrew Wiggins in the hallway: “Get the shot." Wiggins: Tough crowd in there, man.
Monte Poole: 'I know. And it's my problem, not yours.' Warriors F Andrew Wiggins, reminded that being unvaccinated could cost him millions in salary.
Quinton Mayo: Yes I had it, and I can get it again. There is still a possibility vaccinated or not. - Bradley Beal
Quinton Mayo: I don't think it will be. We're going to play basketball and do that at the highest level. We have protocols and things in place to make sure we're taken care of and tested regularly. - Bradley Beal on his vaccination status being a distraction
Ben Rohrbach: Bradley Beal on his bout with COVID-19, which cost him the Olympics: "I didn’t get sick at all. I lost my smell. That’s it.” Beal adds that no one will talk about adverse reactions to the vaccine and how it impacts player health. No NBA player has missed time due to the vaccine.
Quinton Mayo: Certain things in health should be personal. Especially us as athletes and the platform we have. I believe certain things should always be kept in house. - Kyle Kuzma on reasons why he doesn't want to share his vaccination status
Quinton Mayo: At the end of the day nobody really knows how things are going to go. America doesn't know. - Kyle Kuzma on vaccination and how it impacts the NBA
June 28, 2022 | 7:24 pm EDT Update
Sources said the Mavs are willing to give Brunson a five-year contract — which only Dallas can offer due to owning his Bird rights — that is comparable to the four-year, $85 million deal guard Fred VanVleet signed with the Toronto Raptors in 2020.
Brunson, an unrestricted free agent because the fourth season of his rookie deal was non-guaranteed instead of a team option, declined the Mavs’ offer of a four-year, $55.5 million contract extension after the trade deadline, when Dallas forward Dorian Finney-Smith signed an identical deal. By that point, Brunson was confident that he would make significantly more as a free agent.
Brunson had informed the Mavs in January that he was willing to sign the extension if it was offered then, his father Rick Brunson told ESPN during the playoffs. Dallas made the calculated decision to hold off on discussions until after the trade deadline, in case the Mavs had the opportunity to trade for a star, as an extension would have prevented Brunson from being eligible to be traded before the deadline.
Mark Murphy: Marcus Smart on all that trade talk: “Every year my name is in talks, and I’m still here. I’m still the longest tenured Celtic. So I take it as a compliment. It means you’re valued pretty high and if your name is talked about people want you. But I don’t pay much attention.”
Mark Murphy: Smart on C’s attracting free agents: “We got a bad rep in Boston for (FA’s). This year we opened a lot of eyes to how this team really is. It’s not everybody for themselves. Everybody is for each other, and I think maybe (FA’s think) I can give it a shot in Boston. We’ll see.”
Kyle Goon: Scotty Pippen Jr., a new Lakers’ two-way addition, says he and his HoF dad Scottie stopped playing one-on-one about two years ago: “I was wearing him out. I used to beat him, and he’d fake injuries and stuff. He wouldn’t give me the credit so we stopped playing a while ago.”
June 28, 2022 | 7:01 pm EDT Update
According to an NBA source familiar with the situation, the Miami Heat are willing to extend a fully guaranteed contract for the maximum-allowable three years to free-agent power forward P.J. Tucker. The Heat’s offer is built off the $8.4 million non-Bird salary-cap exception, which would put the team’s standing offer at $27 million over three years.