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On today’s episode, Michael and Rohan take stock on the league’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis and Brooklyn’s controversial decision to bring back an unvaccinated Kyrie Irving. They also open up the mailbag and discuss which team will likely give their fanbase the most joy this decade without actually winning an NBA championship before getting into a rather contentious debate about the Utah Jazz. 

The following transcript is an excerpt from the Open Floor podcast. Listen to the full episode on podcast players everywhere or on SI.com.

Michael Pina: So I mentioned Kyrie, we’ve talked a little bit about the Nets, so I want to now change gears and dive into this situation. Over the weekend, the team and Sean Marks specifically put out a press release that I want to read here, and then I’m going to read the press release statement, that they put out in October. So here’s what they put out over the weekend.

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Rohan Nadkarni: Are you sure you don’t want to go with the October one first?

Michael Pina: “After discussions with our coaches, players, and staff, the organization has decided to have Kyrie Irving rejoin the team for games and practices in which he is eligible to participate. We arrived at this decision with the full support of our players and after careful consideration of our current circumstances, including players missing games, due to injuries and health and safety protocols, we believe that the addition of Kyrie will not only make us a better team but allow us to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster. We look forward to Kyrie’s return to the lineup as well as getting our entire roster back together on the court.” 

Okay, now I’m going to read the statement from October and then we are going to discuss this situation. Okay. So in October, the Nets released a statement that said, “Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant. 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. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed and to achieve these goals, each member of our organization must pull in the same direction. We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud” So Kyrie Irving will be joining the Nets shortly. He is in health and safety protocols currently because he is still not vaccinated. Real quick, I just want to say that this is like totally embarrassing, um, for the Nets and not to put like too much of a moral spin on it, but like, they should be kind of like ashamed. Like I don‘t understand. I just don’t get it, frankly. I know that they have a ton of players who are in health and safety protocols, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Joe Harris is injured. You can go on down the list, there‘s a ton of players on their team and they‘re really hurting because of COVID. And the irony of adding a player who refuses to get vaccinated to the team, and suddenly backtracking and allowing him to play on the road, and not in Brooklyn because New York city is not lifting these mandates anytime soon—let me tell you that. That irony is depressing, frankly. I‘m just like really disappointed in the team and what are your thoughts Rohan?

Rohan Nadkarni: I‘m not even surprised. I think Joe Tsai made some comments recently along the lines of like, ‘my only religion is winning championships’ or something along those lines. Wonder if maybe Joe Tsai is kind of putting some pressure on the front office. After all he’s the one who still has to pay Kyrie for not playing—that’s just speculation, I don’t know that. But I mean, frankly, I’m not surprised, but I’m also just like, read the room. You guys are announcing this during like a massive wave of COVID going through the NBA? Like, could you not have timed this somewhat better? Like you had to do this now? 

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