Sports

Nets GM ‘confident’ NYC vax order won’t be issue

If his team had to practice today, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said some players would be unable to participate because of New York City’s vaccine mandate.

“Regarding if they could play today, I can’t comment on who could play and so forth,” Marks said Tuesday in the team’s preseason news conference. “There would obviously be a couple people missing from that picture.

“I won’t get into who it is, but we feel confident in the following several days before camp everybody would be allowed to participate and so forth.”

When asked if he believed the issue would be resolved before regular-season games begin next month, Marks simply said, “Correct.”

Earlier this month, the NBA informed teams that players whose home teams play in cities that have implemented local COVID-19 vaccine mandates — currently New York City and San Francisco — will have to abide by them.

The New York executive order, which went into effect on Sept. 13, states anyone over the age of 12 won’t be allowed to enter “certain covered premises” inside the city — including Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden and any other indoor gym or fitness setting — without providing proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption for them not doing so.

The Nets will hold media day Monday in Brooklyn before traveling to San Diego for training camp and playing their first preseason game in California against the Los Angeles Lakers. The team’s first preseason game in Brooklyn will be on Oct. 8, while Brooklyn’s first regular-season home game at Barclays Center won’t be until Oct. 24, when the Nets host the Charlotte Hornets.

“Obviously I can’t get into details for a variety of reasons, whether it’s HIPAA violations or whoever it may be, [but] I think we all understand what’s at stake and we’ve had very candid conversations,” Marks said of discussing the vaccine with Nets players. “Those are individual decisions. … It’s obviously out of our control.

“We are supporting getting the vaccination and putting out a healthy squad. So at this point, I think we’re ready to go into the season, we don’t see these — whether it’s a city-wide mandate or a league mandate to follow — being any sort of hindrance to us putting out a team.”

Meanwhile, Marks said James Harden and Kyrie Irving, who ended last season dealing with hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively, both “look great” and have been working with Brooklyn’s medical team.

Both players, however, have not followed Kevin Durant’s lead and agreed to a contract extension to remain with Brooklyn moving forward. Durant agreed to do so last month, signing a four-year, $198 million extension with the franchise. Harden and Irving are eligible to, but haven’t, which is something Marks hopes will change in the coming weeks.

“We’ve had very positive conversations with both those guys and — whether it’s family members, people and so forth — I think it always helps to do these things in person,” Marks said. “With this being summer, we’re very cognizant of letting people have their own time away before we all get back into the swing of things here.

“We’re looking forward to sitting down with them over the course of the next week, two weeks, and furthering those discussions.”

He added that the discussions that all three have previously had about wanting to be with the Nets moving forward gives him confidence that deals will be consummated with Harden and Irving — both of whom can become unrestricted free agents next summer if they don’t extend their current deals.

“I haven’t really looked at it as a distraction, per se,” Marks said. “Those guys know exactly how we feel, and I think they’ve been vocal about wanting to be part of this and build this together.

“I think we’ve got an opportunity to hopefully build something special here for the foreseeable future. The fact that they want to collaborate, they want to come here together, they want to build this together. I look forward to those discussions with Steve [Nash] and myself and obviously ownership, who’s been incredibly supportive through this whole thing, and with the players. Just like any decision, it’s a partnership and it’s a collaboration.”

The Nets — after losing a heartbreaker in overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks — enter this season as the odds-on favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Marks said the Nets are willing to meet those expectations head on.

“I think our goal is to be the last team standing,” Marks said. “There’s probably, my guess, six, eight, 10 teams that have that same similar goal and a realistic one. For us, it’s about owning that and not shying away from it and doing everything we possibly can putting people into place — whether it’s staff members, players, rounding out the roster — in order to try and accomplish that.”

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