Brooklyn Nets governor Joe Tsai was reportedly "unhappy" with superstar Kyrie Irving for taking a two-week break for personal reasons during the 2020-21 NBA season.
Anthony Puccio of the Sports Section reported Tuesday that Tsai didn't like how Irving "disappeared from the team" and was then spotted violating the league's COVID-19 protocols to attend his sister's birthday party.
The report came after the Nets announced the 29-year-old guard won't practice or play for the team this season "until he is eligible to be a full participant." He's ineligible to play in New York City because of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place for large-scale events.
Irving missed seven games while away from the Nets in January. Upon his return, the seven-time All-Star said he was handling some "family and personal stuff" and thanked the team for its support:
"It's been great. It's been enough support for me to feel like they have my back and you know that's all I can ask for not only supporting me but my family. I'm a hometown kid, so you know things hit a little different when family and personal stuff going on and that's up to me to handle that as a man. But yeah, I just take full accountability for my actions with the guys and just had a conversation with each one of them and we move on."
He added the absence was part of trying to "stay balanced" between life and basketball: "If you don't create that distinction, then it's easy to feel the weight of the world while you're going out there and playing."
Now his availability for the 2021-22 season is uncertain because of his choice not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
While the Duke product has taken stances in the past that conflict with scientific research, most notably suggesting he thought there was some credence to the ludicrous flat Earth theory, sources close to the Nets guard told Shams Charania of The Athletic that's not the case in this instance.
People with "direct knowledge of Irving's decision" to remain unvaccinated told Charania he's not anti-vaccine and views his decision as a way to stand with people who are losing their jobs because of vaccine mandates.
"Kyrie wants to be a voice for the voiceless," one source told The Athletic.
Yet, when given the chance to address his vaccination status and the reasons behind it at the Nets' media day in September, Irving opted against it.
"Honestly, I'd like to keep that stuff private. I'm a human being first. Obviously living in this public sphere it's just a lot of questions about what's going on in the world of Kyrie," he told reporters.
For now, the Nets have decided to move forward without Irving for the foreseeable future. If he remains sidelined for the entire campaign, it'll be a major blow to the team's championship hopes.
Brooklyn tips off the regular season Oct. 19 when it visits the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.