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Durant on Kyrie Irving situation: "What is being mad going to do?"

Kevin Durant said the situation was "hard" but that he and his Brooklyn Nets teammates would have to adapt without banned star Irving, who is refusing to get vaccinated.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Barclays Center on October 14, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
Sarah StierAFP

Brookly Nets star Kevin Durant has spoken publicly for the first time about the situation regarding teammate Kyrie Irving, who has been suspended by the franchise over his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

While Durant confessed it’s “hard” to lose a player of Irving’s caliber, he insisted the team would adapt and try to move on “as a collective”.

Due to an ongoing vaccine mandate in New York, which bans unvaccinated individuals from entering indoor gyms, Irving will be unable to play the Nets’ home games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which is classed as a gym. And while he would be eligible to play in road games outside of New York (except for San Francisco, which also has a vaccine mandate), Nets GM Sean Marks confirmed on Wednesday that the franchise “will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability”.

Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets cheers from the bench during a preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on October 02, 2021.
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Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets cheers from the bench during a preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on October 02, 2021.KEVORK DJANSEZIANAFP

Durant: You’re not going to change Irving’s mind

"I wish none of this stuff would happen, but this is the situation that we're in," Durant said after the Nets' 107-101 preseason victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do. He chose to do what he wants to do and the team did the same. It's on me to just focus on me and do my job. I let those two parties handle that situation. I want our whole team together, I want us to be full strength, but sometimes it don't work out that way."

Asked if he was angry with Irving over his stand-off that sees the Nets without one of their best players, Durant responded: "What is being mad going to do? You're not going to change his mind, you know what I'm saying? We'll let him figure out what he needs to do and the team figure out what they need to do. And us as players, when we're in the locker room, we're on the floor, we're gonna work with each other.

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“Life is amazing, so I can't be too mad at somebody making a decision for themselves. Who am I to get upset at that? Just focus on what we got in this locker room. And when Ky's ready, I'm sure he'll talk to Joe (Tsai) and Sean (Marks) and they'll figure it out and they'll tell us. So until then, we're going to keep grinding."

With Irving -- one of the Nets’ ‘Big Three’ along with Durant and James Harden -- out of the picture, Durant said other players will have to “step up” to fill the 7-time All Star’s shoes, which, of course, will be no easy feat, but something he says the team can manage “over time”.

"When you're losing somebody like Kyrie Irving, I mean, it's hard to, on the fly, just figure out where you're going to get that production from," Durant said. "So I think over time we're going to start to figure out which guys are going to step up and play and fill that void of those minutes, those shots, those opportunities. I think we'll do it as a collective."