Updated: Jul 20, 2022
This past week, NYC Mayor Eric Adams made headlines in Brooklyn when he was questioned by the press about whether he plans to phase out COVID vaccine mandates for indoor spaces. Mayor Adams responded to the press by saying, “Yes and I can’t wait to get it done.”
Mayor Adams also said that he foresees a “real transformation in the next few weeks.”
And now just a few hours ago, Mayor Adams has said “So long as our indicators show a low level of risk and we see no surprises this week, on Monday, March 7 we will also remove the vaccination requirements Key2NYC – meaning indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment venues.”
With the number of new COVID cases consistently decreasing over the past few weeks, other cities like Boston and Philadelphia phasing out restrictions, and Mayor Adam’s, “can’t wait” attitude and new promise, phasing out the COVID vaccine mandates for indoor spaces seems to be coming to fruition sooner rather than later.
Now, what does this mean exactly in the world of basketball? Well, if you are a New York Knicks fan it means absolutely nothing. You were happy to see RJ Barrett scored a career-high 46 points at home on Friday against the Miami Heat in a 15-point loss. While so-called “perennial superstar” Julius Randle shot 2-15 from the field and finished with 11 points and 4 turnovers. But even with RJ Barrett playing some of the best basketball of his career, you know the only hope for the Knicks for the foreseeable future is to acquire a star like Donovan Mitchell.
However, if you’re a Brooklyn Nets fan, Mayor Eric Adams could be changing this season’s outcome. Before the season started, Kyrie Irving made it clear that he was not going to get the COVID vaccine and because of the NYC COVID vaccine mandates this means he was not going to be allowed to play in home games at both the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden. However, Irving was allowed to travel and play road games with the team even while being unvaccinated. Nets fans and the team believed this was going to be the case for the entire season and there were no real signs of change until this past week.
Today’s messages from Mayor Adams are major news if you are a Brooklyn Nets fan. This could mean getting your superstar point guard Kyrie Irving back and playing in the Barclays Center. This could mean winning the Eastern Conference for the first time since they were the New Jersey Nets back in 2002-2003. This could even mean winning the NBA finals for the first time in franchise history.
Even though, Kyrie Irving has already been playing roads games this season for the Brooklyn Nets they currently stand as the 8th Seed in the East. However, with Mayor Adams declaring to phase out of the COVID vaccine mandate for indoor spaces as soon as next week this could mean Kyrie Irving is back playing in Barclay when the Knicks cross the bridge on March 13th. Or even by March 31st in a rematch of this past weekend’s shocking Nets win verse the Bucks in which Irving scored a season-high of 38 points. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the first game Irving played since Mayor Adams first mentioned a plan to phase out COVID vaccine mandates for indoor spaces Irving had his season-high in points? I’m sure Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, and Mayor Adams have that March 31st date against the Bucks circled on their calendar.
Kyrie Irving was quick to thank NBA commissioner Adam Silver in his post-game presser after the 126-123 Nets win over the Bucks by saying, “My respect level for him went to a whole new level…. he took one for the team.” This was in reference to commissioner Silver saying that he does not understand the New York mandate and how away players who are unvaccinated are allowed to play in the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden, but unvaccinated home players can’t play. But in the end, why does getting Kyrie Irving back to play in home games matter?
Well, Kyrie Irving while playing for the Brooklyn Nets has a record of 29-10 at home. This is compared to his 20-30 record with the Nets while playing on the road. Of course, NBA players and teams typically have a better record and statistics at home than while on the road. But Kyrie Irving is pretty consistent statically both at home and on the road averaging nearly identical splits with the Nets.
And even more impressively, Kyrie Irving has a perfect home playoff record with the Brooklyn Nets of 5-0. This is compared to his 1-3 road playoff record with the Nets. Again, you must be thinking doesn’t every NBA player have a better playoff record at home than on the road? While that is true, Kyrie Irving’s 27-6 record or .818% home playoff winning percentage is tied for the best home playoff winning percentage among all current NBA players with at least 33 playoffs games played. That’s right Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, and even his teammate Kevin Durant have a worse winning percentage at home in the playoffs than Kyrie Irving.
Irving throughout his NBA playoff career averages 6 more points per game at home compared to when he is on the road. And during his 9 career Nets playoffs games he has averaged 3 more assists per game and shoots 10% better from the field on fewer attempts while playing at the Barclays Center.
While all of Irving’s other home and road splits are relatively similar it just shows that Kyrie Irving is among the NBA’s best players when it comes to winning at home in the playoffs. And you can’t forget how clutch Irving is on the road as well.
Knowing that the Nets will be getting Kevin Durant back from his knee injury in about a week. And you don’t need to show any stats to prove how good Durant has played these past 2 seasons with the Nets. Knowing that Ben Simmons, the runner up for 2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year and back-to-back All-NBA 1st Team Defense (2019, 2020) is returning to the 20th best defensive rated team. And now knowing that Kyrie Irving could return to playing home games as soon as a couple of weeks according to Mayor Adams. The Nets should go from looking at the playoffs as the 8th seed and facing either the Heat, Bucks, 76ers or Bulls in the first round to perennial title favorites again.
After beating the Milwaukee Bucks on the road without Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons, the Nets stand as the 3rd favorite to win the NBA Finals at +475. The only teams according to Draftkings.com that have a better chance at winning the Finals are the Warriors at +450 and the Suns at +380. Now when news breaks that Kyrie Irving will be available for home games, the Nets may become the odds-on favorite to win the title. Before the season started when the Nets big 3 (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden) were healthy they were the NBA title favorites at +210. Of course, the Nets team looks significantly different now than it did in the preseason, and they are 8th in the Eastern Conference. But you could only expect the Nets to go back to title favorites when it is declared Irving can play in Barclays again. Especially because this is going to be around the same time Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons make their return to the court. On fanduel.com it looks like you can still get the Nets at +600 to win the NBA Finals.
Shockingly the Nets are still the favorite to win the Eastern Conference without Kyrie Irving playing home games. The Nets according to Draftkings.com stand at +245 to win the East with the Bucks at +330 and 76ers at +370 right behind them. With their current position in the standings the Nets would likely have to face the Heat in the 1st round, Bucks in the 2nd round, and finally the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Which would be an extremely difficult route to the Finals. However, with Irving, Durant, and Simmons all back and playing at Barclays within the month, the Nets could move their way up the Eastern Conference to get at least home court advantage in the 1st round. If the Nets are at +245 to win the Eastern Conference now, they might even come down to +170 when Mayor Adams changes the COVID mandate for indoor spaces. While on fanduel.com it looks like the Nets are still at +290 to win the East which is slightly better odds than on Draftkings.com.
It’s tough to say those are the best bets to take advantage of because the Nets are already the favorites in the East and 3rd favorite to win the NBA Finals, but knowing what we know now the odds may only get steeper. So, if you like the Nets or want to make a smart bet based on Mayor Adams phasing out the COVID vaccine mandate restriction for indoor spaces now is the time to bet on the Nets before what now seems like the inevitable decision that Kyrie Irving can play at the Barclay Center.
And now that Mayor Adams decided to break this news even sooner than we believed, the best bet available might be the Nets to win their division at +1600 according to Draftkings.com. The Nets are currently 5.5 games back of 1st place in the division with 21 games remaining and 12 of those games are at the Barclays Center. The 3 teams ahead of the Nets are the 76ers, Celtics, and Raptors. The 76ers have 22 games left and the 10th hardest strength of schedule in the NBA remaining. The Celtics have only 19 games left but they have the 6th hardest strength of schedule remaining. The Brooklyn Nets have the 19th hardest strength of schedule remaining and just came off a massive road win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
And unlike the other teams who are fully healthy for the first time all year, the Nets might have a full starting lineup within the next week or two. The next 2 games for the Nets will be against the Raptors attempting to overtake them in the division just this week. Even though there might not be enough games remaining for the Brooklyn Nets to take the division from the 76ers and Celtics, if Kyrie Irving is back and playing in the Barclays Center with Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons sooner rather than later who knows?
These Mayor Adams comments made on Twitter today, however, do not mean that Kyrie Irving will immediately become eligible to play in the Barclay Center after March 7th, but it’s a major step in the right direction. And as Mayor Adams just recently said on CNBC as of today, “Listen, I want Kyrie on the court. I would do anything to get that ring.” Do you think Kyrie will be back playing in Barclays soon?
Maxwell Popkin was born and raised in Boca Raton, Florida. He went to the University of Florida and graduated in 2016 with a Degree in Bachelor of Science in Business Administration-Management. He's currently a 2L at New York Law School and is involved in the Sports Law Society Club and had the pleasure of taking Dan Lust's Sports Law Class last semester. He can be reached on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/maxwell-popkin/.