Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving (11), shown Dec. 13, 2020, was unable to play in 43 regular-season games due to New York City's COVID-19 vaccination mandate. File Photo by Peter Foley/EPA-EFE
Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said Tuesday that Kyrie Irving's choice to not comply with New York City's COVID-19 vaccination mandate left the franchise with "no choice" but to send the star point guard away from the team until he's eligible to fully participate.
"He has a choice to make, and he made his choice," Marks told reporters during a virtual news conference. "Again, my job here is to make what we deem as the best decision and best choices for the organization moving ahead as a whole. They're not always ones that are going to be met with open arms and a thumbs-up.
"These are hard decisions. Just like I'm sure it wasn't easy for Kyrie either to have to make that [decision] to not be around his teammates."
Earlier Tuesday, the Nets released a statement from Marks saying the team decided Irving wouldn't have "part-time availability" for the 2021-22 season. He noted the franchise would welcome back Irving once he complied with New York City's vaccine mandate.
The COVID-19 vaccination mandate, which went into effect last month, outlines that anyone entering an indoor gym -- including the Nets' Barclays Center and the New York Knicks' Madison Square Garden -- must have received at least one vaccine shot.
As a result of the mandate, Irving was set to miss at least 43 regular-season games -- 41 at Barclays Center and two at Madison Square Garden -- and two preseason games in Brooklyn. Marks confirmed that Irving would only lose salary for those games -- about $380,000 per game.
"Ultimately, this decision was [Nets owner] Joe Tsai and myself, and this decision came down to what we felt was the right move for the organization at this time," Marks said when asked if fellow Nets stars Kevin Durant and James Harden were consulted on the move.
Marks had multiple conversations with Irving regarding the situation before making his decision. The general manager, however, didn't reveal whether he gave Irving the news personally.
"Kyrie has made it clear he has a choice in this matter, and it's ultimately going to be up to him what he decides," Marks said. "We respect the fact that he has a choice and he can make his own right to choose. Right now, what's best for the organization is the path we are taking, and I don't want to speak for Kyrie.
"At the right time, I'm sure he will address his feelings and what the path may be for him."
Marks also was directly asked whether Irving was vaccinated, saying: "Well, if he was vaccinated, we wouldn't be having this discussion. I think that's probably pretty clear."
The decision comes a week before the Nets are set to open the NBA season with a matchup against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.