For weeks Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets played a game of liar poker.
And Tuesday, the ax and fell: the leader, who refuses to be vaccinated against Covid-19, was removed from the group.
With a big question mark on his future, financial and sporting.
The Brooklyn Nets point guard has been in the hot seat since New York City introduced new health safety protocols preventing unvaccinated adults from taking part in training or matches.
The town hall had made a gesture Friday by allowing Irving to train in the facilities of the franchise, considered private and not public.
This would have allowed him, in theory, to play away games and train at home.
But so the franchise said no.
"Kyrie has made a personal choice and we respect that choice," said Sean Marks, the club's general manager, in a statement, but warns: "We will not allow any member of our team to be only partially available.
“Our goal of being crowned champions this season remains unchanged and to achieve it, each member (…) must push in the same direction,” summarizes Sean Marks.
Implied: he wants full-time players.
Millions of dollars at stake
Kyrie Irving could well miss the start of the NBA season, which opens with a shock between his team and the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks, if he does not rectify his situation by then.
A blow, even if the club can still count on its two other stars, James Harden and Kevin Durant.
If he persists, he'll be missing the entire season, along with millions of dollars in salary - a whopping $ 380,000 per game, according to sports channel ESPN. Nets general manager Sean Marks, however, clarified at a press conference following the announcement Tuesday that only Kyrie Irving's home game income would be withheld by the club. Away games will be well paid to him (since he could in theory play them, and his dismissal is a management decision).
According to The Athletics reporter Shams Charania, Irving, who has two years of contract left, was due to extend for several years with a contract worth $ 186 million now more than uncertain.
According to the reporter, Irving is the only Nets player unvaccinated, with a chasm that has widened with his teammates.
Around 5% of players refusing immunization against Covid-19 in the NBA, according to estimates.
The League, which initially considered making vaccination compulsory, finally gave up when the players' union (NBPA) refused at a meeting held in August.
Kyrie Irving is also the vice-president of the union.
Since then, the authorities of American basketball have been pushing by other means, in particular an extremely strict health protocol for the unvaccinated (daily tests, meals alone, outings and very limited interactions), who are gradually being convinced, like Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors vaccine recalcitrant winger.
Irving refuses to give in.
, Kyrie Irving had shared posts on social media from a conspiracy theorist claiming that "secret societies plant vaccine to connect black people to a large computer as part of a plan by Satan."
The one who refuses to confirm his vaccination status, which he wishes to keep "in the private sphere", split a tweet on Saturday: "I am protected by God and my relatives are too.
We are together.
“Protection that the Nets apparently deemed insufficient.