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Report: NBA teams won’t save on luxury tax if unvaccinated players miss games due to local mandates

Nets star Kyrie Irving

BOSTON, MA - MAY 30: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets hi-fives his teammates after the game against the Boston Celtics during Round 1, Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 30, 2021 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Nets star Kyrie Irving, who’s reportedly unvaccinated, refused to say whether he’ll be eligible for Brooklyn home games.

Unvaccinated Nets, Knicks and Warriors can’t play home games, per local mandates in New York and San Francisco. In fact, players who miss games due to those restrictions will have their salaries reduced.

Two big questions remained about the NBA’s policy:

  • By how much will salaries be reduced?
  • Will this be classified as a league suspension, allowing teams to reduce their luxury-tax payments?

Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks of ESPN:

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have agreed to a reduction in pay of 1/91.6 of a player’s salary for each game an unvaccinated player misses because of local COVID-19 vaccine mandates, sources told ESPN
Teams, however, will not receive any luxury tax relief for the reductions in player salary due to these reductions, sources said.

The 91.6 figure appears to be based on the force-majeure clause of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was the inspiration of pay reduction for players who chose not to play in the Disney World bubble last year. The CBA uses 92.6 (based on five exhibition games, 82 regular-season games and 5.6 playoff games).

Perhaps, the switch to 91.6 was based on a shorter preseason. The Nets and Knicks each have four scheduled preseason games, and NBA teams average 4.4 this year. (The Warriors have five.)

Irving would lose $381,181 in base salary per game missed due to New York’s vaccine mandate. For the full season, he could lose $16,390,793 plus another $381,181 per postseason game.

But good luck determining when Irving is missing a game due to vaccine mandate or injury. Irving could even deliberately cloud the waters on whether he’s injured. Heck, Irving could also be away from the team for some other reason. Players generally don’t have their salary reduced when missing games for personal reasons. The Nets tend to cater to their stars.

The issue might be moot, anyway – at least in Brooklyn and Golden State. Other locations could implement similar mandates.

Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins got vaccinated (protecting $15,169,139 in salary).

Irving also might have let the cat out of the bag at Nets media day, saying, “I know that I’ll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team. … I know that the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions. And this is the last thing I wanted to create was more distractions or more hoopla or more drama around this.”

Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports:

league sources believe Irving will wind up taking the vaccine, citing influence from his close friend and teammate Kevin Durant.

Based on their current roster, the Nets would have had their luxury-tax liability reduced by more than $1 million if the NBA allowed and if Irving missed a single game. Savings for future missed games would have been less, as Brooklyn fell into a lower tier of the progressive tax, though still substantial.

But, really, it seems the priority in Brooklyn was always just hoping Irving would get vaccinated and play home games.

Now, we better understand his incentive to do so.

Besides vaccinated people being less likely to contract, spread and have severe outcomes from coronavirus.