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No NBA COVID-19 protocol violation for Kyrie Irving this time.
Irving went to exchange jerseys with Miami’s Bam Adebayo Saturday after his longtime friend had a career night, but a Heat security staffer quickly blocked the swap and ushered the All-Star big man away from Irving.
Brooklyn center DeAndre Jordan affectionately shooed Adebayo away as well with a pat on the head. The scene after the Nets’ 128-124 win Saturday night at Barclays Center was surreal, but encapsulates the COVID era we’re living in.
“I just want to follow NBA protocols,” Irving said with a wan laugh, before adding as he left the Zoom call “I have the jersey, by the way.”
It’s understandable if Irving wants to follow protocol and protect his wallet.
The last time the Nets point guard got caught breaching league protocols – going maskless at a birthday party with over 15 people – he got fined $50,000 and was ordered to quarantine for five days. The quarantine ended up forcing him to miss two games, for which he got docked over $800,000 in lost pay.
Last week the league instituted even more restrictive rules to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, limiting – among other things – hugs and handshakes pre- and postgame.
But after Adabayo had gotten a career-high 41 points and Irving had led his team to the much-needed victory, the two longtime friends approached each other on the court before security stepped in and blocked the jersey swap.
When asked if Irving ever got that pink-and-blue Heat jersey, Adabayo just shrugged his shoulders and threw his hands up in the air, looking over at a Heat staffer and eventually bursting out into laughter.
“Oh yeah, he definitely wants it. I’m going to send one on my own time,” Adabayo said of Irving. “Just want to do that on my own time, and have a special 41 up there, you know?”
If Irving is to be believed, there’s no need for Adebayo to have a jersey cleaned, pressed and vacuum-sealed to give him in Monday’s rematch. It sounds like the two old friends already got the swap done through back channels.
Irving and Adebayo both grew up in Essex County (NJ), the former in West Orange and the latter in Newark. Their close friendship runs far deeper than just mere proximity.
“I’ve known Kai for a minute, because I knew his dad. So it’s all brotherly love at the end of the day. He’s proud of me, I’m proud of him, so we left it at that,” Adebayo said of Irving’s father Drederick.
“I don’t think (New) Jersey has anything to do with it. His dad used to help fund our AAU team, so just being able to talk to his dad a lot, I started to get to know Kyrie. And being in the league, we play against each other. It’s all love, but in-between the lines, we’re enemies. That’s kind of how our relationship is.”
It was all love from Irving after his younger friend’s monster night. They’ll play again Monday night at Barclays Center.
“Ah, man. He had 41, nine (assists) and five (rebounds,) OK,” Irving said. “Yeah, it was about time Bam had 40 in terms of getting a lot of those moves that he’s been working on in the offseason.
“And I’ve known Bam since he was 15, 16 years old, so just watching him grow since high school — be able to take over at this point for kind of an undermanned Miami team — it’s good to see. And obviously, I’m pretty sure he would like for this game to be a win in terms of having that. For me, I’m nothing but a supporter of Bam, and I’m glad he got to shoot well and we got the win.”
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