Irving-less Nets still tipped for NBA title

NEW YORK • The Brooklyn Nets do not know when - or if - Kyrie Irving will play for the team again, but that has not swayed oddsmakers away from the team being a strong favourite to win the National Basketball Association (NBA) title this upcoming season.

General manager Sean Marks announced on Tuesday that Irving will not be allowed to play for the team until he is fully eligible to do so. Yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19, the guard is unable to play in home games due to New York's order requiring vaccination to participate in indoor events.

Irving is part of Brooklyn's trio of stars along with Kevin Durant and James Harden that led all major sportsbooks to install the Nets as the pre-season title favourites despite Irving's uncertain status.

"Given the Nets' statement today that Kyrie won't be permitted to have 'part-time availability', it will be interesting to see how aggressively the market reacts if the Nets get off to a slow start and/or it becomes clear that Irving is truly prepared to sit out the entire season over getting vaccinated," BetRivers sportsbook manager Zach Schlouch told Field Level Media.

The Nets remain the +230 title favourites at BetRivers, which is unchanged since August, and they remain significant favourites to win the East at +105.

"No change. All the Nets have to do really is stay healthy and they'd still likely be favoured to win the title," WynnBet head trader Alan Berg told Field Level Media.

Brooklyn also remained favourites with other oddsmakers.

Separately, the Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid believes Ben Simmons' return to the team will not be "awkward".

Three-time All-Star Simmons, who had asked to be traded in August, last month vowed to never return following critical comments from Embiid and marginal support from coach Doc Rivers.

But no trade gained traction and the Australian has returned to the roster. His fines were up to US$1 million (S$1.35 million) once he missed Monday night's pre-season game against Brooklyn, said ESPN.

"I think there's going to be some adjustments, but it doesn't need to be awkward," Embiid said of Simmons ending his holdout.

"We're all professionals. We want to win. We're going to be fine."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2021, with the headline 'Irving-less Nets still tipped for NBA title'. Subscribe