Losing Kyrie Irving is a “big hit,” Nets guard James Harden said Wednesday, but he still believes Brooklyn is on a path toward a championship.

Harden spoke for the first time since the Nets announced Irving would not practice or play until he can be a full-time participant with the team. General manager Sean Marks, who acknowledged Tuesday that Irving is not vaccinated for COVID-19 — making him ineligible for home games due to New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine protocols — said that he and owner Joe Tsai made the decision.

Harden said he’s had conversations with Marks, coach Steve Nash and the Nets’ other two stars, Kevin Durant and Irving. He said they respect Irving’s beliefs, but “we have a job to do.”

“Individually, myself. I’m still wanting to set myself up for a championship. And I feel like the entire organization is on the same path,” he said. “And we’re all, as a collective unit. We’ll keep pushing forward and we’ll try to do our best every single day to get better and keep going as a collective unit.”

While the team would prefer to have Irving on the team, the focus is on the players in the locker room “putting in the work every single day,” Harden said.

Nash, who said he was involved in the decision, added it was a “tenuous situation” to have Irving “in and out like that.” The guard is currently only eligible to play in Brooklyn’s road games.

“It was a difficult decision,” Nash said. “But I think it was a sound one and one that makes complete sense to everyone. We are just going to have to move on. And, if things change, it will be incredible to have him back in the fold.”

The team opens the regular season on Tuesday against the defending NBA champion Bucks.

This story will be updated.

(Photo: Steven Ryan / Getty Images)

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