Novak Djokovic has said missing grand slams including the French Open and Wimbledon will be "the price I am willing to pay" for resisting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last month, the world number one and 20-time grand slam winner was deported from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open after his entry visa to the country was cancelled.

That stemmed from Djokovic refusing to join the overwhelming majority of fellow tennis stars in being vaccinated against coronavirus, and amid controversy over how he handled getting the virus himself in December.

In a new interview with the BBC, Djokovic said he was prioritising his right to choose what to put into his body above his sporting ambitions.

The 34-year-old Serbian declared his stance is likely to keep him sidelined for "most of the tournaments" at present.

Djokovic is set to make his return to the court at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships later this month, with vaccination not a requirement. He has been included on the entry list for next month's Indian Wells Open, but that is a tournament he may have to sit out.

He confirmed in the BBC interview that he has still yet to be vaccinated, though did not entirely rule out the prospect in the future.

"I have not," he said. "I understand and support fully the freedom to choose whether you want to get vaccinated or not."

Prior to entering Australia, where he was obliged to confirm his status, it was only widely assumed that Djokovic had not been inoculated.

Now he is keen to "speak up ... and justify certain things", adding: "So I was never against vaccination. I understand that globally everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing hopefully an end soon to this virus.

"And vaccinations are probably the biggest effort that was made on behalf of the planet. I fully respect that, but I've always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body. For me that is essential. It's really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you.

"And me, as an elite professional athlete, I've always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that comes in, from the supplements, food, the water that I drink or sports drinks. Anything really that comes into my body as a fuel.

"Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine as of today. I keep my mind open because we are all trying to find collectively a best possible solution to end COVID. Nobody really wants to be in this kind of situation that we've been in collectively for two years."

Djokovic is the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champion and, after Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph, he has been bumped down to joint second on the all-time men's grand slam list. Missing majors at this stage of his career could be a crushing blow to Djokovic's hopes of finishing top of that pile.

"I'm part of a very global sport that is played every single week in a different location, so I understand the consequences of my decision, and one of the consequences of my decision was not going to Australia, and I was prepared not to go," Djokovic said.

"I understand that not being vaccinated today I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment. That is the price I am willing to pay."

He looked to disassociate himself from the anti-vax community by saying he had "never said I am part of that movement" and declaring that was a "wrong conclusion" to draw.

At the same time, Djokovic concurred when asked if he was willing to sacrifice the chance to be seen as the greatest player of all time, and to travel to Roland Garros and the All England Club this year.

"Because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I'm trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can," Djokovic said.

"I say that everyone has a right to choose to act or say whatever they feel is appropriate for them."

Australia's three-match T20I series against New Zealand has been cancelled, it has emerged.

Cricket Australia (CA) said the planned fixtures in March had been shelved "due to New Zealand's border controls and quarantine requirements".

The three matches were due to be played in Napier, on March 17, 18 and 20.

Yet the travel restrictions between the two countries, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, mean Australia would not be able to make the trip.

In a statement on its website, CA said: "The three-match series, scheduled for March 17-20 at McLean Park in Napier, was initially arranged with the New Zealand government's plan to relax restrictions at the trans-Tasman border in mind.

"However, with those plans now substantially delayed, the decision was made to abandon the series."

CA chief executive Nick Hockley added: "We thank NZ Cricket for making every effort to host the series, but unfortunately it wasn't possible given the border restrictions and quarantine requirements."

The teams are due to clash in the short format later in the year at the T20 World Cup. The October 22 match at the SCG in Sydney will be the opening game for both sides in that tournament.

France head coach Fabien Galthie will miss the Six Nations favourites' opening game against Italy after a positive COVID-19 test.

The 52-year-old said he was experiencing only mild symptoms of the coronavirus, and the French Rugby Federation (FFR) stated Galthie would stay involved with the team from afar.

The FFR said: "Fabien Galthie tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, February 3, via an antigen test according to the established protocol. The result has been confirmed by a PCR test this Friday, February 4."

Galthie will be able to rejoin the squad from February 8, if he tests negative by then, or February 10.

France team manager Raphael Ibanez is set to stand in for Galthie when Italy visit the Stade de France on Sunday.

There were no more COVID-19 cases detected when the France squad were tested on Friday morning, the FFR said, with another round of testing planned for Saturday.

Galthie said: "This morning, I have tested positive for COVID-19. I'm feeling fine with mild symptoms. As a consequence, I'm isolating and will work remotely this week. Raphael Ibanez and all of my staff, in whom I have full confidence, will be my go-betweens on the pitch."

France cancelled their scheduled Friday news conference as a result of Galthie's test result.

Les Bleus, who finished second in last year's championship but have not won the Six Nations since 2010, are rated as favourites with the bookmakers for the title this time around.

Marita Kramer, Austria's ski jumping World Cup leader and a gold medal favourite, will not be able to compete at the Winter Olympics.

Austria's Kramer has finished on the podium in 13 of the last 14 individual World Cup events at which she has competed, winning 10 of those.

However, she tested positive for coronavirus on January 29 in the last routine PCR test before her planned departure to Beijing.

Kramer, 20, had competed at the World Cup event in Willingen, Germany, that day. The Austrian team subsequently withdrew from the competition on Sunday.

The Austria Ski Federation (OESV) said it hoped she would still be able to feature in the women's ski jump event, which is due to take place on Saturday at the Zhangjiakou venue.

However, it has now been confirmed Kramer will not be competing.

"Our worst fears have become sad certainties," tweeted Ski Austria, the OESV's official Twitter account.

"World Cup dominator Marita Kramer cannot start in Beijing because of positive COVID tests, although she feels physically fit and ready. Lisa Eder steps in as a substitute."

"No words, no feelings, just emptiness," Kramer wrote on Instagram.

"Is the world really this unfair? The last years I have prepared for the Olympics. I have put in so much energy and time in it to make my dreams come true.

"Now it feels that my dreams are gone within one day.

"I will take some time off to refill my body with energy and new dreams to get that fire again."

 

Austria's ski jumping World Cup leader Marita Kramer has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Kramer has finished on the podium in 13 of the last 14 individual World Cup events at which she has competed, winning 10 of those.

The women's ski jump event is due to take place next Saturday, February 5, at the Zhangjiakou venue.

It remains to be seen whether 20-year-old Kramer is able to take part, but the Austria Ski Federation (OESV) said it hoped she would still feature.

In a statement, the OESV said: "Despite the strictest conditions and all conceivable precautions, Marita Kramer tested positive for the COVID virus in the last routine PCR test before the planned departure for the Olympics. The goal remains to compete in the Olympic Games."

The international federation, FIS, said Kramer tested positive on Saturday and "has no symptoms and feels well".

She competed on Saturday at the World Cup event in Willingen, Germany. The Austrian team withdrew from the competition on Sunday.

Canada have reported five COVID-19 cases among their Winter Olympics delegation in Beijing.

The names of those infected have not been released, nor has it been specified whether those affected are athletes or support staff, or a combination of those.

The Beijing 2022 opening ceremony takes place on Friday, February 4, although curling begins two days earlier and freestyle skiing and ice hockey start on the eve of the Games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement: "Currently five out of the 246 members of the Team Canada delegation in Beijing are in COVID-19 protocols.

"We are following the Beijing 2022 playbook rules. Part of our strategy was to arrive early to allow time for confirmation testing and, if necessary, the medical expert panel process to unfold.

"Because there will likely be persistent shedders among the delegation, we will not be sharing names at this time. Members of Team Canada's delegation include athletes, coaches and mission team."

Persistent shedders are those who have recovered from having the coronavirus and may no longer be contagious, but who still have remnants of the virus in their system.

The Beijing Games playbook for athletes is their guide to the Games, and it outlines COVID-19 rules, with those that test positive to be taken to a designated hospital if symptomatic, or to an isolation facility if showing no outward signs of the virus.

Canada has a rich tradition of success at the Winter Olympics, finishing third on the medal table at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The news comes a day after Norway's reigning Winter Olympics skiathlon champion Simen Hegstad Kruger was revealed to have tested positive.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni will miss their upcoming World Cup qualifier against Chile due to a positive COVID-19 test.

The Albiceleste have already qualified for Qatar 2022 with five matches to play in the CONMEBOL section.

Scaloni explained at a news conference on Wednesday he had "completed the isolation" but had not received the negative test he required to enter Chile.

With assistant Pablo Aimar also absent as a close contact, coaches Walter Samuel, Roberto Ayala and Diego Placente are set to lead Argentina on Thursday.

"Both Aimar and I are not going to be able to be part of the delegation," Scaloni said. "Pablo has been in his house for several days due to [being a] close contact.

"I completed the isolation several days ago, but I continue to test positive. To enter Chile you need a negative [test result].

"Walter Samuel, Roberto Ayala and Diego Placente are going to be present as part of the coaching staff."

Scaloni also confirmed players Alexis Mac Allister and Emiliano Buendia will miss the game, with the former testing positive for COVID-19 and the latter a close contact.

After their trip to Chile, Argentina are due to play at home to Colombia on Tuesday.

Fabien Galthie provided an encouraging update on Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack after France's key duo tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Six Nations.

Les Bleus' preparation for the tournament has been hard hit by a host of contracting coronavirus.  

Bernard Le Roux had to make 11 changes to his 42-man squad, with World Rugby Player of the Year Dupont, fly-half Ntamack and Bernard Le Roux among those who were unable to report for international duty.

Galthie on Wednesday revealed the absentees due to COVID-19 are recovering well ahead of his side's opening game of the tournament against Italy at Stade de France a week on Sunday.

The France head coach said: "We keep in touch with all the players from afar, of course.

"We have good news concerning the players and their state of health and spirit and all are doing well."

Mercurial scrum-half Dupont has not played since December 11 due to a knee injury and coronavirus.

Galthie says the playmaker could return for Toulouse in their Top 14 encounter with Racing 92 on Saturday.

"I have spoken to him: he is doing well. He resumed training two weeks ago," said Galthie 

"He wanted to play against Cardiff but the match did not go ahead. Then of course he tested positive for COVID. But he is fine, and is still training. Today he had a test at his club and depending on the results he will play or not for Toulouse this weekend.

"That is up to his head coach Ugo Mola and I have confidence in him he will take the right decision both for his team and for Antoine."

It is 12 years since France won the Six Nations, but they are favourites to end that title drought this time around and that is music to Galthie's ears. 

"I am very happy with this compliment, we’re very happy and proud to be labelled as favourites," he said.

"We are very happy to hear all those positive comments. It's very rewarding, it's rewarding for our two-year work, it's rewarding for all the commitment of the players, the virtues of the team and their dedication on the pitch."

Inter coach Simone Inzaghi has tested positive for coronavirus.

The Serie A champions confirmed the 45-year-old returned a positive test on Monday following routine testing.

In a brief statement, Inter informed supporters that Inzaghi "will now follow the protocols set out in the healthcare guidelines".

Nevertheless, the news is not expected to result in major disruption for the club given they are not to be in action again until February 5, when they host neighbours Milan in the Derby della Madonnina.

Under Italian Football Federation (FIGC) guidelines, players and staff only need to isolate for three days if they are showing no symptoms.

Similarly, any players deemed to be a close contact of Inzaghi's will still be able to train as long as they have not tested positive for the virus.

Measures were introduced at the start of the month that meant players, staff and fans had to have received at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine to be allowed into stadiums.

However, even before that rule was brought in, Serie A was reported to have had as many as 98 per cent of players already double vaccinated.

Australian Open chief executive Craig Tiley will not stand down from his position over the handling of the Novak Djokovic case and has refuted claims that Tennis Australia funded the world number one's legal expenses.

Tiley was speaking after the Federal Court published the written reasons for rejecting Djokovic's appeal to remain in Australia, stating it was "plainly open" to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke that the reigning Australian Open champion was opposed to a COVID-19 vaccination.

Djokovic failed in his second bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday, a day before the Australian Open started.

The 20-time grand slam winner arrived back in Belgrade on Monday, bringing an end to a saga that began after he was held at an airport in Melbourne on January 6 due to his travel declaration form containing incorrect information.

It was reported this week that Tennis Australia covered all of Djokovic's legal fees, but Tiley – who was jeered by spectators on Thursday while on-court to present flowers to the retiring Samantha Stosur – denied that was the case.

"I have seen those reports and we don't really go into the detail of financial arrangements we have with players," he told Channel 9. "But those reports are simply untrue."

Asked if he intended to step aside as chief executive due to the perceived mishandling of the saga, Tiley replied "no" before turning focus to the remainder of the tournament.

"I am very focused today on delivering a great event," he said.

"I am proud of being able to stand up here and you can see what is behind us. I am proud of what the team has done and what we have delivered so far."

Djokovic won his first appeal to avoid deportation from Australia, but Hawke used separate powers to again cancel the 34-year-old's visa.

That decision was taken amid much backlash in Australia and was upheld unanimously by three judges of the Federal Court's full bench.

Four days on from that verdict, which denied Djokovic the chance to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown, Chief Justice James Allsop delivered the court's reasons for rejecting the challenge.

It was found that it was reasonable for Hawke to be concerned by Djokovic's high-profile presence in the country as it "may encourage rallies and protests that may lead to heightened community transmission."

"An iconic tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him," Allsop added in his report.

"This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.

"Even if Mr Djokovic did not win the Australian Open, the capacity of his presence in Australia playing tennis to encourage those who would emulate or wish to be like him is a rational foundation for the view that he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment.

"I consider that behaviour by influential persons and role models, which demonstrates a failure to comply with, or a disregard of, public health measures has the potential to undermine the efficacy and consistency of the Australian Government’s and State and Territory Governments' management of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

"Mr Djokovic is such a person of influence and status. Having regard to the matters set out above regarding Mr Djokovic's conduct after receiving a positive COVID-19 result, his publicly stated views, as well as his unvaccinated status, I consider that his ongoing presence in Australia may pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community."

Lionel Messi has not been included in Lionel Scaloni's latest Argentina squad as he continues to recover from coronavirus.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has not played a match in almost a month, with the 1-1 Ligue 1 draw at Lorient on December 22 being his most recent outing.

He contracted COVID-19 while back home in Argentina during the mid-season break, forcing him to return to France later than initially planned.

Messi seemed all set to return to action against Lyon on January 9, but PSG said he needed to continue his recovery and then he also missed the 2-0 win over Brest on Saturday.

While he said last week that "I have almost recovered", Messi did reveal on social media that getting over the illness took "longer than I thought".

Given his situation, Argentina have seemingly deemed it pointless risking Messi or further disrupting his recovery given they have already secured qualification for this year's World Cup.

Argentina travel to Chile on Thursday before hosting Colombia five days later, with both opponents still desperately fighting for the right to play at Qatar 2022.

La Albiceleste's other remaining qualifiers are against Venezuela and surprise-package Ecuador in March.

 

Mikel Arteta hit back at Arsenal's critics following the postponement of Sunday's north London derby as he insisted "we did the right thing."

The Gunners were due to make the short trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a showdown with their fierce rivals, but the game was called off due to a lack of players available to Arteta.

Arsenal were accused of exploiting the Premier League's rules, with the majority of players absent due to injury, suspension or Africa Cup of Nations duty.

The club only one confirmed positive COVID-19 case at the time of lodging an application to get the derby called off, but the Premier League deemed they were unable to meet the required number of available players – 13 outfielders and a goalkeeper – despite their Under-23s having a squad of 16 for a game on Friday.

Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte felt the decision to postpone the match was "very, very strange."

Arsenal manager Arteta hit back on the eve of Thursday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg at home to Liverpool, which he expects to go ahead despite "issues that have not been resolved" in his squad.

Asked what he thought about people saying Arsenal could have played the game, the Spaniard said: "We played against Forest [in the FA Cup] when we had 10 players out and we went to Liverpool and we had many players out.

"We have done that and we have played with academy players when we already have the youngest squad in the league.

"Tomorrow if we have everybody available as I suspect we will play the match because we want to play football."

He added: "I think more than hate [being directed towards Arsenal] there is a lot of respect for Arsenal and that comes from the history of the club, how it's always acted and how it has always conducted itself.

"We know we did the right thing. We worked with the Premier League and the FA to make that decision. If anything we've been very honest at least."

Arteta stressed that it was "100 per cent guaranteed" that Arsenal did not have enough players to face Spurs.

Asked if the criticism of the club could be used as a fuel to drive his team, Arteta said: "We will defend our club tooth and nail. We're not going to get anybody damaging our name or trying to spread lies."

Arteta revealed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is back in London and has undergone tests after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations for medical reasons without playing a game.

The Gabon striker had tested positive for COVID-19 on January 6 and was subsequently diagnosed with "heart lesions".

Arteta said: "He's in London and going through some examinations because we haven't had any clarity from Gabon about why he came back.

"So it's our obligation to make sure he's safe and in good condition. So far historically with what we've done with the player that's never been an issue."

Aubameyang has not featured for Arsenal since December 6, having been stripped of the captaincy due to a breach of club rules.

Arsenal and Liverpool played out a goalless draw in the first leg of their EFL Cup tie at Anfield, with Granit Xhaka seeing red in the first half.

Liverpool are proving that they are not just reliant on Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, according to assistant manager Pep Lijnders.

Jurgen Klopp's side are having to do without two of their star attackers, with Salah and Mane on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt and Senegal respectively.

Naby Keita is also featuring at the tournament, with the midfielder a talisman for Guinea, who like Senegal have progressed from Group B. Salah's Egypt will guarantee their qualification from Group D with a win over Sudan on Wednesday.

The tournament runs until February 6. Senegal were runners-up in 2019 while Egypt are the most successful team in AFCON history with seven titles, and both are fancied to go far this time around in Cameroon.

Liverpool have been without the trio since just after a draw with Chelsea on January 2, and though they subsequently beat Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup, the absence of Mane and the Premier League's leading scorer Salah was particularly felt in a 0-0 draw with 10-man Arsenal at Anfield in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final on January 13.

The Gunners had Granit Xhaka sent off midway through the first half yet Liverpool mustered only one effort on target, with that shot coming in stoppage time, after Takumi Minamino had spurned a glorious chance.

The Reds bounced back with a routine 3-0 win over Brentford on Sunday, with Liverpool having 27 shots (13 on target) and controlling 68 percent of the possession.

Liverpool had 3.1 expected goals against Brentford, the joint-fourth highest total for them in a league game this season, while they have only managed more shots in one top-flight fixture (against Leeds United in September), with their shots-on-target total the most in a single match.

Asked ahead of the second leg against Arsenal how pleased he was with Liverpool's reaction to being without such key players, Lijnders told a news conference: "We did it before. One of the most memorable games [the 4-0 Champions League win over Barcelona in 2019] was without a few of them [Salah and Roberto Firmino].

"When we have our squad, we knew that we needed to have different weapons, create goals from everywhere, dribbles from everywhere, attacks from everywhere, not just based on counter-attacks or the speed of these two boys.

"They are our front line but what I like is we don't just have one weapon, we have so many different ways to attack. How we are evolving as a team, developing with our positional game, it's important and we really like it."

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stepped up on Sunday, scoring Liverpool's second and playing three key passes, second only to Fabinho (four), though the midfielder will not be available against his former club on Thursday due to an ankle injury sustained against Brentford.

"I spoke with him and he feels okay, it's not that bad," Lijnders explained. "He's hoping that he will make the weekend. Tomorrow will be way too soon. We will assess that day by day."

While Liverpool beat Brentford, Arsenal were not in action on Sunday, with the Premier League having granted the Gunners' request to postpone the north London derby clash with Tottenham due to a COVID-19 case within the squad, though injuries and players away at AFCON were also cited as a reason.

"We had our own experience with this, it's really difficult to judge from the outside," said Lijnders, who had to take charge of the Chelsea clash this month when Klopp was self-isolating due to COVID-19.

"We saw that with our situation. I fully respect the submissions because I trust 100 percent the medical department of each Premier League club. I think this is the most important, the trust in these decisions."

Nick Kyrgios threw in an underarm serve in the second game of his Australian Open campaign, before tossing in a curveball in the post-match news conference.

Speaking after his 6-4 6-4 6-3 win over an outmatched Liam Broady on John Cain Arena, Kyrgios proposed he might play doubles with Novak Djokovic in the future.

Australian Kyrgios has dramatically changed his tune on the Serbian, but not in the way many have altered their perspective following recent events.

Djokovic was deported from Australia in the hours before the Australian Open got under way, a consequence of his own failure to get a COVID-19 vaccine and seemingly mixed messages from authorities before a court settled the kerfuffle.

His behaviour in December after a positive COVID-19 test has been widely criticised, and the reputation of arguably the greatest tennis player of all time has taken a battering in the past fortnight.

Kyrgios recently observed the treatment of Djokovic, a nine-time champion of the Melbourne Park grand slam, had been "really bad" and said it was important to "do better" by the 20-time slam winner.

 

The 26-year-old from Canberra has emerged as an unlikely cheerleader for the player he described as "a tool" and "a very strange cat" last February, after Djokovic was reported to have requested improved quarantine accommodation on arriving in Australia.

Now Kyrgios is revelling in his apparent sudden popularity in Serbia, where Djokovic's banishment from Australia was greeted with anger and dismay.

"I mean, it's great," Kyrgios said of his new standing. He then turned his focus to why he has stood up for his new friend.

"Obviously me and Novak have had some, I guess, differences in the past. But whether it was Novak or someone else, I would have done the same thing," he said.

"I didn't do it because he was Serbian. If it was another player in that scenario, I would have stood up for what I think was right.

"I think it was just coincidentally it was Novak, and, you know, it was quite a story. But we've got a bit of a bromance going on now, so I'm not going to complain.

"I think I'm going to ask him to play doubles somewhere."

It remains to be seen where this might next prove possible. Djokovic might find he needs a vaccination to play the French Open and US Open this year, amid reports an increasing number of tournaments will insist on players being immunised as a condition of entry.

Kyrgios, meanwhile, faced a daunting second-round match in Melbourne, with title favourite and de facto top seed Daniil Medvedev awaiting him.

Kyrie Irving does not feel compelled to change his stance regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, despite the Brooklyn Nets potentially being without Kevin Durant for six weeks.

The seven-time NBA All-Star has refused to be vaccinated against coronavirus and is therefore banned from playing in home games due to New York's vaccine mandate.

Irving was left off the Nets' initial roster for the 2021-22 season, but that decision was reversed last month when the 29-year-old was included as a part-time player.

He has been restricted to four road games so far and has averaged 20 points, which is down on his career average of 22.8.

The Nets could do with Irving more than ever after losing Durant to a knee injury that will keep him out for at least a month, but the point guard is staying rooted to his decision.

"That's what I think comes into a lot of this culture and basketball and sport and entertainment," he said. "You bring in teams and you bring in situations. 

"Kev's going to heal, Kev's going to be okay, and we're going to have to deal with that as his team-mates. 

"But in terms of where I am with my life outside of this, I stay rooted in my decision. And that's just what it is.

"It's not going to be swayed just because of one thing in this NBA life. That somehow it's brought to my attention as being more important than what's going on in the real world. 

"It's just not happening for me. I respect everyone else's decision. I'm not going to try to convince anyone of anything or any of that, I'm just standing rooted in what I believe in. 

"Though we're dealing with this right now with Kev, I know I'm protected by the organisation, by my team-mates, by all the doctors I've talked to. And I just stand rooted."

 

Irving was speaking after leading Brooklyn with 27 points in their 114-107 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday – his best tally since returning to action this month.

The Nets are once again denied the chance to partner star trio James Harden, Durant and Irving, but head coach Steve Nash is hopeful others can step up.

"It's a great opportunity for guys and our team to grow," he said. "We can't rely on Kevin in ways we could, and we have to find ways and solutions to be competitive without him."

The Nets' 'Big Three' have played only 16 games together, going 13-3 across that period.

"It's a great challenge for us," Nash added. "I don't spend time dwelling on it. It wouldn't do us any good. It wouldn't do me any good. 

"It wouldn't do the team any good if the leader of the team is sitting at home contemplating how many games they haven't played.

"That would take me away from being excited and positive to come in every day and try to affect the group positively for these guys to feel empowered and to grow."

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