Kyrie Irving could return from his suspension and play for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday after apologising for hurting the Jewish community when he posted a link to a film with antisemitic material.
The Nets listed Irving as questionable for the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on their injury report on Saturday. He has missed the last eight games.
In the wake of the criticism stemming from the social media posts, Irving said he has had “very impactful” conversations that made him realise how others had been affected by his actions.
“I just really want to focus on the hurt that I caused or the impact that I made within the Jewish community,” Irving added. “Putting some type of threat, or assumed threat, on the Jewish community, I just want to apologise deeply for all my actions for the time that it’s been since the post was first put up.”
Irving has missed eight games during his suspension, during which time he has met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Jewish community leaders.
He is expected to return to the line up for Sunday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I meant no harm to any person, any group of people,” Irving said. He told reporters on Sunday: “I don’t stand for anything close to hate speech, or anti-Semitism, or anything that is anti going against the human race.
“I feel it was necessary for me to stand in this place and take accountability for my actions because there was a way I should have handled all of this.
“This is a big moment for me because I’m able to learn throughout this process that the power of my voice is very strong. The influence that I have within my community is very strong. And I want to be responsible for that.
“In order to do that, we have to admit when you were wrong and instances where you hurt people and it impacts them.”
Confirming Irving was available for selection again, the Nets said: “Kyrie took ownership of his journey and had conversations with several members of the Jewish community.
“We are pleased that he is going about the process in a meaningful way.” Irving was as expected included in the line-up to face the Grizzlies at the Barclays Center. He started alongside Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, Royce O’Neale and Ben Simmons.
Durant scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half as the Nets pulled away in the fourth quarter.
On his return Irving said after victory: ‘It felt good. I missed my teammates, missed the coaching staff… It felt good to get this game out of the way. Now we can move forward with the rest of the season.’
Durant has reached 25 points in all 17 games this season and is the first to do since Rick Barry scored at least 25 in the first 25 games for the 1967-68 San Francisco Warriors. Durant made 9 of 16 shots overall and scored 14 points in the third to help the Nets erase a five-point halftime deficit.
Ben Simmons scored a season-high 22 on 11 of 13 from the field as the Nets shot a blistering 60.2 percent. Coming off the bench, Yuta Watanabe added 12 of his 16 in the fourth quarter while Irving finished with 14 after sitting out the past eight games.
Irving released a more formal apology on Saturday in an interview with SNY, where he said he isn’t ‘anti-Semitic’ and wanted to ‘apologize deeply’ for the posts.
He was asked postgame if he might file a grievance claim regarding his suspension, to which he replied: ‘I got to leave that to my legal team and leave that to the warriors I have around me.
‘I have some strong people, men and women around me, that are going to do everything possible to make sure that I’m protected, my family’s protected, and we protect one another. So I’m sure some things will be done in the future, but there’s no timetable on that right now.’
He was suspended for at least five games and served that minimum ban last Saturday but owner Joe Tsai said Irving still had ‘work to do’ at their win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Irving ignited controversy by tweeting a link to the Amazon page for the 2018 film ‘Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.’
The movie is based on a 2015 book by the same name, which Rolling Stone described as ‘venomously anti-Semitic.’
After posting the Amazon link to the film on Twitter, Irving quarreled with media, telling reporters ‘I’m not going to stand down on anything that I believe in.’ He then appeared to backtrack by deleting the post without an explanation.
After days of competing statements from Irving, the Nets, Tsai, and Silver, the club suspended the All-Star for at least five games.
Irving, who has been criticized for failing to apologize, finally said he was sorry in a statement, but only after he got his minimum five-game ban from the Nets.
The Nets released an angry and frustrated statement earlier this month, saying the decision to suspend Irving stemmed from his ongoing lack of apology, the latest of refusal coming after an awful media appearance.
Irving has faced a barrage of criticism, ranging from the team’s front office to NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, former NBA players and media and never had a fixed date for his return after being suspended earlier this month.
Black Hebrew Israelites are outside Barclays Center singing ahead of Kyrie Irving’s return from suspension tonight pic.twitter.com/Gay3YkcRnN
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) November 20, 2022