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Deni Avdija responds to Kyrie Irving controversy and NBA suspension

Avdija responds to Kyrie Irving controversy, suspension originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- No storyline has dominated the NBA landscape this week more than Kyrie Irving's tweet that references an antisemitic movie. It's garnered national attention and outcry, resulting in Irving being suspended by his own team and Nike suspending its business relationship with him.

On Friday, as the Brooklyn Nets made their way to Washington, D.C., that storyline permeated itself into the Wizards' locker room. Both Deni Avdija and Kyle Kuzma got roped into the firestorm surrounding Irving. And all of this happened with the star guard not on the court as he began serving his at minimum five-game suspension.

It affects Avdija for obvious reasons, as he is an Israeli-born basketball player. Speaking to the media postgame, he did not shy away from speaking out on Irving's comments.

"Listen, at the end of the day he's a role model, he's a great player," Avdija said. "I think he made a mistake, but you need to understand that he gives example [sic] to people and people look up to him. You can think whatever you want, you can do whatever you want, just I don't think it's right to go out in public and publish it and let little kids that follow you see it and generations that will come after will think like that because it's not true.

"I don't think it's fair. Hopefully, he's sorry for what he said."

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time the third-year Wizards forward has answered questions following another players' antisemitic comments. Back in 2021, Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat made a derogatory comment and Avdija was asked to respond.

In this case, Avdija has felt support from his teammates and players around the league. He also credits the Jewish community at-large for being there for him and cheering him on in everything that he does.

Avdija noted that the Brooklyn point guard was nice to him in their first game. Still, Avdija believes there needs to be a reaction from the league for what Irving did and didn't do.

"There need to be consequences for the actions that players do," Avdija said. "I think it needs to be known there is no room for words like that."

Kuzma finds himself in the situation by what he calls an "unfortunate" tweet.

Friday morning, prior to the game, he tweeted "Can't even tell the truth no more."

The immediate reaction was people assuming that Kuzma's tweet was in reference to Irving.

Irving's suspension by the Nets came down the previous evening, meaning he wasn't going to play a day later. Most reactions occurred the next morning.

The circumstances of the tweet were ill-timed and had nothing to do with the situation, as Kuzma described it.

"It was unfortunate but my tweet got completely taken out of context," Kuzma said. "Probably a product of wrong place, wrong time for sure. Obviously, anyone that knows me, knows my character, I'm all about peace and love. I don't condone any discrimination or hate of any race, religion, politician or whatever you want to call it. It's unfortunate, it's the world we live in and how we don't think the same."

The tweet was in reference to a personal matter in Kuzma's life. He said he could tell the media to be open, but didn't think his friends and family would appreciate airing it out.

After waking up from a nap, Kuzma saw the messages he was receiving and sent a clarification tweet.

Still, the initial comment hit the court of public opinion. The Wizards forward received death threats from people on social media thinking it was in support of Irving.

"It's probably bots at this point. I don't know who's behind the mic, who's behind the tweets, but there were a few of those," Kuzma said. "But it all stems from just wrong place, wrong time, misinterpretations, so I get it. Not the end of the world."

Both players had to answer questions about matters outside of their relative control just nine games into a young season. There are plenty of questions to be asked about the play on the basketball court in a 40-point blowout. However, for one night, that was not anyone's concern.

While the circus may follow the Nets, the Wizards head to Memphis on Sunday for a game that's hopefully just centered around basketball.

"I love my culture, I love my country. And it's a little upsetting to hear some stuff about your religion and just spread love man," Avdija said. "Love everybody, love all cultures. Me as a Jew, I see people as people not as religion and not what's behind them."