Kyrie Irving available to return from Nets suspension Sunday, after 8 missed games

Kyrie Irving is close to finishing his suspension from the Brooklyn Nets and could return as soon as Sunday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The team sent a pretty big message that would be the case, upgrading Irving's status to "available" for Sunday's game.

The All-Star point guard has been away from the team for nearly two weeks, as punishment for posting an antisemitic documentary, then refusing to apologize or denounce the video for a full week. The Nets initially suspended him for five games, but with additional conditions that apparently lengthened his time away.

To date, Irving has missed eight games.

The Nets have gone 4-4 since Irving's suspension, and are 6-10 overall in a season they entered with title aspirations. They also missed another former All-Star, Ben Simmons, for five games due to left knee soreness.

Nets' to-do list for Kyrie Irving reportedly changed during suspension

Among the Nets' conditions for a return, as reported by Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill, are Irving issuing a verbal apology before the media, publicly acknowledging the film to be harmful and untrue, issuing an apology on social media, completing sensitivity training, meeting with Jewish leaders in Brooklyn and meeting with Nets ownership to demonstrate he has changed.

Irving has already posted an apology on Instagram, hours after the suspension hit, though he did indicate he still believes part of the documentary. He has not met with reporters since being suspended.

Per Wojnarowski, that list of requirements has since evolved with Irving taking ownership of the process, something the Nets and NBA reportedly hoped for.

The head of the NBPA, which denounced antisemitism in the wake of Irving's post and of which Irving is a vice president, lauded Irving's efforts in a statement to ESPN:

"Kyrie is continuing his journey of dialogue and education," NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio told ESPN on Wednesday night. "He has been grappling with the full weight of the impact of his voice and actions, particularly in the Jewish community. Kyrie rejects Antisemitism in any form, and he's dedicated to bettering himself and increasing his level of understanding. He plans to continue this journey well into the future to ensure that his words and actions align with his pursuit of truth and knowledge."

The initial terms of Irving's suspension were criticized by former teammate LeBron James and NBPA vice president Jaylen Brown as being too harsh. It remains to be seen if Irving did more or less than what the Nets asked for.

Kyrie Irving posted and defended an antisemitic documentary containing a fake Hitler quote

Irving's suspension was the climax of a week-long firestorm from several corners of the NBA, steadily increasing as Irving declined to denounce the video.

That video contained a number of wildly problematic statements, including a fake quote from Adolf Hitler, whose name was misspelled. Per Rolling Stone, the documentary is built around ideas from extreme factions of the ahistorical Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which claims Black people to be the true descendants of ancient Israelites, and accuses Jews of being responsible for much of the suffering for the Black race.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during a break in the action during the first quarter of the game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center on October 31, 2022 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Kyrie Irving is reportedly on his way back to the Nets, but still might have some stuff to take care of. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

Irving deleted the tweet containing the video a few days after the backlash began, but held firm in meetings with reporters when asked if he would apologize or denounce the video. The situation came to a head on Nov. 3 when he was directly asked, yes or no, if he had any antisemitic beliefs.

Irving did not say no.

Instead, he said "I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from," echoing one narrative of the documentary. That moment, and a few others, led to the biggest wave of criticism against Irving, and the suspension from the Nets soon followed.

Hours later, Irving was suspended and issued his initial apology.

The suspension, and subsequent loss of salary, wasn't the only consequence for Irving. One day later, Nike announced it was suspending its lucrative partnership with Irving and canceling the release of the upcoming Kyrie 8 shoe. Nike co-founder Phil Knight has since said he doubts the relationship will continue.

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