Kyrie Irving making progress for Nets return, expected to be cleared Sunday

Oct 31, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles up court against the Indiana Pacers during the second half at Barclays Center.
Oct 31, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles up court against the Indiana Pacers during the second half at Barclays Center. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving continues to progress toward a return to the court. He won’t play for the Nets on Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers but is expected to be cleared to play for Sunday’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies, as first reported by The Athletic.

However, his suspension has not been formally lifted yet.

Irving was suspended by Brooklyn earlier this month after he didn’t initially apologize for posting a film with antisemitic messaging on social media. The Nets’ suspension also cited that Irving initially chose not to condemn the antisemitic material in the film.

In remarks to the media, Irving said he didn’t support everything in the film and couldn’t be antisemitic because he knows where he came from. But he didn’t unequivocally apologize for the post or condemn the antisemitic material in the film.

After Brooklyn suspended Irving for at least five games without pay, the All-Star guard issued an unequivocal apology, writing that he was "deeply sorry" to all Jewish families and communities "that are hurt and affected from my post.” He said that he initially reacted out of emotion because he was unjustly labeled as an anti-Semite.

“I am learning from this unfortunate event and hope we can find understanding between us all,” Irving wrote.

He also met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Nets governors Joe Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai to discuss the events. In statements, both Silver and Joe Tsai said they believed that Irving held no antisemitic beliefs.

Initially, the Nets outlined several steps for Irving to complete before he could return from suspension.

According to The Athletic, those steps included:

- Issuing a written and verbal apology for posting a link to the film late last month, specifically condemning the harmful and erroneous content and clearly stating that he doesn’t have anti-Jewish beliefs. Irving has already issued a written apology via social media.

- Completing a $500,000 donation toward organizations/causes that work to eradicate hate, in conjunction with the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League. The Nets had also pledged $500,000 to the ADL in this effort, which was announced prior to Irving’s suspension.

- Completing sensitivity training and anti-semitic/anti-hate training created by the organization.

- Meeting with the ADL and leaders in the Jewish community in Brooklyn.

Citing sources, ESPN reported on Wednesday that these steps have since "evolved into Irving himself taking ownership of the process, which is what the Nets and the league hoped would be the case."

The ADL was not involved in finalizing the initial terms in Irving’s suspension.

“ADL never set the terms for Kyrie's return. At the end of the day, it is up to the Nets, the NBA and the Union to figure out whether it’s appropriate for him to return or not,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement to SNY. “I can say from my point of view that I take Kyrie at his word that he is truly sorry and that he’s willing to put in the work to educate himself and engage in constructive dialogue. I also trust that the Nets, the NBA and the Union are making the right call and if they’re satisfied, I have no reason not to be.”

Some of the initial requirements set forth in Irving’s suspension drew criticism from NBA players, such as LeBron James and NBPA Union VP Jaylen Brown. Brown was also critical of Nets governor Joe Tsai’s comments on Irving’s suspension.

How the steps Irving took to return to the court have changed is unknown. Nevertheless, Irving’s teammates, including Kevin Durant, have expressed excitement over his return to the team.

The Nets are 6-9 entering Thursday’s game against Portland.