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KYRIE IRVING RETURN? Comments from Joe Tsai, others signal movement

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Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Following a series of rapid fire news breaks around noon Friday, it appears the Nets, Kyrie Irving, the NBA and the players union are nearing a resolution of issues surrounding his promotion of an antisemitic video last month. Topping off the news breaks was a revelation by Joe Tsai that he and his wife, Clara Wu Tsai, had met with Irving and his family Thursday ... two days after Irving had met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

The news suggests that Irving may be reinstated from his suspension soon, although there is skepticism that things could be resolved by end of the Nets road trip on Thursday. After his five-game suspension ends vs. the Clippers Saturday, Brooklyn plays the Lakers on Sunday, the Kings on Tuesday and the Trailblazers Thursday in Portland. The Nets return home for a big game vs. the Grizzlies at Barclays Center a week from Sunday.

The Nets suspended Irving for five games a week ago but also set out a number of requirements for him to meet before he could return. Failure to meet them could delay his return, the Nets said.

The news broke in a series of tweets over a 15 minute span starting at around noon. It began with Adrian Wojnarowski and ended with Tsai tweeting, “The Nets and Kyrie, together with the NBA and NBPA, are working constructively toward a process of forgiveness, healing and education.”

On Thursday, Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner, had hinted the league and NBA were working with Irving on the issue. At an event in Washington, Silver said “It is being discussed at this time ... the Nets are looking to make this into a partnership between them and Kyrie as to what remediation is appropriate.”

Woj began it with three tweets at noon...

Following the Woj tweets, Jacque Vaughn and Nets players were asked about the news at the team’s morning practice which was underway at the time. Vaughn declined comment, saying “No update organizationally,” adding that the “majority of my effort is with this group right now.”

Players, particularly Nic Claxton, were not so reserved. Claxton noted that he has been speaking with Irving and that he is in “high spirits, just trying to figure everything out” Royce O’Neale similarly described Irving as in “good spirits.”

Claxton endorsed a quick return for his teammate, telling reporters, “I feel like once we get [Irving] back, the way we’re playing right now, it’s going to break the game wide open,” Claxton said. “He can adapt to any system. That’s 30 points we’re missing out there.”

O’Neale added that he thought that Irving could mesh with the Nets new wide-open game.

“The same way we’ve been doing. He’s a great player, an All-Star. I mean, I feel like we can adapt to whoever. We know he brings what to the table and we need that going forward.”

Then, 15 minutes after the first Woj tweet, Tsai dropped his news, posting about how he and Clara Wu Tsai had met with Irving and his family Thursday and that he, like Silver on Thursday, said he believes that Irving does not harbor antisemitic beliefs and that he hopes things can be resolved in the spirit of “forgiveness, healing and education.”

The bottom line appears to be that all sides want to avoid more public discussion of the issue, hoping that a compromise can be reached and the ugliness of the last two weeks can be put to rest. Silver said Thursday that the controversy had caused “enormous damage” to Irving, the Nets and the league itself. By reaching a compromise, an appeal of the extension by the NBPA could also be avoided.

This does not suggest that the “remedial” process, as Silver described it Thursday, will be abandoned, but perhaps take a different form. The Nets conditions include a $500,000 contribution to anti-hate efforts, a more fulsome apology and condemnation of the video, antisemitic and sensitivity training.

In a later report for ESPN, Woj said Irving is “expected to engage with a number of constituencies — including meeting with leaders in the Jewish community — and make good-faith efforts to show the Nets and NBA of his sincerity before he’s cleared for a return to play.”

Of course, Irving has a history of off-court issues that have been controversial from suggesting the earth is flat to the refusing the COVID-19 vaccine in the face of a city mandate. Will there be another?