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Stein: Kyrie Irving ‘itching to get back on the floor’ but situation remains ‘fluid’

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, it appeared that a resolution of the Kyrie Irving controversy was within sight. Irving had met with Adam Silver on Tuesday, then two days later, Joe Tsai and co-owner Clara Wu Tsai sat down with Irving and his family. His tweets were very positive...

The day before, the NBA’s commissioner, had hinted the league and NBA were working with Irving on the issue which began October 26 when Irving promoted an antisemitic video. At an event in Washington Thursday, 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.”

There were also reports from Adrian Wojnarowski and others that suggested things were moving in the right direction. But was everyone too optimistic?

On Saturday, the final game of Irving’s initial five-game suspension, Tsai told Brian Lewis that Irving “still has work to do” before a return, adding, “He has to show people that he’s sorry. What’s important — and what people miss — is he only apologized after he was suspended.” That wasn’t much different than what Silver had said Thursday of the requirements — “that the remorse be truly authentic and genuine” — but it immediately stirred a response.

Jaylen Brown, who like Irving is a vice president of the NBPA, the players union, tweeted out his reaction to Lewis interview with Tsai...

Later, Brown laid out his argument.

“Tsai’s response was alarming to me.” Brown said. “He didn’t say that the organization was working together to get Kyrie back on the floor. He said that Kyrie had more work to do. And as vice president of the players union, it’s part of my job to protect our players legally.

“The terms that Brooklyn has instituted for his return, I’ve already voiced my discomfort.” Brown said. “Some of our players, some people in the media, have voiced some of their discomfort with that. We’ve yet to hear, what is the latest with that situation? It’s still an indefinite suspension. Kyrie’s already missed five or six games.”

Now, Marc Stein in his substack Monday suggests that there are still steps to take, still uncertainty. “Word is Irving is itching to get back on the floor,” Stein said, but noted that “Kyrie Irving’s status with the Nets remains fluid with a capital F.”

The issue is the six “remedial” measures the Nets have laid out as prerequisites beyond the five-game suspension for his return. They include a $500,000 donation to combat hate, meetings with Jewish leaders, sensitivity and antisemitic training and finally a meeting with Tsai and the front office on his future. Stein writes:

Boston’s Jaylen Brown and the Lakers’ LeBron James are among the prominent player (and former player) voices who have stated publicly that they think the six “remedial measures” that the Nets say Irving must complete to be reinstated from suspension are excessive.

Not only that, Stein writes, the union may still file a grievance with the league on the matter.

[T]here have been rumbles for days that the National Basketball Players Association, at some stage, could move to file a grievance on Irving’s behalf if the various parties involved can’t reach a resolution on a return timetable.

That would indicate things aren’t moving in the right direction as fast as fans would want. It also leaves open the possibility of more delays in Irving’s return and/or acrimony over an issue Silver has already said caused “enormous damage” to everyone involved, including the league.

So nothing new? Jacque Vaughn speaking pre-game to the media Sunday, said of Irving’s status, “I don’t have any official word at all,” Vaughn said. “I’m just going to continue to go day by day, push this group and coach these dudes today.”

The Nets play Tuesday (Kings) and Thursday (Trailblazers) before returning to Brooklyn for Sunday’s game vs. the Grizzlies. It’s one-game homestand before the Nets head out again, playing three games on the road: November 22 in Philadelphia, November 23 in Toronto and November 25 in Indianapolis. Putting aside the loss to the Lakers, on the back end of a back-to-back with a limited roster, the Nets are playing better without Irving, as Stein notes.

I watched the Nets in person three times last week (as well as the Lakers) and inevitably came away wondering if they are trying to slow-play Irving’s return because — on top of all the turmoil stemming from the off-court controversy — they have been playing such focused team ball and improved defense under new coach Jacque Vaughn without Irving in the lineup. The Nets’ 4-2 record sans Irving, like it or not, is their longest spurt of positivity in months.

Stein also noted Tsai’s tweet after the Nets blowout of the Wizards...

What’s next? Irving seemed contrite in a tweet Sunday just before his teammates took to the floor at Arena.

There is also speculation — or more — from league pundits suggesting that the Nets might trade Irving once things are settled or at the deadline.

Time and time again, we have been surprised by developments. No reason to think we won’t be again.

Meanwhile, Stein reiterated that the Nets backed off their interest in hiring Ime Udoka as head coach. Udoka has his own issues following his suspension for violations of the Celtics code of conduct.

Sources close to the process reiterate that dismay from the league office, as I reported in part on Nov. 6, was among the forces that convinced Tsai to back away from Brooklyn’s original plan to hire suspended Celtics coach Ime Udoka as Nash’s replacement and invite more turmoil and uncomfortable questions into the organization.

Of course, Vaughn is now riding high and while KD reportedly wanted Udoka, he told The Etcs last week how much he thinks of Vaughn as a head coach for Brooklyn.

“I think he was due for an opportunity here. Not just any head coaching job, but I felt like here... If the spot was gonna come open, I felt like he was the guy because he paid his dues, knows the players, seen the guys come in and out, tight relationship with the front office. I think he can connect with the players a little easier because it’s hard to transition a new guy midway through the season, early in the season like this,

Stay tuned, as we always say.