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Kevin Durant, Sean Marks comment on Kyrie Irving situation

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Brooklyn Nets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The fallout continues.

Less than 24 hours ago, it felt as if the 7/11 era was over. Done. Finished. Kyrie Irving has been suspended for the next five games (at least) following his Thursday media appearance in which he appeared largely unapologetic for posting a link to a documentary with anti-semitic themes to his Instagram story and Twitter account. It was unclear when, if ever, the mercurial point guard would rejoin his team, leaving the Nets’ future in the murkiest of waters.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski voiced on ‘First Take’ that Nets owner Joe Tsai held off on suspending Irving in hopes that he would correct his actions, apologize, and learn from his mistakes—despite loud calls for immediate suspension from Nets officials and the league office, he later added in an article.

“Essentially, it took until yesterday because the Nets owner, Joe Tsai, pushed back on the idea that he should immediately punish Kyrie Irving,” said Woj. “He wanted to go down the road of trying to educate Irving and make it a learning moment.”

Woj later noted that Tsai sent multiple text messages to Irving imploring him to apologize, though to no response from the Nets’ guard.

“For nearly a week, Tsai kept extending the clock to give Irving a chance to get this right for himself, the franchise and the Jewish community,” said Woj on Friday, “and Irving never returned a single of his text messages, sources said.”

Then, late on Thursday night, Irving went to his Instagram account and wrote that he was “deeply sorry” for posting a link to the documentary “that contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion.”

On Friday, general manager Sean Marks spoke to the media about the Irving situation. Marks echoed the organization’s earlier statements at the time of his suspension, which expressed that Irving must satisfy “a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct.”

“The organization has made multiple attempts to get with Kyrie and his representation and to have them clarify his feelings and put out a sense of remorse for this. And that obviously didn’t happen and he refused to disavow that until his tweet last night,” said Marks on Friday. “So I think this is the best course of action as it stands, right now, is to suspend him because they’re not the values of our organization.”

Still, Marks made it clear that Irving’s apology was a “step in the right direction,” though he noted that Irving’s post on social media was just the beginning and wouldn’t fulfill the organization’s requirements for reinstatement.

“The apology is a step in the right direction. Yeah, no, that’s certainly not enough,” said Marks. “There is going to be some remedial steps and measures that have been put in place for him to obviously seek some counseling designated by the team from dealing with some anti-hate and some Jewish leaders within our community. He’s gonna have to sit down with them, he’s gonna have to sit down with the organization after this, and we’ll evaluate and see if this is the right opportunity to bring him back.”

Woj later reported that there was an email sent to Irving’s agent (and stepmother) Shetellia Riley Irving calling for the 30-year-old to apologize and disavow the material found in the documentary, as well as fulfill the requirements that Marks detailed in the presser.

“In an email outlining the suspension to his agent, the conditions needed for Irving’s reinstatement included a public statement recognizing the film is antisemitic, an apology for supporting the film and the falsehoods within it, and training sessions on the dangers of hate speech,” wrote Woj on Friday.

Marks concluded his remarks by stating that the Nets never planned to waive or release Irving throughout the trying process.

We also heard from Irving’s teammate and co-star, Kevin Durant, on Friday morning to discuss the week’s events.

“I’m not here to judge somebody or talk down on their life or how they feel their views,” said Durant went asked about Irving. “I just didn’t like anything that went on. I felt like it was all unnecessary. I felt like we could have just kept playing basketball and kept quiet as an organization.”

Durant quickly went on Twitter to clarify this comment, in particular, condemning antisemitism and hate speech in the process.

When asked about Irving’s suspension specifically, Durant expressed that he “believe(s) and trust(s) in the organization to do what’s right.”

Though it appears that Brooklyn and Irving could be headed toward some sort of resolution provided Irving takes the right steps, many have wondered aloud if the partnership between Irving and the Nets is coming to an end. The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer wrote about the “possibility of (Irving) never playing for the organization again,” and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski called his future with the Nets “very uncertain.”

On the ‘Crossover’ podcast, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix proclaimed that Irving “is not going back to Brooklyn next year. Joe Tsai is not re-signing him for a nickel, much less anything close to a maximum-level contract.”

ESPN’s Zach Lowe brought up a different point on the Lowe Post podcast regarding Irving’s most recent four-point performance against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday in which the point guard appeared rather disinterested and apathetic.

“I can tell you that around the Nets, Kyrie Irving’s completely checked out performance against the Bulls was very noticed and very disturbing to them along with, obviously, the comments,” said Lowe on Friday.

Woj similarly touched on Irving’s dismal Tuesday display in his Friday writeup, calling Irving an “albatross around his team” that has been “distant” in the recent stretch of Nets hoops.

“Irving had become an albatross around his team, too. He had played a listless game on Tuesday in a loss to the Chicago Bulls, leaving his teammates and opponents to privately describe him as disengaged and seemingly “in another world.” For a player averaging 30 points and shooting at almost every opportunity, Irving didn’t make a basket until the fourth quarter,” said Woj. “He had been distant to everyone in recent days, sources said, his presence feeling like an anvil hanging over everyone.”

In other Nets news, there’s still no movement on the hiring of Ime Udoka. On Tuesday, Woj stated that a deal between the Nets and Udoka “could be reached as soon as today” and that Ime “could be on the Nets bench by as soon as this road trip this weekend.” Similarly, a league source told NetsDaily on Wednesday night that Thursday was the day.

Udoka, of course, comes with his own set of controversies—workplace harassment, to be specific, that provoked his former employer, the Boston Celtics, to suspend him in late September for the full 2022-23 NBA season after getting Boston to the NBA Finals in his rookie season.

Woj pushed back on his own reporting a bit on Friday. No longer is Udoka’s hiring imminent; the Nets are back to the “vetting” process to figure out if Brooklyn “wants to go down the rest of the road.”

“While they would have liked to have really been invested in a coaching search, they have been fully invested in dealing with this Kyrie Irving situation,” said Woj on TV. “I think today allows them to start to get back to figuring if they’re going to go down the rest of the road with Ime Udoka. I know they’ve continued to ask questions, to vet the circumstances around his suspension and essentially ouster in Boston.”

Then even later, Woj told Malika Andrews that while the vetting continues, the Nets are “on the brink” of hiring Udoka.

Marks was asked on Friday about the team’s coaching search since firing Steve Nash on Tuesday. His response was short and sweet.

“I think we deal with that on another time,” Marks said with a chuckle.