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Mystery lingers in the air on the return of Kyrie Irving

There is reported hesitancy on the return of Kyrie Irving as he reaches his fifth and final game of suspension as the Nets play the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. Irving was suspended from play for five games after his controversial statements with antisemitism

Irving has not played in a game since November 1, where he scored 4 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and 7 assists. There is continuous skepticism around the return of Irving, with Senior NBA insider for ESPN Adrian Wojnarowski believing there is uncertainty of Irving returning in the upcoming games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings respectively. Despite an apology posted by Irving, the NBA had given a list of tasks that Irving must complete before returning to the team. Posted by the senior lead NBA Insider for the Athletic and Stadium, Shams Charania on Twitter, the items that Irving must complete are as follows: 

- Apologize/condemn movie

- $500K donation to anti-hate causes

- Sensitivity training

- Antisemitic training

- Meet with ADL, Jewish leaders

- Meet with Joe Tsai to demonstrate understanding

Since his suspension, Irving has met with officials in the NBA to discuss his antisemitic comments and come to an understanding about the hurtful things that Irving has posted. NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who has a Jewish background, met with Irving on Thursday and was positive about the conversation he had. Silver commented on Amazon’s decision to have the film on its streaming service, suggesting that Amazon is also responsible for having hosted the antisemitic film on its platform. On Irving, Silver had this to say in a New York Times article

“He’s someone I’ve known for a decade, and I’ve never heard an antisemitic word from him or, frankly, hate directed at any group,” Silver said.

Silver added an additional statement in a follow-up phone conversation where he said, “Whether or not he is antisemitic is not relevant to the damage caused by the posting of hateful content,” 

The conversation between Silver and Irving was kept private but Silver made great emphasis on the fact that Irving was not an antisemitic person. After the meeting with Silver, Irving had a conversation with the owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Joe Tsai. Tsai commented that he and Irving came to an understanding of one another, and that Irving does not hold any hate or Jewish people or any other group of people.

As stated by Tsai, the NBA and NBPA are working alongside Irving and the Nets organization towards Irving’s track towards healing, education and understanding. The outlook is still unsure but it is positive towards the return of Irving on an NBA court.

Despite the turbulent start to the 2022-2023 season for the Nets with the firing of head coach Steve Nash and the suspension of Irving, things are starting to look positive for the Nets. On Wednesday, the Nets officially made Jacque Vaughn the head coach of the team. Vaughn initially served as interim head coach after the firing of Nash on November 1 and was promoted to head coach where the deal goes through the 2023-2024 season. Promoting Vaughn was a surprise from those within the Nets’ organization, with many believing that the Nets were eyeing suspended Boston Celtics head coach, Ime Udoka who would take up the role as head coach of the Nets. 

On the court, the Nets have been able to gain some positive momentum and have played well in their last four games. The Nets managed to win three of the last four games without Irving, with the only loss coming against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday after Kevin Durant missed a crucial free-throw in the fourth quarter that would have sent the Nets to overtime and a chance to win the game. The Nets are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 5-7 and are looking to climb up the standings with this surge of momentum after gaining a couple of wins this past week.