Nets Coach Jacque Vaughn said before Thursday’s game in Portland that Irving could be back in the lineup for a Sunday game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, marking the first time that a team representative had publicly discussed a specific date for Irving’s possible return.
“There’s been some positive synergy and progress toward him returning,” Vaughn said. “It could be as soon as the Memphis game. That, overall, has been the progress so far.”
Since he was suspended, Irving has issued a public apology on Instagram and met with both Tsai and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who said last week that he had “no doubt” that Irving wasn’t antisemitic. The Nets were 4-3 entering Thursday without Irving, though they suffered blowout defeats to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday and the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.
“There’s some uncertainty [with reincorporating Irving],” Vaughn said. “My approach is: The train is going to keep moving. That train of playing hard, playing together, being a team, that’s going to continue. It’s going to be up to me to get our group to incorporate everybody.”
Nets star Kevin Durant has repeatedly said he hopes Irving is able to make a swift return to the court. In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Durant appeared to question the quality of Brooklyn’s starting lineup without Irving and asked, “What are you expecting from that group?”
Vaughn said he hadn’t addressed Irving’s possible return with his team, but he expected Irving and himself to address the matter once the decision is formalized.
Several other prominent players, including Lakers star LeBron James and Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, argued that the conditions of Irving’s return were too stringent. The National Basketball Players Association, which participated in conversations with the NBA and Irving, expressed optimism last week that he would return to the court soon, and it told its members that the union had “protected [Irving’s] rights at every turn,” even as the suspension extended past the five-game mark.
“I told you guys that I don’t believe in sharing hurtful information,” James wrote on Twitter. “And I’ll continue to be that way but Kyrie apologized and he should be able to play. That’s what I think. It’s that simple. Help him learn — but he should be playing. What he’s asked to do to get back on the floor I think is excessive IMO. He’s not the person that’s being portrayed of him.”
In a statement posted to Instagram Nov. 3, Irving apologized “to all Jewish families and communities that are hurt and affected from my post,” acknowledging that he had linked to a film that “contained some false antisemitic statements, narratives and language that were untrue and offensive.”
Irving continued: “I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled antisemitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the documentary. I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against antisemitism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the documentary I agreed with.”
Irving, 30, is averaging 26.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists. The Nets are 6-9 entering Thursday.