Kyrie Irving’s eight-game suspension ended on Sunday as the star point guard prepared for the Brooklyn Nets’ game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Irving hadn’t played for the Nets since Nov. 1. The Nets suspended Irving on Nov. 3 after he tweeted a link to a documentary containing anti-Semitic messages, followed by an initial refusal to apologize.
Irving has since issued several apologies, including during his pre-game media availability on Sunday.
“I just want to offer my deepest apologies to everyone who has been affected over the past few weeks, especially my Jewish parents, my black parents, all races and cultures,” Irving said Sunday. “I feel like we’ve all felt an impact and I can’t stand anything approaching hate speech or anti-Semitism or anything ‘anti’, going against the human race .”
“I think it was necessary for me to stand here and take responsibility for my actions,” Irving said.
Irving received a warm welcome from the Brooklyn crowd during player introductions before tipping. He finished the night with 14 points and five rebounds in the Nets’ 127-115 win over the Grizzlies.
Irving said after the game that it “felt great” to be back on the court.
“I missed my teammates,” Irving told reporters. “The coaching staff failed. Just getting ready with them in the morning and getting on with the game felt good.
When asked if he would grieve his suspension, Irving said he would leave that decision to his legal team.
“I have strong people, men and women, around me who are going to do everything possible to make sure that I am protected and my family is protected and that we protect each other, so I am sure some things will be done in the future,” Irving said. “There is no timetable on this at the moment.”
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s game, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn showed no hesitation in his decision to take Irving down to start the game.
“He’s going to start, and we’ll see where his conditioning is, the pace of the game we want to play. I’m excited to have him back on the court with our group, and he’ll fit right in,” Vaughn said.
During an interview Saturday with SNY’s Ian Begley, Irving said he reacted emotionally to being called an “anti-Semite.”
“I felt like I was protecting my character and I reacted out of pure defense and I was just hurt that I could be labeled, or I thought I was labeled as anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish, and I felt like it was just so disrespectful to ask me if I was anti-Semitic or not,” Irving said.
The Nets’ next scheduled game is Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.