Nets' Kyrie Irving apologizes to Jewish community ahead of potential return vs. Grizzlies

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Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving is reportedly getting closer to returning from his team-issued suspension and he took another step toward getting back on the court on Saturday.

Irving has been suspended since Nov. 3 after showing support for a movie with antisemitic views and the Nets gave their star point guard a checklist to complete before he would be able to retake the court.

The team said Irving would miss "no less than five games" for his comments and Brooklyn held that stance, keeping him sidelined for eight games heading into Sunday's contest against the Grizzlies.

MORE: Are the Nets better without Irving?

In an exclusive interview with SNY's Ian Begley on Saturday, Irving issued an apology to the Jewish community ahead of his expected return on Sunday.

Here's what Irving had to say.

Kyrie Irving issues apology to Jewish community

“I really want to focus on the hurt that I caused or the impact that I made within the Jewish community. Putting some type of threat, or assumed threat, on the Jewish community," Irving began.

"I just want to apologize deeply for all my actions throughout the time that it’s been since the post was first put up. I’ve had a lot of time to think. But my focus, initially, if I could do it over, would be to heal and repair a lot of my close relationships with my Jewish relatives, brothers and sisters.”

Irving admitted that he got defensive about being labeled antisemitic, which led to his lack of an apology in separate media availabilities following his suspension.

“I felt like I was protecting my character and I reacted out of just pure defense and just hurt that I could be labeled, or I thought that I was being labeled as antisemitic or anti-Jewish, and I've felt like that was just so disrespectful to ask me whether or not I was antisemitic or not,” he told SNY's Begley.

“Now to the outside world, that may have been seen as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Which rightfully so, it should've been, 'No, I'm not antisemitic. No, I'm not anti-Jewish,'" Irving continued.

"I'm a person who believes we should all have equal opportunities and that we should all shower each other with love, and that should be at the forefront.

“But it wasn't in that initial conversation, and I take my accountability and I want to apologize for that, because it came off the wrong way completely.

"What I was really getting at was, 'How can I be antisemitic, if I know where I come from?' That statement itself was just referring back to my childhood and all the relatives and friends that I have made and that I will continue to get to know on a deeper level. They're Jewish – some of them are Jewish, some of them are not Jewish. I felt like that didn't matter, and because I felt like that didn't matter in the moment, it came off the wrong way.”

Irving also said that he hopes the conversations he's had over the past two weeks — meeting with members of the Jewish community, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and Nets governors Joe and Clara Wu Tsai — will act as steps toward bridging the gaps between the Black and Jewish communities.

“The reality is that our actions as human beings and my actions, are going to have to speak louder [than words] because there is a level of hurt and pain that a lot of communities feel for not being recognized, for a lot of their history and a lot of their cultural achievements and accomplishments,” Irving stated.

“Because of that, there is a pride that they feel, that I feel, that it should be represented the right way and there shouldn’t be a fear or a thought or a second thought with this. It’s just standing up for the right things. Making sure that you’re standing up with everyone, but specifically in this case, this is the Jewish community that we’re recognizing.”

Irving concluded the interview with a clear statement about his stance on racism and hate speech.

“I don't stand for any hate speech, I don't stand for racial prejudices or racial discrimination, and I for sure don't stand for any religious hatred against any groups.

"I don't want to bring any harm to any community, I only want to bring more light and peace to our world. In order to do that, you need to come through some moments that maybe [are] challenging and testing.”

You can watch the entire interview between Irving and SNY's Begley here.

When will Kyrie Irving return from suspension?

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, Irving is "expected to be cleared" to play on Sunday against the Grizzlies at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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The Nets originally said Irving would be suspended for "no less than five games" and the All-Star guard has been absent for Brooklyn's last eight games.

The Nets went 5-3 without Irving, jumping their record from 2-6 to 7-9 in the process.

Prior to his suspension, Irving was averaging 26.9 points, 5.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game.

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Kyle Irving is an NBA content producer for The Sporting News.