Kyrie Irving on Nets Absence: 'A Lot of Family and Personal Stuff Going On'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2021

Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving plays against the Boston Celtics during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving addressed his recent absence ahead of his potential return to the court Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving told reporters he had "a lot of family and personal stuff going on" and wanted "to leave it at that":

"I am back, I am happy to be back, we got some great pieces and we move on and I let my actions and my game speak for itself like I planned on doing," the six-time All-Star said. "I just needed a pause."

Irving has missed Brooklyn's last seven games.

The team initially cited personal reasons for his absence in a 122-109 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 7. Five days later, ESPN's Malika Andrews and Adrian Wojnarowski reported the NBA was looking into a video that purportedly showed Irving at a family event without a protective face mask.

The league announced last Friday it had levied a $50,000 against the veteran point guard for a violation of the health and safety protocols. When asked about the punishment, Irving sidestepped the question.

During his media call, the 28-year-old emphasized how his concerns have extended well beyond his basketball career and to wider societal issues:

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As the NBA was looking to resume the 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, Irving was one of the most prominent dissenting voices. The Athletic's Shams Charania reported he said he didn't "support going into Orlando" was "not with the systematic racism and the bulls--t" during a call with players.

"Something smells a little fishy," he said, per Charania. "Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as Black men every day we wake up."

Last July, Irving pledged $1.5 million through the KAI Empowerment Initiative to WNBA players who were opting out of the league's 2020 season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Former NBA star Stephen Jackson said Irving helped purchase a home for the family of George Floyd, who was died shortly after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes in May.