After being away from the team for over two weeks, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving spoke to media members on Tuesday about his absence. Irving declined to go into detail about the reason for his absence, and instead emphasized that he was eager to move on and pleased to be back with the team.
"There's a lot of family and personal stuff going on. So, [I] just want to leave it at that," Irving said, via ESPN. "I'm back, I'm happy to be back. And we got some great pieces and we just move on and I let my actions and my game speak for itself like I planned on doing. [I] just needed a pause."
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Steve Nash said Tuesday he expects Irving to be available and play against the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Wednesday night. The game will be the basketball world's first chance to see Brooklyn's new star trio of Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden in action. To say that expectations are high for the trio would be an understatement.
Irving missed Brooklyn's last seven games as he took time away from the team for personal reasons, and then was forced to undergo a mandatory quarantine after the league determined that he violated health and safety protocols by attending a family birthday party at a private venue without wearing a mask. Irving was hit with a $50,000 fine for the infraction. When asked if he was aware that he had violated the league's rules, Irving avoided the question.
"Happy to be back. Happy to be around these guys," Irving said. "Addressed the team, addressed everyone that needed to be addressed. Now, it's time to move on."
Some pundits questioned Irving's level of commitment, and even his love for the game of basketball during his absence, but he made it clear that he's still completely dedicated to his team, and the game.
"There's just so many assumptions about what's going on. And so many people feel like they know me best. They have no idea who I am or what I'm about, or what I stand for or even attempt to take the time, or even for me to invite them to take the time so it's a two way street," Irving said. "And when things become overwhelming in life you just got to take a step back and realize what's important.
"And I love to play, that's never been questioned. I've committed myself, you know, when this wasn't even a thing for me. And I didn't really care about media, I didn't really care about the fandom. All I cared about was just the ethics of the game, and being taught the fundamentals and now that it's become bigger and there's more of a responsibility that I have in this position I'm in, I'm grateful because I'm able to stand on this platform with others alongside of me that have sacrificed and are going through similar things, so I'm not alone in this. And, you know, that's just a big thing about also mental health, you know just coming in and being balanced with yourself first and then being able to perform."
Though it's clear that Irving felt justified in his decision to take some time away from the team, he did show contrition when it comes to fans that were disappointed in -- or even confused by -- his extended absence.
"I started off as a fanatic. I started off as a fan. I've been invested in this organization since I was a kid," Irving said. "The fans out there, I want to apologize to them as well. My commitment has always been to bringing something special to Brooklyn. It wasn't just a championship. It was unity, equality, just bigger things than just the game itself. It took quite a while and quite a few valleys to get back home, initially. So for me, I'm just taking every day, just being grateful."
Now that he's back with the team, Irving's top task will be to create chemistry with the recently acquired Harden, and the rest of his teammates. If he's able to do so, the sky will be the limit for the Nets.