Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets

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Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving is expected to finally return to action tonight as he travels with his teammates to Cleveland and takes on the Cavaliers. However, it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride over the past week.

He initially took some time away from the team, yet he gave no definitive reason given as to why. Then, when video later surfaced of Irving at his sister’s birthday around January 12, but with no facial coverings and in clear violation of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the league promptly fined him $50,000. And, in light of the circumstances, he also had to quarantine for two additional games, forfeiting the $800,000 he would have earned from them.

But after inexplicably missing the overall past seven games, Irving continued to be cagey as to what specifically had him M.I.A. from the hardwood. “There’s a lot of family and personal stuff going on. So, [I] just want to leave it at that,” Irving shared with ESPN reporters about his questionable absence via Zoom call on Tuesday.

However, Irving would not officially acknowledge if he was aware that he was breaking the rules, nor would he dwell on the past. “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.”

It’s a shame, too, with the circus that’s come with his newly adopted sage burning pregame ritual, his conspiracy theories, and having recently gone AWOL because his time away from the game has been considerably charitable and very socially conscious. Whether it’s been the $1.5 million fund for those WNBA players who opted out of last season in protest or purchasing a home for the daughter of the late George Floyd and the girl’s mother, Irving doesn’t seem to be frittering away all of his free time.

“I’d be lying sitting here and saying I don’t feel what’s going on in the world, nor am I paying attention to it,” Irving said. “I just have a huge responsibility, I feel, to continue to serve my community and the underserved. And when I’m out here playing, it’s continuing to leave knowledge with these guys and commit to something, like I always say, bigger than ourselves.”