Kyrie Irving’s last appearance with the Brooklyn Nets occurred on Nov. 1 as controversy swirled around the team.
His next appearance is likely Sunday night when the Nets return home from a four-game road trip to face the Memphis Grizzlies, who will be without star Ja Morant.
Irving is expected to return after sitting out Brooklyn’s past eight games. His last game was a four-point performance when the Nets folded in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls in Jacque Vaughn’s head coaching debut after taking over from Steve Nash.
“It’s exciting for everybody. I mean we miss Ky. We miss his presence on the floor,” Brooklyn star Kevin Durant said. “I haven’t talked to him since we’ve been on the road trip about it, the last couple of days. But we’re looking forward to his return to the team. Definitely going to give us a much needed spark.”
Irving was the focal point of controversy for posting a link to an anti-Semitic film on Oct. 27, and was handed at least a five-game suspension when he did not apologize following a contentious media session at practice on Nov. 3.
When the Nets suspended him, they stipulated Irving must complete several steps, including meeting with commissioner Adam Silver. They met last week, and Silver said he did not think Irving held anti-Semitic beliefs.
Since Irving’s last appearance, the Nets are 5-3 and — even with allowing 153 points Tuesday at Sacramento — they are defending better recently.
Through Nov. 1, the Nets were allowing 118.8 points, 47.0 percent shooting and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. Since then, Brooklyn is allowing 104 points, 42.3 percent shooting and 35.8 percent from behind the arc.
Brooklyn returns after splitting a four-game West Coast trip. The Nets ended the trek by rallying from an 11-point deficit when Royce O’Neale capped his first career triple-double by tipping in the miss of a Durant jumper with seven-tenths of a second remaining in a 109-107 win Thursday.
Durant scored 35 points and has scored at least 25 in each game. He is the first player with such a streak since Michael Jordan did it in 16 straight to start 1988-89. The last player to achieve the feat in 17 straight was Rick Barry for the first 25 games of the 1966-67 season for the San Francisco Warriors.
Memphis snapped its second losing streak of the season by earning a 121-110 win over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday when Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 25 in his second game back from right foot surgery.
Morant scored 19 before exiting late in the fourth quarter with a tweaked ankle. The star guard was diagnosed Saturday with a Grade 1 left ankle sprain and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
Tyus Jones will likely get the start as the Grizzlies have yet to play a game with their expected starting five of Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jackson and center Steven Adams.
“It is frustrating, but it’s part of the game,” Brooks said. “Been through it. We still got guys ready to play, ready to be active, ready to have their shot. It’s a tough one, but at the same time, though, next man up.”
–Field Level Media