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Nets’ Kyrie Irving finally apologizes — will it matter?

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Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving
Photo: Getty Images

In Brooklyn’s precarious position, scandal is a pitfall and Kyrie Irving has supplied it in abundance. Mics and social media are as much of an occupational hazard for Irving as soft tissue and ligament injuries are for his peers. In that regard, the Nets All-NBA point guard can be a walking OSHA violation.

From throwing gasoline into the bubble discussion at a time when the players were at risk of losing 100s of millions of dollars to partying maskless in the middle of the 2020 season during a COVID spike, missing half the season to avoid vaccinating, to buying into deranged anti-vax conspiracies, Irving has been a regular P.R. nightmare.

Compliance is one of Irving’s weaknesses and his no -apology apology over two weeks ago was a catastrophic example of his personality sabotaging him in a predicament. Since then, Irving has completed the prerequisites the Nets organization instructed him to complete to rejoin the team.

In an interview on Saturday with SNY’s Ian Begley, Irving discussed reactively defensively and steadfastly denied purposely spreading antisemitic content. Irving at least showed the appearance of someone who regrets his actions. On Sunday, Irving sounded his most sincere yet during a news conference in which Nets brass confirmed his reinstatement.

“I don’t stand for anything close to hate speech, or antisemitism, or anything that is anti going against the human race,” Irving said. “I feel like we all should have an opportunity to speak for ourselves when things are assumed about us. And I feel it was necessary for me to stand in this place and take accountability for my actions because there was a way I should have handled all of this.

“… I meant no harm to any person, any group of people. And yeah, this is a big moment for me because I’m able to learn throughout this process that the power of my voice is very strong. The influence that I have within my community is very strong. And I want to be responsible for that. In order to do that, we have to admit when you were wrong and instances where you hurt people and it impacts them.

Irving loses a few points here for this boilerplate message about understanding the power of his voice. It’s been a year since he used his voice to advance vaccine denialism and referred to himself as a voice for the voiceless.

However, he appeared earnest, and didn’t resort to his cryptic brand of circular speaking to avoid direct answers while demonstrating the type of response a remorseful person gives instead of an unrepentant prick reading off a ransom note.

“It should have been on the first day that I was dealing with all this of just being there for all those that felt like this was antisemitic,” Irving said. “And I should have clarified that I am not antisemitic and I am not anti-anything when it comes to the way I live my life. So the learning lesson for me was just the power of my platform and the impact that it can cause if it’s not taken care of the right way. So meeting with different people within the Jewish community has offered me some clarity on a deeper understanding of what’s going on and the impact that was made and the hurt that was caused.”

In the two weeks since Irving’s Nov. 4 suspension, the Nets have been surprisingly tranquil. Brooklyn got a taste of harmony and ultimately decided against lighting a match near a leaky gas pipe by passing on Ime Udoka in favor of removing the interim tag from long-time assistant Jacque Vaughn.

Yet, as much of a healing moment this is, this signals that it’s also time to revive Irving’s “(Blank) Days Since An Incident” sign. Irving re-joins a Nets team that has been focused on hoops in his absence. Irving’s dazzling offensive repertoire has obscured an apathy on the defensive end. Irving found himself on the outs by getting defensive, but that’s exactly where he should spend more energy when he’s back in uniform.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Irving’s negative-0.9 defensive RAPTOR in the 2021-22 season ranked 41st out of 72 point guards who played at least 1,000 regular-season minutes.

Since Irving was suspended from the 2-6 Nets on Nov. 4, the Nets have won 5 of 8, allowing the fourth-fewest per 100 possessions after being the league’s worst defensive team while Irving was active. Vaughn’s Nets defense skews towards being more switch-heavy, in contrast to Nash having guards attacking over screens while bigs defend pick-and-rolls in drop coverage to prevent layups or back cuts toward the rim. His first opportunity to fit in with the resurgent Nets will come Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Prior to Nash’s firing, Irving was blowing off his head coach’s playcalls. Irving is averaging 26.9 points, 5.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds, but at the time of his suspension, the Nets were 25th in assist-to-turnover ratio and 12th since Nov. 4. The Nets’ offense that scored 111.6 points per 100 possessions with Irving out, averaged 112 during his suspension.

Irving is integral to the Nets making a title run, but there are three things he must do for that reality to come to fruition. By buying into Vaughn’s philosophy on both ends, incorporating his offensive wizardry into the decentralized offense and avoiding the ancillary distractions that have plagued his stint in Brooklyn, Irving can finally begin the process of rehabilitating his polarizing image. 





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Pakistan vs England | Day five morning highlights

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Morning session highlights from day five of the first Test between Pakistan and England in Rawalpindi.



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France beats Poland and more in today’s World Cup Daily Diary

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France’s Kylian Mbappé (left) and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski

France’s Kylian Mbappé (left) and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski
Photo: Getty Images

Today was about England and France eyeballing each other over their respective opponents, with the only drama being whether or not they would get caught looking too far ahead. They most certainly did not, engaging in a “Anything you can do..” dance that set them up for a glossy quarterfinal on Friday. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts.

Game of the day – France 3 – 1 Poland

Either choice would have been acceptable, if I’m allowed to give myself an out or an excuse, as both games followed kind of the same pattern. The chatter the past couple days has been around what to do against a team that’s sitting off of you and trying to nullify your space in midfield, thanks to the US’s struggle against such a side. One answer is, “have Kylian Mbappé.” Sadly, that’s only available to one team in this tournament.

It’s obviously more complicated than that, but not by much. Poland did their usual Poland thing, which was to pack five across midfield and hopefully limit Antoine Griezmann’s access to the ball while keeping both Mbappé and Dembele wide. The Poles actually looked a little more aggressive, a low bar for them admittedly, on the rare times they got the ball and might have had the best chances in the first half. Hugo Lloris had to pull off a great save to keep from shockingly going behind, along with a Raphael Varane goal-line clearance in addition.

But that was about it for Poland’s threat, because they’re Poland. And you can plan to keep Mbappé out wide or burden him with extra defenders, and he’s still going to open you up. To open the scoring for France was a matter of him drawing defenders to him just enough to find an alley to slip a through-ball to Olivier Giroud, which is the unheralded part of his game:

Again, it’s beyond easy and cliche to say goals change games, but when the team that’s the favorite and has been facing a low block all night scores first, it flips everything on its head. Poland couldn’t simply hold out and hope anymore. Which means more space for France, which means Mbappé has more space, which means…

The second goal, which is unfair and rude, got most of the plaudits but the first one is high on the stupid level too. You’re not supposed to be able to beat a keeper, especially one having the tournament that Szczesny was until this point, that effortlessly at the near post. Poland probably thought they had this covered, for just an instant, given that it did look like Mbappé waited too long and had his options narrowed. Except he always has an out, he always has an option. I guess any player always has an option if, “Release a Hadoken of a shot with minimal backlift” is in their holster.

If France has a worry, and it’s hard to tell if they do, it’s that Poland was able to get at them occasionally down their right side, where Jules Kounde looked a little out of place as a right-back. England certainly don’t lack options on the left side of their attack. But then, when you have No. 10 in your attack, are you ever all that worried?

Other results: England 3 – 0 Senegal

It’ll be washed away after the final score, but England did not look great before they took the lead, and just like Poland, Senegal had the best chance with the score at 0-0. Both teams will spend a while wondering what would have happened if they could have finished. On such margins…

Much like France, much like Argentina, much like the US even, England was facing a disciplined opponent whose first, second, and third aim was defending and cutting off space. But whereas France and Argentina called upon otherworldly individual brilliance, England went the otherworldly team brilliance route for their first goal:

This is what the US couldn’t do, but the US don’t have Harry Kane or Jude Bellingham. Bellingham shifts out a little wider and drops a little deeper, Kane does his thing where he drops in deeper but behind the opponent’s midfield line. The England defense feeds a ball through the lines to Kane who can then flick a pass to the on-rushing Bellingham, whose touch is so silky soft your knees just disappear and he can control it at full speed and get to running at the Senegal defense. Henderson follows him through the middle, both goal-side of the midfielders that had been tasked with marking them and keeping them from getting passes from the England defense. Kane completely flips the play on them. .

Much like France, the game flips when England take the lead, as Senegal couldn’t wait around. Whereas the US has Jesus Ferreira only occasionally attempting this, and also having a terminal case of “being Jesus Ferreira” and not Harry Kane. The US midfield wasn’t dedicated enough to dropping deeper or wider to try and either lose their markers or provide space for their forwards to dive into. And they simply don’t have this level of talent. That’s how you get what we got here last week (or Saturday, as it were). This is how you get to be England, prancing to the quarters and looking like a genuine favorite for the whole thing.

Senegal haven’t been great when they have to take the initiative in this tournament, as England really only had to focus on Ismaila Sarr. They were pretty easily picked apart for goals two and three:

Life’s easier when you have Jude Bellingham to dribble through an entire midfield.

England-France is almost too good for a quarterfinal, but that’s our treat. England’s strength, the Rice-Bellingham axis in midfield, is exactly where France have suffered some injuries and are a little inexperienced as a result. Griezmann makes them dangerous but he also leaves them a little lightweight in the middle. But they also have Mbappé, which is the punch-the-game-board answer to everything.

Goal of the Day

It’s a tie between England’s first, a symphony of passing and movement, and Mbappé’s third. We already posted both, so you can decide:

Did VAR fuck anything up?

Not today, Satan.

Did FIFA/Qatar fuck anything up?

No, but now feels like a good time that the broadcast of every game does not need a shot of Gianni Infantino in his fucking suite sitting in his fucking plush recliner every goddamn time. It’s a reminder of how we ended up with this hell tournament. Remember, originally FIFA thought they could hold this thing in the summer in Qatar, because all the people voting on it were not only bagging bribes for millions (allegedly) but they didn’t have to concern themselves with the heat. They would go from their air conditioned hotel suites to their air conditioned limos to their air conditioned skybox at the stadium and back again. Seeing Infantino sitting in one every game he attends is just about the starkest image of how such a thing like this ridiculous tournament could happen, because the guys making decisions are only the types to be sitting in that type of a chair at that portion of the stadium, only making considerations for guys who sit in that type of chair in that portion of the stadium.

Did Alexi Lalas say anything stupid?

After two weeks it’s getting harder and harder to actually distinguish words Lalas says more than just hearing his voice as a constant drone. It’s aggravating that Fox’s coverage of this has tried to mimic their NFL coverage’s most annoying habit, which is having their analysts not only narrate replays (not their job) but also trying to sound funny and cool while doing it. Lalas’s trick today was while doing postgame highlights of France’s win, attempting to advertise and tease his Power Rankings to follow as if we were waiting for them on the same level of the CFP standings. Power Rankings are a curse upon all sports coverage, and even more so when a dunderhead like Lalas is authoring them and justifying changing them based off one game or one half, and even more so beyond that when he treats them like some final tablet on the state of the game today. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT.



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Raheem Sterling leaves England World Cup camp after armed burglary at Surrey home

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Sterling did not feature in Sunday’s 3-0 win against Senegal and the FA said before the game that the Chelsea forward was “dealing with a family matter”.

Sources have confirmed armed burglars broke into Sterling’s home on Saturday night when his family were in.

Sterling was shaken up by news and, as soon as he learned about the incident, wanted to return home to check on the well-being of his three children.

Sterling has been determined to play a big role for England in Qatar and it is understood only his concern for his children pushed him to leave the squad and return home.

Asked whether he will figure for England again at the World Cup, Southgate said after the Senegal game: “We have got to wait and see.

“At the moment the priority is for him to be with him family and we are going to support that and him to have as much time as he needs.”

Pushed on the likelihood of Sterling returning to the England squad, Southgate said: “I really don’t know.

“At the moment it is a situation he needs time with his family to do deal with and I do not want to put him under any pressure. Sometimes football is not the most important thing and family should come first.”



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