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LeBron James Tweets Kyrie Irving apologized, ‘he should be able to play’

Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson react to the Nets deciding to remove the interim tag from Jacque Vaughn and naming him the full-time head coach, with Helin describing it as a "stabilizing move" amid all the swirling chaos.

Kyrie Irving screwed up. Unquestionably.

But what is the price he should pay for that? What steps should be necessary before he returns to the court? The Nets suspended Irving for at least five games and laid out a six-step course of action Irving has to complete to return. However, many players saw that and thought the team had gone too far. Jaylen Brown said the NBA’s players union is considering stepping in and appealing the matter.

LeBron James echoed that idea on Twitter Thursday, saying his former Cleveland teammate Irving apologized and that should be enough.

Was that Tweet a message to the Lakers front office that LeBron is open to bringing Irving to Los Angeles? It’s being interpreted that way around the league — and by some with the Lakers — ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast. A league source had told NBC Sports the Lakers were backing away from the idea of trading for Irving in the wake of this incident (and questions about how much of a difference it would make considering the rest of the Lakers’ roster), but that could change if LeBron wants and pushes for it.

Irving did apologize on Instagram, but the Nets are asking for more (including an in-person apology in front of the media, where he disavows the antisemitic film he linked to on Twitter). Some people around the league think the Nets’ six steps were explicitly chosen because Irving would not meet all of them, giving the organization cause to keep him away from the team (or even release him, although that is unlikely). It appears as if LeBron is leaning that way.

At an event on Thursday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he didn’t think Irving was antisemitic but that there is a process for him to return to the court, one the NBA and Nets continue to discuss. Irving met individually with Silver earlier in the week.

The first game Irving could return from the Nets’ minimum five-game suspension is Sunday in Los Angeles against the Lakers. Wojnarowski reported there is “skepticism Irving will be in position to return to play” on Sunday. That’s not a surprise, there had been a buzz around the league that bringing Irving back in a massive media market (ESPN’s Los Angeles headquarters is literally across the street from the arena), there would be a playoff-level crush of press asking Irving and the Nets hard questions. There are softer landing spots.

But LeBron echoes what many players are saying: Irving has done enough to return. Which could get interesting if the Nets stand their ground.