Sports

Kyrie: My focus on violence overseas, not hoops

The Brooklyn Nets are about to begin their postseason pursuit of an NBA championship, but Kyrie Irving says he’s currently focused on issues other than basketball.

Irving declined to answer game-related questions Saturday after Brooklyn’s victory over the Chicago Bulls and made multiple references to the ongoing violence between Israel and Palestine.

“I’m not going to lie to you guys, a lot of stuff is going on in this world and basketball is just not the most important thing to me right now,” Irving said. “There’s a lot of things going on overseas. All our people are still in bondage across the world, and there’s a lot of dehumanization going on.

“So I apologize if I’m not going to be focused on y’all’s questions. It’s just too much going on in the world for me to just be talking about basketball. I focus on this most of the time, 24/7, but it’s just too much going on in this world not to address. It’s just sad to see this s— going on. It’s not just in Palestine, not just in Israel. It’s all over the world, and I feel it. I’m very compassionate to it — to all races, all cultures and to see it, to see a lot of people being discriminated against, based on their religion, color of their skin, what they believe in. It’s just sad.”

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at least 33 people Sunday, medics said, making it the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers nearly a week ago.

The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem last month, when Palestinian protests and clashes with police broke out in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers. Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on Gaza.

The turmoil has also spilled over elsewhere, fueling protests in the occupied West Bank and stoking violence within Israel between its Jewish and Arab citizens, with clashes and vigilante attacks on people and property. At least 181 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 52 children and 31 women, with 1,225 wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.

“I don’t care which way you stand on — either side,” Irving said. “If you’re a human being, then you support the anti-war effort. There’s a lot of people losing their lives — children, a lot of babies, and that’s just what I’m focused on.

“So if you guys want to ask me questions about the game, I really don’t care about it except for everyone leaving out the game healthy and being able to go home to their families.”

Irving scored 22 points in Saturday’s 105-91 victory and was reunited on the floor with fellow Nets stars Kevin Durant and James Harden. It marked just the eighth time this season that Brooklyn’s Big Three played together — and the first time since Feb. 13.

The Nets (47-24) are second in the Eastern Conference and can clinch the No. 2 seed in the playoffs with a victory in their regular-season finale Sunday over the Cavaliers. Brooklyn also would secure the No. 2 seed if the third-place Bucks (46-25) lose Sunday to the Bulls.

Irving, who was fined earlier this month for violating the NBA’s media access rules, was asked Saturday about maintaining a personal balance between basketball and social issues that are important to him.

“It’s a job,” he said. “I was raised as a survivor. My family comes from practically the bottom in the South Bronx. They came out of some extreme conditions. I’m the product of a lot of sacrifice. … It’s a unique balance because you’re on a platform or industry that — a lot of people that are around it or surviving it don’t really get a chance to say what they believe in, or they have to play it safe, or they have to worry about money, or they have to worry about what people are saying.

“I just think you can’t be afraid to say what you believe in. It’s not about consuming information or trying to be right or politically correct. It’s about doing what God intends us all to do — that’s to stand on the good word of treating everyone with respect, compassion, and love.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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