Kyrie Irving is no stranger to controversy, to the attention being at the center of one brings on a person and to returning to the court after a suspension.

Which is why, after the Memphis Grizzlies beat Irving’s Mavericks 112-108 on Monday night, Irving wrapped Ja Morant in an embrace and spoke into his ear. Morant didn’t play in the game, but is back with his team after an eight-game suspension for handling a gun in a Denver-area nightclub while intoxicated.

“I believe any hardship in life builds character,” said Irving who was suspended earlier this season and last year missed more than half of Brooklyn’s games because of his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“When you’re dealing with particular hardships in the public eye, especially with the media being attracted to just keeping up with what we’re doing, or what’s the next kind of grab or story,” Irving said. “I don’t want to assume anything by every media member, but that’s just the way it seems for me and my perspective, which is there was an overload of judgment on Ja. There was an overload of judgment on what I had going on, and there’s usually an overload of judgment from the public court of opinion.”

Irving was wearing a protective boot on his right foot to calm the swelling of his injured right toe, which he said was re-aggravated after Dillon Brooks fell on him in the fourth quarter. He’d missed three games recently with the original injury, and said he was “exhausting all options” to be able to play in the Mavericks’ next game, which is Wednesday in a huge game against the Golden State Warriors, who lead Dallas by half a game for sixth in the West.