Saturday, June 1, 2024

Kyrie Irving reflects on 'rough time' in Boston ahead of facing Celtics in NBA Finals

The Celtics and Dallas Mavericks are facing each other in the 2024 NBA Finals and while Game 1 can come soon enough, the subplots to this best-of-7 series have gotten well underway.

Just moments after the Mavs beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 5 to clinch the Western Conference Finals Thursday, Kyrie Irving was asked to comment on the topic of returning to Boston -- where he called home for a brief two seasons from 2017-2019.

Despite not being Irving's first time meeting the Celtics in the postseason, the topic is inevitable when it comes to the relationship between the now 32-year-old guard and Beantown. But since taking his talents into free agency five off-seasons ago, there is no love lost for Irving -- who's "looking forward" to playing against Boston.
"Yeah, absolutely," he said in his postgame interview with Ernie Johnson of TNT. "Boston's in the way, in between our goal. That's it."
While he kept it short and direct during the postgame ceremony of the West Finals trophy, Irving further elaborated on not only facing his former team in the NBA Finals but also commented on his time in Boston -- which coincided when his grandfather passed away in 2018 -- in an more in-depth interview on ESPN's "Sportscenter."
"I'm at a place in my life where I don't even consider those past moments," Irving told Scott Van Pelt. "I was able to unpack them in a healthy way, and move forward as a person."

"I had a rough time there when I was in Boston, again, just dealing with a death in my family and dealing with a lot of off-court stuff that I wasn't ready to handle," Irving explained. "So now that I'm in a great place to be able to vocalize how I'm feeling, I'm ready to go back into Boston, have fun with my teammates. I know we're going to be locked in."
Irving kept it cordial when speaking on this current Celtics roster, that's coming off a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
"We're going against a great Boston team that has earned their way to the NBA Finals," Irving noted. "So I just see them as a formidable opponent, an honest opponent, and we're going to see the best team that wins."
This will be Irving's fourth Finals appearance of his career and first since 2017 -- his last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers -- who ironically beat the Celtics in five games to clinch the East that year, but lost to Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors 4-1.

Still, with Irving being the only other to reach an NBA Finals (besides Markieff Morris) on this Mavs team, he was asked what's the message to his younger teammates such as Luka Dončić, who have never been in this moment.
"Stay focused, stay poised, and remember why we play the game of basketball, and who we do it for. Don't stress [about] the environment" Irving said of playing in The Finals. "It's another basketball court that we get a chance to paint on a canvas, and enjoy it. It's the finals, but it's still basketball at the end of the day."
Irving, who won his one and only championship ring in 2016 -- has waited seven years to get another opportunity to compete in the finals -- seemingly gave praise to the Celtics, as only Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford are the only ones that still remain since he bolted to Brooklyn in the summer of 2019.
"It's going to be some high level players going at each other," Irving added. "Grateful to be able to go against a great coach, great players in Boston. It's going to be a chess match, and I'm looking forward to it. [I'll] just tell my guys to enjoy the moment."
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for Thursday, June 6 at TD Garden and ABC has the tip-off on ABC

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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