Monday, June 3, 2024

Why Kyrie Irving says he has 'healthy relationship' with Celtics fans

Kyrie Irving isn't that naïve to believe that he has no idea of what's to come when the Celtics host the Dallas Mavericks Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at TD Garden.

The former Celtic guard has been public enemy No. 1 for C's fans since he decided to take his talents to Brooklyn in the summer of 2019. Five years later and Irving seems somewhat at peace with being a villain in Boston, despite reflecting on "rough times" during his brief two seasons with the league most stroried franchise.

Still, the last two playoff encounter between the Celtics and Irving resulted in the All-Star stomping on the center court logo at the Garden, which led to a water bottle being thrown as he walked off the parquet following the conclusion of Game 4 during the first-round the 2021 East playoffs against Brooklyn.

While Boston would go on to be eliminated in five games, they got their revenge over the Nets in 2022 with a four-game sweep that featured Irving flipping off the middle finger to the the Garden faithful crowd multiple times in Game 1 and 2 before finally asking for a trade nine months later.

Irving spoke to the media Monday about his past behavior and reflected on the last two playoff series against Boston ahead of the Finals this week.
"I think I'm better at consolidating kind of the emotions now or being aware of what it's going to be like," Irving told reporters. "We call it animosity, we call it hate, we call it, 'It's going to be hell in Boston.' I mean, there are real, live circumstances going on in the world that are bigger than the basketball, kind of the competitive side of things and answering those questions.

"But I will say last time in Boston, I don't think that was the best -- not this regular season, but when we played in the playoffs and everyone saw me flip off the birds and kind of lose my shit a little bit -- that wasn't a great reflection of who I am and how I like to compete on a high level.

"It wasn't a great reflection on my end toward the next generation on what it means to control your emotions in that type of environment, no matter what people are yelling at you."
It's been a seven-drought for Irving since making it to the finals, and nothing would make the veteran any happier to stick it to the Celtics and their fans by winning his second championship at their expense.
"I'm built for these moments, to be able to handle circumstances like that, and I've been able to grow since then," Irving added. "So of course it's going to be a hectic environment, but I’m looking forward to it and I see it as a healthy relationship that I have with the fans.

"I almost think about 'Gladiator,' just winning the crowd over. It is good to hear the TD Garden silent when you're playing well. They still respect great basketball."
Game 1 can't come soon enough, as ABC will have the tip-off Thursday night beginning at 8:30 pm ET. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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