Kyrie Irving admits he’s ‘out there’ returning to Boston for Game 5: ‘I did it myself’

BOSTON — If nothing else, the 2024 NBA Finals will mark an extended period of reflection for Kyrie Irving about his time with the Celtics.

And on Sunday, the day before Boston beat Irving’s Dallas Mavericks for their 18th title, Irving said he didn’t buy into the tradition and culture of the Celtics when they were traded here from Cleveland in the summer of 2017. He called it “the nickname” and “the cult they have.” “Here,” he said, making a mistake because “you have to show your respect here.”

“That’s what they expect you to do as a player — they expect you to easily take the pride of the Celtics, buy everything into the Celtics, and if you don’t, you’re going to get cut,” Irving said. “I’m one of the people who are on the outside. … I’ve done it myself. They don’t welcome me with a warm embrace.”

Game 5 will take place at 8:30 PM ET on Monday in Boston.

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BOSTON, blow-up dolls and boos: Irving speaks frankly about Celtics fans

Irving’s matchup against his former team in the Finals is one of the many good subplots in this series, and for the most part, things haven’t gone well for Irving. He’s averaging 21.0 points and isn’t shooting well while the Mavericks are 3-1.

Then again, Irving managed to score 35 points in a close loss in Game 3, and the Mavericks broke their personal streak of teams having lost 13 straight points to the Celtics since leaving Boston.

The series now moves back to TD Garden, where Irving knows he’ll hear the “Kyrie bad” chants pouring from the rafters in Games 1 and 2 of the Finals. He admitted that those taunts were distracting him.

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“Let’s call it what it is, when fans chant ‘Kyrie sucks’ or whatever, they feel like they have a psychological advantage — and that’s fair,” said Irving, who shot 13 of 37 in the first two Finals games in Boston. . “If I don’t shoot the ball or turn the ball over, it makes it more urgent and they can stick with me because of it. So I think in order to silence even the self-doubt, let alone the fans’ doubt, but the self-doubt when you hit or miss a shot, that’s just as important.” .


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Boston fans booed the former stars. Kyrie Irving’s return is different

The motivation behind all the jeering of Kyrie by Boston fans can be traced back to Irving’s final two seasons with the Celtics, when he first said he would sign a long-term extension, then clashed with teammates and coaches, reneged on his promise, and called it quits. In the playoffs, he left as a free agent. Then when he returned to Boston as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, he burned sage to “cleanse the energy” of the arena — something that didn’t exactly sit well with local fans.

Irving said he “had to accept” some of his life choices, and that led to “some depression or… some anxiety or… other mental health issues.”

But Irving also said his faults in the way he conducted himself in Boston were due to the trade — a trade that Cleveland also demanded. Only, he didn’t specifically ask to be dealt to the Celtics.

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“It wasn’t one of my options, it wasn’t No. 1 on my list,” Irving said. “So when the trade opportunity approached me, instead of going back and appreciating the history of the Celtics, I just came in with an open mind and kind of like, ‘OK, I’m going to go with the flow on this.’ But I think that was the wrong approach.”

Specifically, Irving said he should have embraced the organization’s 17 titles, and the authors of those championships who are still alive and associated with the team. He reiterated what he’s been saying now for nearly two weeks — that at 32 years old and having learned from his turbulent years that spanned from essentially being traded to Cleveland until he joined the Mavericks last year, he realized he wasn’t in a personal place when he was… With the Celtics managing expectations on him.

“That’s what I was talking about in terms of accepting the choices (he made),” Irving said. “But looking back, I would have shown my respect and had a council around me of some of the Boston Celtics who came before me to explain the nature of the pressure.”

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(Photo: Maddy Meyer/Getty Images)

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