Thanks to back-to-back games between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, it has unofficially been Kyrie Irving week as far as covering both teams.
The teams’ first meeting in Boston on Wednesday was long circled on the calendar and given the national television treatment, only for Irving to miss the game with a shoulder injury. That didn’t stop Celtics fans from posting flyers mocking the departed point guard and leading a number of chants against him while Kemba Walker guided their team to a 121-110 win.
Irving responded to that treatment with a 300-plus word rant on his Instagram story — the most Kyrie Irving way of doing things — and the Nets responded with a 112-107 win on Wednesday. Nets fans also mirrored their Boston counterparts, chanting in support of Irving after chants of “Kemba’s better” on Wednesday.
Nets fans breaking out a "Kyrie's better" chant when Kemba was at the line 🤨 pic.twitter.com/3p6HOQl4eL— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) November 29, 2019
With no more games between the Celtics and Nets scheduled until March, the discourse around Irving seems set to finally calm down. Much to the relief of the Celtics, apparently.
Celtics wish Kyrie well, ask to stop talking about him
After the loss to the Nets, a number of Celtics players were seen embracing Irving, unlike their own fans. In the locker room, the universal sentiment appeared to be a willingness to move on from him, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps:
“I mean, there is no hard feelings,” said Marcus Smart, one of the players who went over and greeted Irving at center court after Boston's loss. “I didn't hug Kyrie to get on TV. That's two guys that are trying to make a living for their families being professional athletes. That's my brother, regardless of what he did. He works hard.
“Quite frankly, I'm really, honestly, tired of hearing about Kyrie. Kyrie is no longer with the Boston Celtics, and it's a slap across the face of everybody on this team that's here now to keep hearing Kyrie's name, because every one of these guys have put in the work and we continue to put in the work and we are here and still competing and yet everybody, including the Boston fans, want to talk about Kyrie. Let's talk about the Boston Celtics.”
Walker, Irving’s replacement in Boston, echoed that sentiment of wanting to end the discussion:
“It was just good to see him,” Walker said. “I haven't seen him in a while, obviously. I just told him to get healthy. He asked me how I'm liking it and told me to enjoy it. That was really it. Asked me have I been back to the Bronx. That was really it. Asked how's my family. He knows my family, as well. I know his dad, so just kind of that conversation. Me and Kyrie are good friends.
“I mean, it's nothing to really talk about, you know? I know there's been some stuff between the fans and him. Hopefully that can be over. We need to just move past it at this point. It's over.
“He's here in Brooklyn, and I'm here now in Boston."
That’s all extremely fair from the players. Irving’s presence or lack thereof isn’t something any of the players controlled, and yet they still had to answer questions about him despite being 13-5 without him. Having to talk about playing an ex-teammate on a new team is nothing new in the sports world, but the combination of Boston’s vigor and Irving’s public perception give this situation a little more bite.
Fortunately for the Celtics, the simple act of not playing the Nets should do more than enough to quiet down questions about Irving. At least until he returns to Boston, ideally healthy, on March 3.
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