For the first time since leaving the Celtics in the summer of 2019, Kyrie Irving returns to TD Garden and will perform in front of fans.
During the 2019-20 season with the Nets, Irving was inactive for the two games he played in Boston as he sustained a shoulder injury that plagued him throughout the year. . This year, he played the Nets’ only road game in New England on Christmas Day, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no fans were present at the game.
Now Irving will finally be able to play in front of an arena full of Celtics fans in Games 3 and 4 of the series. On Friday, he will play in front of a stadium at 25% of his capacity. After that, it can reach 100%, as the state of Massachusetts lifts its COVID restrictions.
Irving will surely be booed wholeheartedly when he returns to Boston after leaving the team.
But why exactly did Irving leave the Celtics? And why did Boston fans take his departure so much? Here’s everything you need to know about Irving’s last tumultuous year with the Celtics.
Why did Kyrie Irving leave the Celtics for the Nets?
Irving left the Celtics because he wanted to return closer to his New Jersey home. He confirmed this during his availability for media day 2019 with the Nets, and his decision to leave was influenced by the death of his grandfather at the start of the 2018-19 NBA season.
“After he passed away, basketball was the last thing I thought about,” Irving said. “A lot of basketball and the joy I got from it sucked in. There was a facial expression that I kept with me throughout the year. I didn’t allow anyone to. approaching me in this case disturbed me.
“I haven’t taken the necessary steps to seek counseling or therapy or anything to deal with the death of a loved one. I’ve never had anything like it, so for me I answered in an unusual way, and I had to admit that fact. “
Irving has spoken to the Celtics about the issue and has expressed a desire to sign again. However, after thinking more about his grandfather’s death and how basketball kept Irving from seeing him before he passed, his thinking process began to change.
“I spoke to Danny [Ainge] and I wanted to re-sign. So throughout the year it became increasingly clear that my relationship within my family life was a much higher priority than the organization or anyone else, ”said Irving.
“Throughout this year, [things] just got rocky and a lot of the battles I thought I could fight from that team environment I just wasn’t ready for. I let these guys down in the sense that I didn’t give them everything I could have this season, especially with the parts we had. “
After the disappointing season, Irving made the outing he was preparing for and went to play for the Nets. This allowed him to play closer to home and also gave him the luxury of playing alongside Kevin Durant, who also signed with Brooklyn. It also paired him with another veteran leader who had a history of championship-level success.
It took some of the pressure he just “wasn’t ready” for from the table.
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Timeline of Kyrie Irving’s departure from the Celtics
Ahead of Irving’s final season in Boston, he pledged to stay with the team at a preseason fan event on October 4.
“If you don’t mind getting me back, I plan to sign again here,” Irving told the Boston crowd, according to NBA.com.
The next day, Irving continued to praise the Celtics for “trying his luck” with him and that he loved playing in Boston.
“I’m happy here,” Irving said, according to ESPN. “Every day is at an all time high. What more can you ask of an organization than to take my chance to get me out of Cleveland? Really take my chance whether I re-enrolled or not.”
“They had the same attitude. They just wanted to show me what a Celtic is, and that I was going to come back, and I absolutely did. I believe in it. I believe in the franchise.”
And then Irving commented that he wanted to see his jersey in the rafters of TD Garden one day with the retired numbers of other Celtics greats.
“I have every intention of signing with Boston next year. I dream of putting my No. 11 in the rafters someday if I get the chance to do so,” Irving said, according to NBC Sports Boston. “I worked my tail, obviously a lot of great players came before me, but I’m happy to be able to make my name in the tradition and history of the Boston Celtics. And I plan to do so.”
However, as the season wore on, there seemed to be growing tension within the Celtics squad and frustration on Irving’s part. This came to a head after a January 2019 game against the Magic after Gordon Hayward gave a late-game assist to Jayson Tatum in an attempt to let the then-rookie win the game. Irving didn’t appreciate this and yelled at Hayward after the play.
Irving apparently wanted to have a chance on the last shot, or at least touch the ball. And after the Celtics’ loss, he spoke about the team’s lack of experience and the difference with his teammates.
“The best thing I can say is experience, we lack it and because of that we have a lot to learn, so we have a lot of ground to catch up in that aspect. You know, it gets tough. When it gets tough you have to think. You have to do the right things. You cannot play and think it will be the winning game. You have to be able to play for the full 48 minutes no matter what happens and keep stand tall when you make mistakes, ”Irving said, according to WEEI.“ When your job is in demand, you have to do it to the best of your ability. You have to come in and make an impact for the minutes you play there.
“You have to enjoy being out there and just competing. It doesn’t matter who you’re up against, it doesn’t matter what kind of preparation you have – what you go out and try to accomplish. What’s the big picture? Are we doing here? These are a lot of things that I don’t think some of my teammates have faced every day. It’s not easy to be great. “
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Soon after, Irving reconsidered his desire to join the Celtics. According to NBC Sports Boston, here’s what he said on February 1, 2019, three weeks after the Orlando game.
“At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for my career,” Irving said. “I’ve spent the past eight years trying to do what everyone wanted me to do – managers, other staff – and I don’t owe anyone anything.
“I still have confidence in Boston and what they can promise for the future and what we have in terms of parts. That’s what got me excited at the start of the season.”
“… It’s my decision at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter who said what’s best for him, like, it doesn’t matter. That’s an unwarranted comment, and of course It’s going to continue throughout the season. I’m aware I’m a professional, I won’t disrespect anyone, but like I said, it really depends on what’s best for me and my family. “
This comment marked a major change in Irving’s tenor and seemed to indicate that he thought – if not, was considering – leaving the Celtics.
Later that month at the NBA All-Star Game, Irving had a chat with Kevin Durant, then a member of the Warriors. There was a lot of speculation about what the two were discussing – possibly a team in Brooklyn – but after being asked about it, Irving said he was just talking to one of his best friends.
“I don’t have any privacy when I’m in the NBA,” Irving said, according to the Boston Globe. “Someone wants to make a video, that’s how it is. Pour water on it [the speculation]? I am a human being who talks to another of my best friends. It’s just crazy.
“These are things that don’t make the league fun. No one is helping to promote the league by doing [expletive] like that. Just fictional, putting things like what we’re talking about is crazy. Guess that’s what you want, huh?
Irving’s future remained uncertain for the remainder of the season. The Celtics continued to stumble through to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bucks. Irving shot 25 for 83 in their last four games of the season against Milwaukee, each loss, and that marked the end of the season.
Then, of course, Irving signed with the Nets in free agency and had an outing that went from improbable to expected in a matter of months.
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What did the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving?
The Celtics acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers on August 30, 2017, under a four-player contract. Boston sent three players and three draft picks to secure the All-Star point guard.
Here’s a look at the details of the exchange:
The Celtics acquire:
- PG Isaiah Thomas
- SF / PF Jae Crowder
- C Ante Zizic
- 2018 Draft First Round Pick (Nets)
- Two second-round picks in 2020
That first-round pick acquired by the Cavaliers became point guard Collin Sexton, who has averaged 24.3 points, 4.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game this year for the Cavaliers.
The original framework of the deal only provided for a single second-round pick in the direction of Cleveland, but after straying from the physique of Isaiah Thomas, disheartened by what he was showing, Boston agreed to send another choice. Thomas had suffered a hip injury the previous season and had surgery to repair the problem.