Kyrie Irving Opens Up About Celtics Tenure Before NBA Finals

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It’s been half a decade since Kyrie Irving last put on the Boston Celtics uniform.

But given the tumultuous nature of Irving’s two-year stint with the Celtics and his departure during the 2019 offseason, facing his former team in the NBA Finals is the major talking point heading into Thursday’s Game 1.

Irving reflected on his brief time with the Celtics on Monday when he spoke with reporters and he now sees his time with Boston as one big learning experience.

“It was just a chapter in my life that I got to enjoy for the most part,” Irving told reporters, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “We had a great opportunity to do some special things, but it was cut short, just based off personal reasons on my end. One thing I look back on my time in Boston — I’ve said this over the past few years, but somehow it gets tossed under the rug — but the greatest thing I learned from Boston was just being able to manage not only my emotions or just what’s going on on a day-to-day basis of being a leader of a team or being one of the leaders, and having young guys around you that have their own goals, but you have to learn how to put the big picture first.”

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The Celtics landed Irving in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017 and paired him with Gordon Hayward as the team’s marquee additions that offseason. Irving averaged 24.1 points, 6.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds in his time with the Celtics, which earned him two All-Star nods.

Irving didn’t play in the 2018 playoffs for the Celtics due to injury and watched as Jaylen Brown, who was only in his second year, and then-rookie Jayson Tatum led Boston to an Eastern Conference finals appearance.

Turmoil surrounded Irving’s final season with the Celtics. After vowing he would re-sign, Irving backed off that commitment during the season before bolting to the Brooklyn Nets in free agency to team up with Kevin Durant.

Irving hasn’t done himself any favors with how he’s acted in his past returns to play in Boston, but he feels there are things that happened behind the scenes with the Celtics that would take some blame off his shoulders.

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“Just learning how to move on and let go of the past. It can cripple you if you allow it to,” Irving told reporters, per team-provided video. “I’ve been bombarded with Boston questions since I left and people trying to figure out what actually happened. But again, I think the full story will come out probably when I’m retired or when it’s appropriate like I said.

“I didn’t mind after a few years taking the brunt of the blame. One of the best players in the world so I know what comes with that fair criticism. But a little bit more grace could have been extended my way, especially with what I was dealing with during that time as a human being. I know sometimes in sports it’s literally about the end goal and result and what you accomplish and that’s one thing, but we’re still human at the end of the day. I wasn’t my best self during that time. When I look back on it, I just see it as a time where I learned how to let go of things and learned how to talk through my emotions.”

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