NBA: Mavericks guard Irving gearing up for Boston return ahead of Finals Game 1

NBA: Mavericks guard Irving gearing up for Boston return ahead of Finals Game 1

Eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving says he is better prepared to face the hostile crowd of Boston Celtics fans as he prepares to face his former side with the Dallas Mavericks ahead of this year’s NBA Finals.

Irving was an All-Star in both of his seasons with Boston before leaving to join the Brooklyn Nets in 2019 as a free agent. Despite vowing to remain with the Celtics a few months earlier, his change of mind shocked Boston supporters, thereby creating animosity between him and fans of the team.

However, the 32-year-old, who will go up against a number of his former teammates when the Mavericks take on the Celtics, said he has grown since the incident and is better equipped to deal with these situations.

“You know, last time in Boston, I don’t think that was the best,” Irving stated. “You know, not this regular season, but when we played in the playoffs and everyone saw me flip off the birds and kind of lose my s**t a little bit, that wasn’t a great reflection of who I am and how I like to compete on a high level.

“You know, it wasn’t a great reflection on me towards the next generation or what it means to control your emotions in that type of environment – no matter what people are yelling at you. You know, I’m built for these moments, to be able to handle circumstances like that, and I’ve been able to grow since then.

“So, of course it’s going to be a hectic environment, but I’m looking forward to it. And I see it as a, a healthy relationship to have with the fans. You know, I almost think about ‘Gladiator’ – just win the crowd over. You know, it’s good to hear the TD Garden silent.”

Irving hasn’t had a great time on his return to TD Garden, as he’s been constantly booed, had a water bottle thrown at him, and he’s also been fined for some of his unsportsmanlike gestures towards the fans as well as stepping on the Celtics logo in the middle of the arena.

The 2016 NBA champion, however, added that he would need to put all of the negative scenarios behind him as he needs his focus to lead the younger Mavericks players.

“When you’re playing well, they [Boston fans] still respect great basketball,” Irving mentioned. So, regardless of, you know, the attention has been paid to what it’s going to be like on my end, I have a group to lead that’s going to be looking to me for a voice of peace and to be able to control what I can control and also help them through it, you know? So I’ll take the brunt of it, of all the yells and stuff like that and all the remarks.

“But I’ve been able to grow since then and acknowledge that, you know, I just can handle things better, especially when I want to put majority of my energy towards playing well. I can’t just be getting into it with fans like that, even though it may be fun at times, but it’s a waste of energy, it’s a waste of my time, and it’s also a waste of my talent trying to answer questions from the past that people have.

“And, you know, people are going to bring up the record and all the extra stuff. Again, there’s days, there’s idle time in between. So you see the media pundits doing their normal things. Cool. But yeah, I’m looking forward to the challenge on the court against the Boston Celtics and being able to lead my guys.”

The Celtics won the two encounters during the regular season, beating the Mavericks 119-110 at Dallas and then 138-110 in Boston, on their road to a league-best record.

Game 1 of the Finals will tip off on Thursday night at TD Garden with the Celtics, who have homecourt advantage this postseason, hoping to win their first NBA title since 2008, while Dallas looks to clinch its first title since 2011.

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