One of Kyrie Irving’s last acts as a Brooklyn Net was showering the Celtics with effusive praise following their blowout win last Wednesday night.
The Celtics won this battle, and it wasn’t even close.
Irving’s about-face about his intention to re-sign with the Celtics, and subsequent months of pouting, looked like they would temporarily torpedo Boston’s championship aspirations. He quit during the Celtics’ semifinals loss to the Bucks in 2019, in which Milwaukee dispensed Boston in just five games.
But almost instantly, there were problems in Brooklyn. The oft-injured Irving underwent season-ending shoulder surgery during his first campaign, shelving him for the NBA postseason bubble.
The next year, the Nets obliterated the Celtics with a first-round sweep, and Irving literally stepped on “Lucky” for good measure. But then he injured his foot in the semifinals against the Bucks. The Nets lost that series in seven games, ending their short-lived championship window.
Irving’s next two seasons in Brooklyn would be marred with conspiracy theories and dysfunction. He refused to get vaccinated for Covid, meaning he couldn’t play in the bulk of the Nets’ home games, due to New York City’s indoor vaccine mandate. Then came the antisemitism. In between, the Celtics swept the Nets out of the 2022 playoffs, destroying the myth of Kyrie Irving once and for all.
While Irving was stellar in Game 1, he shot just 37.2 percent from the field in Games 2-4. He also flipped off Celtics fans and cussed at them on his way to the locker room. In other words, Irving melted down.
The Celtics, meanwhile, came within two games of winning the NBA championship. They’ve made the Eastern Conference Finals in two of three seasons without Irving, and also made the conference finals in 2018, when Irving was sidelined with a knee injury.
The Big Three Nets — Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden — only won a single postseason series together. Harden was traded last year, Durant requested a trade this summer, and Irving, who pledged he wanted to stay with the Nets, demanded a trade last week.
After last Wednesday’s shellacking at TD Garden, Irving sounded like a defeated man. “As a competitor, I’m not going to stop until I figure out what this methodology is to the Boston Celtics right now and why they’re so hot,” he told reporters. “I think I have a main reason – is just how connected they are and how much they play together, how many minutes they’ve logged in together and again that chip on their shoulder.”
It was typical Kyrie: nothing but esoteric word salad.
On paper, the Mavericks are receiving one of the most talented players in the NBA who’s in the midst of an incredible contract season. Irving will probably shine at the All-Star Game in two weeks.
Then he will destroy the Mavericks. It’s just a matter of time.
The Celtics chased Irving out of the Eastern Conference, and halfway across the country.