CLEVELAND – Tonight will be a homecoming of sorts for Kyrie Irving, who spent his first six NBA seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Parting ways is a common occurrence in the NBA so that in itself makes Irving’s return pretty normal.
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Still, this basketball break-up was unlike any we’ve seen in the NBA in recent years.
At a time when most players are scurrying as fast as they can to latch on with a title contender, Irving literally went in the opposite direction and asked to be traded from a team that has been to the NBA Finals the past three seasons.
And he did so while coming off his best season as an NBA player.
So, it only stands to reason that he would be asked about that decision on the eve of his first game back in town.
However, Irving’s response to the question did not shed any light on the matter, which is just how he wants it to be.
“Well guys, going forward, I want to put that to rest in terms of everyone figuring out or trying to figure out or dive into or continue to dive into a narrative that they have no idea about and that probably will never, ever be divulged because it’s not important,” Irving said. “This was literally a decision that I wanted to make solely based on my happiness and pushing my career forward. I don’t want to pinpoint anything. I will never pinpoint anything because that’s not what real grownups do. They continue to move on with their life and continue to progress. And that’s what I’m gonna continue to do.”
Part of that push forward involves helping the Celtics get off to a good start tonight in their season opener at Cleveland.
This is a game that’s full of storyline and narratives that only enhance the matchup between arguably the top two teams in the East.
But nothing compares to the interest that still exists in Irving’s unexpected decision to ask for a trade back in July, which led to him being traded to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the rights to Brooklyn's 2018 first- round pick and Miami’s 2020 second-round pick.
“I’m just happy to get the season started, regardless of who we play,” said Irving, 25, an All-Star in four of his six seasons with the Cavs. Obviously, it’s made a much bigger deal because it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers. The situation that happened this summer and being part of a great trade. I’m just truly appreciative of having the opportunity to play this game on the biggest stage and be back here in Cleveland to start the season, it feels different but I’m ready to get started.”
In addition to the excitement of the game, Cleveland has reportedly prepared a video tribute to Irving that will play at some point in a stoppage of play tonight.
“It’s a great honor and truly appreciative of all individuals who put the video together,” Irving said. “Those special relationships don’t go anywhere; just excited to see a lot of old friends and get on with the game.”
Ditto for Celtics coach Brad Stevens who, like Irving, has maintained a level-headed approach to a game that has so many subplots to it.
“I know this sounds like a broken record, but play the next possession to the best of our ability,” Stevens said. “What are we gonna do about that? Ultimately, we’re on the road, people are going to cheer against us. It’s the way it works in the NBA. It’ll be a great atmosphere in here tonight. Focus on the task at hand. We play 82 of these; get used to playing through distractions.”
Irving echoed similar sentiments while acknowledging how unique tonight’s opener is for all involved.
“It’s just one game,” he said. “We all understand that. For me, it comes with a lot of added incentive to go out there and really have fun and play the game I love. I’m really excited to start this season, and get started with the Boston Celtics and continue on with my career.”