BOSTON — Just hearing the name Kyrie Irving around these parts has a way of making the most level-headed Green Teamer get all red in the face with anger.
That’s not surprising when you consider the circumstances that led to his departure.
We have heard a kazillion reasons/explanations/justifications from folks on why he left, but it all comes back to one thing … he didn’t want to be here anymore.
And while losing a player with his skill level is a tough blow, Irving actually did the Celtics and their fans a huge, huge favor in bolting this summer.
As we’ve seen in recent weeks, several players on this roster from last season have blossomed into being more than just high-end role players, which on many nights was the role they were expected to play alongside Irving.
That improvement that we’ve seen in so many of the Celtics players wasn’t going to happen if Irving had re-signed.
In fact, there’s a very good chance at least one of Boston’s promising young wings — Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown — would have been traded, knowing that their growth wasn’t going to mesh well with Irving’s game — and for that matter, the team’s chances at great success.
We’ve already seen that trailer and the movie play out last season, which ended with the Celtics among the NBA’s biggest underachievers.
A repeat of that below-the-radar dysfunction was not an option heading into this season.
So, when Irving made it clear he wasn’t coming back, there wasn’t a huge effort on the Celtics' part to try and convince him to change his mind.
They had been around Irving long enough to know that he was leaning towards bolting well before July came, and there was nothing they could do or say that was going to change his mind or at least get him to reconsider signing a long-term deal to stay in Boston.
Because as much as they respected him as a player and believed in his talents, they had seen enough to know that the combination of Irving’s game and the team’s bevy of talented-but-thirsty-for-more youngsters wasn’t going to work.
It would require a level of change and accountability for all involved — Irving included — to get past the issues that torpedoed this team’s chances at being the last team standing in the East while competing for an NBA title last season.
So, as we gear up for what could have been Irving’s first shot at facing his old team when Boston hosts Brooklyn on Wednesday, that’s not going to happen with the Nets having already ruled him out due to a shoulder injury which sidelined him for Brooklyn’s past six games.
No one questions the validity of the injury, but conspiracy theorists are having a field day with it.
It doesn’t matter.
Because as much as fans are longing for the opportunity to boo him incessantly upon his return to the TD Garden, fans need to enjoy the fact that Boston brought in a more than capable replacement in Kemba Walker, that the team is winning way more than most anticipated this early in the season, and that players are steadily improving while showing the potential to grow into even more prominent roles both on the team and in the NBA. None of those things would have come about had Irving wanted to stay.
So as upsetting as his departure was for many, Irving did all Celtics fans a huge solid in leaving on his terms.
Get ready for Celtics-Nets Wednesday night with Celtics Pregame Live at 6 p.m., then check in with Halftime Live and wrap it up after the game with Celtics Postgame Live, all on NBC Sports Boston or stream them here through the MyTeams App.