BROOKLYN, N.Y. — It’s not unusual for the final horn of an NBA game to go off, and soon after you see players from one of the teams gravitate towards an ex-teammate.
That’s about the only thing that’s business as usual when it comes to the Boston Celtics players from last season and Kyrie Irving, who now plays for the Brooklyn Nets.
A number of players who called Irving a teammate a year ago spoke with him following Brooklyn’s 112-107 win over Boston Friday afternoon.
And while Irving may be seen as public enemy No. 1 by Celtics fans who blame him for all that went wrong with last season’s team, his ex-teammates have nothing but love for him.
“Everybody asks me everyday about Kyrie; was he a bad teammate? No. He’s a good dude,” Boston’s Semi Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “It’s tough to be him, it’s tough to be a leader. We didn’t have a good year last year and he took the brunt of that which isn’t fair. All 15 guys, everybody in the (front) office, the coaches, we all had a hand in last year. We all learned from it.”
Jayson Tatum was among the players closest to Irving, which is no surprise considering they had the same agents at that time and both left Duke University after just one season on campus.
Tatum acknowledged he has talked frequently with Irving since Irving’s decision to sign with the Nets, but said he had not seen Irving since the summer.
“It was good to see him,” Tatum said. “I hadn’t seen him in a long time.”
Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been among the more outspoken Celtics players from last season who has repeatedly pointed out how too much of the blame for what went wrong with last year’s team fell upon the feet of Irving, who signed with the Nets in the offseason.
And while the image of Smart, Ojeleye and a handful of others embracing Irving following the game may lead some to embrace the reality that there’s no beef between Irving and his ex-teammates, Smart is quick to add that had nothing to do with him chatting it up with Irving.
“There is no hard feelings. I didn’t hug Kyrie to get on TV,” Smart said. “It’s two guys trying to make a living for their family, being professional athletes. That’s my brother; regardless of what he did. He worked hard and quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing about Kyrie.
Smart added, “Kyrie’s no longer with the Boston Celtics. And it’s a slap across everybody on this team now to keep hearing Kyrie’s name because every last one of these guys have put in the work and continue to put in the work. We’re here, we’re still competing. And yet everybody, including the Boston fans, want to talk about Kyrie. Let’s talk about the Boston Celtics.”
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