Kyrie addresses ‘rough time' in Boston ahead of Finals vs. Celtics

Kyrie addresses ‘rough time’ in Boston ahead of Finals vs. Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

It’s been half a decade since Kyrie Irving last played for the Boston Celtics. But when the team you spurned five years ago is the only thing standing between you and a championship, it’s going to be a storyline.

Irving’s Dallas Mavericks set up a 2024 NBA Finals clash with the Celtics on Thursday night by dispatching the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. It’s Irving’s third time facing Boston in the playoffs since he left the Celtics in June 2019 — his Brooklyn Nets beat the C’s in 2021 then got swept by Boston in 2022 — and considering the veteran guard’s tumultuous history with the Celtics, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt felt obliged to ask Irving about facing his former team on the championship stage.

“Yeah man, I’m at a place in my life where I don’t even consider those past moments,” Irving told Van Pelt of his tenure in Boston after the Mavs’ win Thursday night. “I was able to unpack them in a healthy way and move forward as a person.

I had a rough time there when I was in Boston, again, just dealing with a death in my family and dealing with a lot of off-court stuff that I wasn’t ready to handle. So now that I’m in a great place to be able to vocalize how I’m feeling, I’m ready to go back into Boston and have fun with my teammates.”

Irving arrived in Boston in the summer of 2017 with plenty of fanfare but lasted just two seasons in green and white. From reneging on a 2018 preseason promise to re-sign with the Celtics to calling out Boston’s young players to pulling a disappearing act in the second round of the 2019 playoffs, Irving wore out his welcome rather quickly and jumped at the chance to sign with the Nets in 2019 free agency.

Irving likely will hear some very loud boos at TD Garden in Game 1 of the Finals next Thursday, and perhaps that will motivate him to channel his inner villain. But for now, the 32-year-old plans on taking the high road.

“I know we’re going to be locked in, and we’re going against a great Boston team that has earned their way to the NBA Finals,” Irving added. “So I just see them as a formidable opponent, an honest opponent and we’re going to see the best team that wins.

“… It’s gonna be a chess match, and I’m looking forward to it.”

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