Boston Celtics

Kyrie doesn't seem concerned about C's fans ahead of Game 1 in Boston

"This is not as hostile as you think it is. Don't overthink it."

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Kyrie Irving has come a long way from flipping off Boston Celtics fans and stomping on the TD Garden logo, it appears.

The Dallas Mavericks star is set to play his third postseason series against the Celtics since spurning Boston in 2019 free agency. The previous two series were both in the first round, however -- in 2021 and 2022 when Irving was with the Brooklyn Nets -- and now he'll be battling his former team on the NBA Finals stage.

Considering Irving's tumultuous history in Boston, he'll likely receive a chorus of boos from Celtics fans in Thursday's Game 1. But whereas he returned the crowd's hostility in years past, the 32-year-old suggested he'll be taking a more mindful approach this time around.

"I've experienced Boston in twofold: my first few years being in the NBA playing for the Cavs, then coming here to Boston, and then being right down the street in Brooklyn, and then now being here in the Finals playing against them, in a potential four-to-seven game series," Irving told reporters Wednesday at NBA Finals Media Day at TD Garden, as seen in the video player above.

"You've just got to breathe through it. To all my youngins out there that are dealing with some of the crowd reactions and what they're saying to you, you have to breathe and realize that this is not as hostile as you think it is. Don't overthink it.

"I've been able to work through that and understand that some of that is anxiety, some of that is nervousness and it can all be turned into a strength."

Celtics fans may have something to say about Irving suggesting the Garden isn't as hostile as we think it is, but the veteran guard does appear to be in a different place than he was two years ago. Irving recently expressed remorse for giving the middle finger to Celtics fans during the 2022 playoffs and said Wednesday he'll keep his focus between the lines during the Finals.

"There's no fear out here, man. It's basketball," Irving said. "The fans are gonna say what they're gonna say. I appreciate them and the relationship they have to the game, but it's about the players at the end of the day."

The Boston backstory aside, Irving could play a crucial role in this series. He averaged 27 points per game in the Western Conference Finals -- including a 36-point effort in Dallas' decisive Game 5 victory -- and is capable of taking the game over offensively if the Celtics devote too much attention to Luka Doncic.

Whether Irving can keep that momentum going against his former team remains to be seen, but at the very least, the version of Kyrie who quit on the Celtics in the 2019 playoffs appears to be long gone.

Check out Irving's full press conference in the video below.

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