Boston Celtics

Kyrie shares theory for why he's ‘on the outs' in Boston

"They expect you to seamlessly buy into the Celtics pride."

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We'll say this about Kyrie Irving: He's been extremely candid throughout the 2024 NBA Finals about his tumultuous two seasons in Boston and why things went sideways so quickly.

Irving again fielded questions about his former team Sunday in Boston ahead of the Dallas Mavericks' Game 5 matchup with the Celtics, who have a 3-1 series lead and an opportunity to win a championship on their own floor Monday night.

Irving was asked about the difference between playing in Cleveland -- which had zero titles when he arrived in 2011 -- and playing in Boston, which has raised 17 Celtics championship banners and expects more in the near future.

"When I look back on it, getting traded here, (Boston) wasn't one of my options," Irving said of the July 2017 trade that sent him from the Cavs to the Celtics. "It wasn't like No. 1 on my list. So when the trade opportunity got approached to me, instead of going back and appreciating the Celtics' history, I just came in with an open mind and just kind of like, all right, I'm just going to go with the flow into this. But I think that was the wrong approach. Just being young."

In hindsight, Irving explained, he should have reached out to former C's players to get a better sense of what it's like playing in Boston, where titles are an almost annual expectation and fans hold the team to the lofty standards set by champions of years past.

"You have to show your respect here," Irving said. "I think that's what I struggled with initially, was figuring out how I'm going to be a great player here while winning championships and also leading a team and selflessly joining the Celtics' organization or the cult that they have here."

Yes, Irving used the word "cult" to describe the Celtics and their fanbase, and while he didn't seem to use the term negatively, he's well aware that he's now on the outside looking in.

"That's what they expect you to do as a player: They expect you to seamlessly buy into the Celtics pride, buy into everything Celtics," Irving said. "And if you don't, then you'll be outed.

"I'm one of the people that's on the outs. I'm perfectly fine with that, you know what I mean? I did it to myself."

Celtics fans have many sticking points with Irving, from him reneging on his preseason promise to re-sign with the team October 2018 to his passive-aggressive comments calling out the C's "young players" while in Boston to his disappearing act in the 2019 playoffs. It's clear he's grown a lot since then, however, and understands at least partially why he wasn't embraced by fans here.

Of course, Irving's personal growth won't stop fans at TD Garden from booing him mercilessly in Game 5. And even if he's mended fences with Celtics players like Jaylen Brown, they'll want nothing more than to end his season Monday night.

Tip-off for Game 5 is set for 8:30 p.m. ET, with Celtics Pregame Live beginning at 7 p.m.

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