BOSTON — Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving said he was reacting to words he heard from the crowd as he twice offended several Boston Celtics fans during Sunday’s 115-114 loss in Game 1 have thrown.
After the game, Irving made it clear that he would have “the same energy for her” that they had for him.
“Look, where I’m from, I’m used to all these antics and the people around,” Irving said after scoring 39 points in 42 minutes. “It’s nothing new coming into this building as it will be – but it’s the same energy they have for me, I will have the same energy for them.
“And it’s not every fan, I don’t want to attack every fan, every Boston fan. When people start yelling ‘p—y’ or ‘b—-‘ and ‘f— you’ and stuff like that, there’s only so much you take as a competitor. We’re expected to be docile and humble, take a humble approach, f— this, it’s the playoffs. That’s what it is.
Irving, who played two seasons for Boston from 2017 to 2019, said he got used to being booed by Celtics fans since he left the organization after the 2018-19 season. Irving has faced even more ire from the fandom in recent years after several recent arguments.
Ahead of the 2018-19 season, Irving said he wanted to sign with the Celtics long-term, only to change course at the end of the season and go to the Nets. Last season, after Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Celtics, Irving stepped on the Celtics logo on center court and then had a person in the crowd throw a water bottle at him as he broke off the ground.
In the week leading up to that game, Irving also said there was at times “subtle racism” from the crowd and acknowledged that he had heard some racist comments in TD Garden.
“I know what to expect here,” said Irving after Sunday’s game. “And it’s that same energy that I give back to them. It is what it is. I don’t really focus on it, it’s fun, you know what I’m saying? Where I’m from I treated so much that you as a competitor enjoy coming here… It’s not my first time at TD Garden so all is fair what you guys saw what you think is entertainment or what fans think is entertainment in the competition.
“So if someone calls me by my name, I look them straight in the eye and see if they’re really interested. Mostly not.”
Irving, who has been booed loudly all day, took offense when a reporter asked about the “hostility” of the Boston crowd – noting that this isn’t the first time he’s knocked out a fan during a game.
“This is the first time you’ve actually caught it because this is a big game,” Irving said. “I react in different ways. I try not to focus on that. If you want to ask me questions about the fans, go to them. Take to the streets and ask them questions.”
When asked if the “energy” of the Boston crowd got the most out of his game, Irving was quick to respond.
“Hug it,” Irving said. “Embrace it. It’s the dark side. Embrace it.”
Irving’s teammates and coaches were confident that Irving would do his best in this environment.
“This is a guy who scored the winning goal in the finals,” said Nets coach Steve Nash. “He played in the Olympics. He has played in All-Star Game, All-Star Game MVP. I don’t know if there are any atmospheres that will really shake him. … If he has a night off, he has a night off. I don’t think crowd is a factor for Kyrie. This guy has done everything you can do in the game.
“I don’t think he’s worried about that,” added Nets star forward Kevin Durant. “I think he’s just playing his game and doing what’s required out there. And tonight the shooting, just controlling the game for us, was amazing. And we’re going to need that to move forward – so no matter where he is I think he’s the same player.”
Did Durant sense Sunday that something from the fans crossed the line?
“I wasn’t really focused on the fans,” Durant said. “We know they will show off and support their team, but we know they will let Kyrie hear about it as much as possible. It is what it is. It’s part of the sport.”
After a loss to the Celtics in early March, Irving likened Boston fans to a “despised girlfriend” and has reiterated before the start of this streak that he felt it was time for fans to see his short tenure at Boston behind them to let. He was asked after Sunday’s game if he thought that was possible now.
“I don’t care right now,” Irving said. “Let’s get to the series and talk about our ownership and how we can get better. I will not focus on the past with Boston. I’m with the Brooklyn Nets. I’m happy to be with my teammates and compete there.”