Kyrie Irving Says He’s Grown. The Mavs Better Hope He’s Still Lying.

To beat Boston, Dallas will probably need the 32-year-old to play with a villainous edge

June 4, 2024 11:28 am
Kyrie Irving celebrates after a victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
If Kyrie Irving is a changed man, the Mavericks may be in trouble.
David Berding/Getty

Following a messy 2019 divorce that ended with Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn with his buddy Kevin Durant and Celtics fans wondering what happened to the guy who stood at center court of the TD Garden with a microphone in October of 2018 and lied about planning to re-sign with the team, it’s no secret Boston fans and the 32-year-old guard have gotten along about as well as Chennedy Carter and Caitlin Clark.

That relationship has largely worked out in Boston’s favor as, aside from a five-game gentleman’s sweep at the hands of Irving, Durant and James Harden in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the Celtics have gotten the best of Irving and have won 10 straight games against him, including four during a traditional sweep of the Nets in the first round of the 2022 postseason.

The first game of that series, a one-point loss for the Nets, was Irving at his best as he went for 39 points with six 3-pointers on .600% shooting from field to go along with six assists, five rebounds and four steals. It was also Irving, depending on your viewpoint, at his worst as he cursed at the crowd and gave Celtics fans the middle finger on multiple occasions during the loss, for which the NBA fined him $50,000.

Kyrie Irving flips fans the bird in Boston in 2022.
Kyrie Irving needs to be the guy who gave Boston fans the finger in 2022.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty

Now a member of the Mavericks following a midseason trade last year, Irving will be returning to TD Garden for a playoff game for the first time since 2022 as Dallas heads to Boston for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. Speaking to the media on Monday, Irving said he’s not planning on behaving like the same guy who flipped off Celtics fans two years ago.

“Last time in Boston, when we played in the playoffs and everyone saw me flip off the birds and kind of lose my shit a little bit, that wasn’t a great reflection of who I am and how I like to compete on a high level,” Irving said. “It wasn’t a great reflection on my influence on the next generation, [with] what it means to control your emotions in that type of environment no matter what people are yelling at you. I’m built for these moments, to be able to handle circumstances like that and I’ve been able to grow since then.”

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If the underdog Mavericks are hoping to capture their second NBA title and deny the Celtics their 18th, they better hope Irving isn’t telling the truth and he’s still the same villain Boston fans love to hate. Irving the bird-flipping villain dropped 39 points and had the Nets one point away from beating the Celtics. In the three playoff games against Boston when Irving was in control of himself, he was fairly atrocious and shot .372% from the field (.182% from deep) while scoring a measly 15.3 points per game along with a handful of rebounds, assists and defensive stats. A calm Irving is undeniably good, but an unhinged Irving playing on the edge is light-years better.

To beat Boston in the Finals, Dallas, which has gotten something between those two extremes during this year’s playoff run, needs Irving’s jumper falling, his middle fingers flying and his mouth channeling 2018: lying.

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