They did, however, get a chance to see him at the conclusion of the Brooklyn Nets‘ 112-107 victory here Friday afternoon, with several of his former teammates — along with his replacement, Kemba Walker — going over to give him a hug after he sat out for the eighth straight game with a right shoulder impingement.
When asked about seeing Irving postgame, all of them said they are ready to move on from talking about him.
“I mean, there is no hard feelings,” said Marcus Smart, one of the players who went over and greeted Irving at center court after Boston’s loss. “I didn’t hug Kyrie to get on TV. That’s two guys that are trying to make a living for their families being professional athletes. That’s my brother, regardless of what he did. He works hard.
“Quite frankly, I’m really, honestly, tired of hearing about Kyrie. Kyrie is no longer with the Boston Celtics, and it’s a slap across the face of everybody on this team that’s here now to keep hearing Kyrie’s name, because every one of these guys have put in the work and we continue to put in the work and we are here and still competing and yet everybody, including the Boston fans, want to talk about Kyrie. Let’s talk about the Boston Celtics.”
Smart, who has been playing through a sprained left ring finger that he again aggravated during Friday’s loss, was as frustrated with the injury and his own play (15 points on 4-for-13 shooting, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range) as he was with the Irving questions. That said, for all of the buildup and attention that was paid to his anticipated return Wednesday — including the fans chanting about him during the game, despite him not being in the building, let alone on the court — Irving continues to have good relationships with several players on the team, including Smart, Walker and Jayson Tatum.
And, while they’ve understood why his expected return was a story, they shrugged over the significance of saying hello to him postgame.
“It was just good to see him,” Walker said. “I haven’t seen him in a while, obviously. I just told him to get healthy. He asked me how I’m liking it and told me to enjoy it. That was really it. Asked me have I been back to the Bronx. That was really it. Asked how’s my family. He knows my family, as well. I know his dad, so just kind of that conversation. Me and Kyrie are good friends.
“I mean, it’s nothing to really talk about, you know? I know there’s been some stuff between the fans and him. Hopefully that can be over. We need to just move past it at this point. It’s over.
“He’s here in Brooklyn, and I’m here now in Boston.”
No one in Boston was closer with Irving than Tatum, the fellow Duke product who is represented by agent Jeff Wechsler, who was Irving’s longtime agent until he changed representation this summer. And although several players came over to talk to Irving, none spent as long talking to him as Tatum did.
“I talk to him all the time, but I haven’t seen him since the summer,” Tatum said. “So it was good to see him. I ain’t seen him in a long time.”
Still, he doesn’t expect things to change whenever Irving makes his Boston debut — despite reiterating that there’s no ill will toward him.
“I don’t know,” Tatum said. “Boston fans [are] tough. We ain’t got no hard feelings towards him. It’s still all love.
“But I don’t know. We’re gonna see when they come back to Boston.”
As for Irving’s return to the court, it remains to be seen when that will happen. After Irving sat out for an eighth straight game with that right shoulder impingement, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said postgame that he has begun on-court work, which the coach called “a real positive sign for us.”
He added, however, that Irving is out for Sunday’s home game against the Miami Heat and that the team would “see going forward” about his status after that.