Kyrie Irving’s clear slate in the playoffs all of the sudden feels mucky.
After accidents compelled him to look at teammates battle with out his assist two of the final three years — first with the Celtics in 2018 after which with the Nets in 2020 — a wholesome Irving will return to the playoffs Saturday.
The twist? Irving’s former staff — and scorned Celtics fans — await his No. 2 seed Nets after a win over the Wizards on Tuesday to clinch the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“Now that we’re here and we’ve got the guys that we have in this locker room and we’ve been through quite a journey, we just want to enjoy the ride,” Irving mentioned after Tuesday’s observe. “That’s really all I can say. I just want to enjoy it as if it’s my last.”
Last? Interesting selection of phrases contemplating Irving, 29, simply wrapped arguably the best season of his profession — simply the ninth participant ever to complete a season capturing 90 p.c from the free-throw line, 50 p.c from the ground and 40 p.c from 3-point vary — and performs for a staff with an opportunity to grow to be the NBA’s subsequent dynasty.
“Super-efficient, deadly scoring the ball and was really sharp,” Nets coach Steve Nash mentioned. “He’s a huge piece of what we do, and I think he’s mentally and physically in a really good place right now.”
Irving retains basketball — even the massive video games about to start out — in perspective towards the political, social and racial actions taking place world wide. So, does he ever surprise when the time is correct to surrender the NBA and observe different pursuits?
“Doesn’t everybody?” Irving requested rhetorically. “I mean, everybody thinks about it, especially with things that go on in most careers and what they feel like they have to give. It depends on what I have to give to this game or what I have left. It’s always a thought, but not really the most important thing for me right now to think about.”
Irving infamously advised Celtics season ticket-holders at a personal occasion in October 2018 that he deliberate to re-sign as a free agent if he was wished again. Eight months later he had a change of coronary heart, and he has performed as a customer at TD Garden simply as soon as since then — earlier than crowds returned to video games in the pandemic period.
The Nets swept the three-game season sequence from the Celtics.
“Honestly, I’m so far past matchups and all that,” Irving mentioned when requested if he most well-liked to face the Wizards or Celtics in the primary spherical. “It’s just about who’s going to prepare better, who’s going to execute out there. It doesn’t really matter. I’ve played in Boston plenty of times before I got traded there.”
The Celtics are led by Kemba Walker and a pair of Irving’s ex-teammates who had been simply coming into their very own throughout his temporary two-year keep: Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart. Another ex-mate, Jaylen Brown, is out for the season following wrist surgical procedure.
Irving and Kevin Durant selected the Nets and shaped the idea of a Big 3 now rounded out by James Harden. Durant is also making a long-awaited return to the playoffs after he ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals with the Warriors.
“We made a decision two years ago to stick with it and build something here,” Irving mentioned. “No one really saw the vision that we had … but the intent here was we didn’t want to feel the same effects of being out in organizations or being out with different guys throughout this league that we felt like we couldn’t build something outside of the game with.”
Nash joked about watching the Celtics-Wizards sport with a notepad in one hand and an grownup beverage in the opposite. But the seriousness begins now, with scrimmaging set for practices Wednesday and Thursday, and the sport plan and scouting report set up unfold by way of Friday.
The Nets’ finest weapon, nonetheless, may be what Irving describes as “synergy” between stars.
“A lot of situations and circumstances that we were in, we were trying to be ourselves but the environment just didn’t stick. It didn’t fit,” he mentioned. “And once we got here collectively, we simply wished to be completely satisfied. Happiness goes a great distance in life, particularly whenever you’re enjoying this sport.
“Some guys are going to get along and it is going to go well and some guys it’s not and it breaks down toward the later stages of the season. I’m excited to be here. I don’t take any day for granted. It took a while to believe in this vision and we’re finally here — back to the playoffs.”