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Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving reflects on personal growth as he gets ready for raucous NBA Finals vs former team

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Kyrie Irving returning to Boston as a member of the Dallas Mavericks in hopes of knocking off his former team in hopes of an NBA championship is one of the top storylines of the NBA Finals.

Irving was traded to the Celtics after the 2016-17 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He spent two seasons with Boston before unceremoniously hitting free agency and signing with the Brooklyn Nets. 

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Kyrie Irving talks to reporters

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving answers questions during a news conference after the team’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 5 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals on Thursday, May 30, 2024 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt Krohn)

His returns to Boston have not always gone well, as fans remember Irving pledging his loyalty to the team months before leaving and failing to accomplish what he had set out to do there – win a title.

On Monday, Irving lamented the last time he was in the TD Garden – especially when he gave middle fingers to the crowd.

“I think I’m better at consolidating kind of the emotions now or being aware of what it’s going to be like,” he said, via ESPN. “We call it animosity, we call it hate, we call it, ‘It’s going to be hell in Boston.’ I mean, there are real, live circumstances going on in the world that are bigger than the basketball, kind of the competitive side of things and answering those questions.

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Kyrie Irving in Game 3 vs T'Wolves

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving, right, celebrates with teammates after their win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals on Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

“But I will say last time in Boston, I don’t think that was the best — not this regular season, but when we played in the playoffs and everyone saw me flip off the birds and kind of lose my s— a little bit – that wasn’t a great reflection of who I am and how I like to compete on a high level. It wasn’t a great reflection on my end towards the next generation on 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. So, of course, it’s going to be a hectic environment, but I’m looking forward to it and I see it as a healthy relationship that I have with the fans. I almost think about ‘Gladiator,’ just winning the crowd over. It is good to hear the TD Garden silent when you’re playing well. They still respect great basketball.”

For what it is worth, Irving has been out of the drama since he was traded from the Nets to the Mavericks.

Irving’s sole attention has been on his game and Dallas has reaped the benefits. He and Luka Doncic are clicking at the right time, and it has turned into beautiful basketball.

Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, #77, shakes hands with teammate Kyrie Irving, #11, after their loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 4 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

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He is averaging 22.8 points and 5.2 assists per game in 17 playoff games. He had 36 points in the close-out game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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