Tony Dejak/Associated Press
Kyrie Irving was not in Cleveland on Monday because of a right shoulder injury as his Brooklyn Nets defeated the Cavaliers 108-106, but that didn’t stop his former teammates from discussing the six-time All-Star.
After all, Cleveland selected Irving with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 NBA draft, and he became the face of the franchise after LeBron James departed for the Miami Heat. When James returned, Irving helped lead the Cavaliers to three straight NBA Finals appearances and drilled the winning three-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals against the mighty Golden State Warriors.
“See that banner right there? That’s what he means to the franchise,” Tristan Thompson said of Irving, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “Being No. 1 pick, came in with a lot of expectations and he surpassed them all. Being an All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, World Championship gold medalist, Olympic gold medalist, made a crucial step-back from the right wing in Game 7, Rookie of the Year, it’s a lot.”
Thompson also predicted Irving’s jersey will eventually be retired in Cleveland, while Kevin Love opened up about the positive experiences he had while playing alongside the Duke product.
That Thompson and Love were so adamant Irving was a good teammate is notable considering the narrative regarding his time with the Boston Celtics in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Fedor noted Irving has “been called moody, tough to coach and immature,” while one former Celtics teammate said he was “hard to play with.” The report even suggested Irving “was said to have taken the air out of the Boston locker room.”
In October, Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com reported “Irving’s infamous mood swings, confirmed by his ex-teammates, which followed him from Cleveland to Boston to Brooklyn, are the unspoken concern that makes Nets officials queasy.”
Brooklyn is 5-1 without him in the last six games.
Still, Thompson didn’t want to hear any of it when it came to his former point guard:
“My brother. Great teammate. At the end of the day, if I’m going to go to war, need a dog, an MF that can go and hoop I’m definitely going to put him on my team. I mean, the chatter is for you guys to talk about. Teams lose a couple of games and they say the same things about us—what’s going on and blah blah blah. It’s just chatter. At the end of the day, when that untucked Kyrie jersey is out everyone is scared.”
It’s hard to argue with what Irving did in Cleveland.