10/17 01:03 CDT Rude welcome: Irving set for return to 'rowdy' Cleveland
Rude welcome: Irving set for return to 'rowdy' Cleveland
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Kyrie Irving's homecoming might not be so homey. Cleveland's former All-Star
guard will make his first appearance with the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night
in the season opener against the Cavaliers. Irving spent six seasons with the
Cavs, but asked to be traded this summer. His demand rankled many Cleveland
fans. The Cavs granted his request and remodeled a team that went to three
straight Finals with Irving.CLEVELAND (AP) --- Kyrie Irving is coming home to
where his NBA journey began six years ago.
There will be familiar faces and new sounds.
Traded to Boston this summer after he demanded the Cavaliers deal him so he
could escape LeBron James' shadow, Irving will make his regular-season debut
Tuesday night with the Celtics against his former team --- and fans who loved
him but may no longer be as adoring.
When Irving takes the floor in Quicken Loans Arena, the All-Star point guard
will likely get the kind of reception he was accustomed to when he visited
Boston or Golden State or Detroit while playing for Cleveland.
However, following a turbulent summer --- including his recent slap at
Cleveland's athletic appetite --- he'll be greeted with boos, taunts, heckles
and other unpleasant vulgarities. There will be some cheers, but they might be
hard to hear.
Cleveland has some sports anger issues these days. After the Indians were
knocked out of the playoffs much earlier than expected, and with the Browns a
winless train wreck, Cavaliers fans need to blow off some steam.
It will be directed at Irving, who downplayed his visit.
"It's just hoops man," he said. "I've been in Game 7 in San Francisco
(Oakland), playing in a high-intense environment. There's no blocking out the
noise or anything like that. It's going to be there whether I like it or not.
It's going to be rowdy in there. It's going to be a great game opener, like it
was the last six years when I was there. It was the same getting used to the
unbelievable Cavs fans that cheer on the Cavaliers and now I'm coming in as an
opponent, trying to get a W."
The Cavs have planned a video 'thank you' for Irving, who made the biggest shot
in franchise history --- a step-back 3-pointer in the waning moments of Game 7
of the NBA Finals that lifted Cleveland to a title, the city's first in 52
The tribute is undoubtedly deserved, and it may have provided some closure for
Irving and Cavs fans still smarting from him wanting to abandon a team that has
been to three straight Finals and is penciled in for a fourth.
But last week, Irving fanned flames when he said he was excited that his career
has taken him to Boston, "a real, live sports city," implying Cleveland wasn't
Irving's comeback was already going to be one of the NBA's top regular-season
games, and his comment took it to another level. Irving understands there's
some animosity toward him, but he's not going to get caught up in how other's
feel about his decision to leave.
"The excitement and the energy is there but I think everything extra has been
created by outside influence," he said. "I don't know what that reality is. I
don't necessarily concern myself with that because if I do, I'd really be doing
myself a disservice and my teammates a disservice of trying to figure whether
or not I want to give some distractions or specific people energy in terms of
what they're or what they think about what is going on."
While Irving's return could be unruly, it won't compare to what James
experienced in 2010, when he came back to Cleveland as a member of the Miami
Heat after bolting his home state as a free agent a few months earlier.
Cleveland was seething, and James endured a night of hatred he'll never forget.
To this day, James rattles off "December 2, 2010," like it it's one of his
On the eve of Irving's return, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said his former guard will
get just what Cleveland fans feel he deserves.
"We've got the best fans in the world and they're going to do whatever they see
best," he said. "Whatever decision they make, that's the right one. Because
they've been behind us for three straight years, since I've been here, they've
always made the right decisions. So whatever they decide to do, I embrace
whatever they do."
Like everyone with the Cavs, guard J.R. Smith was disappointed when Irving
asked out. But he respects him for wanting to make it on his own.
And as for defending his former teammate, Smith may have gotten in the first
insult of many too come.
"We just got to put bodies in front of him," Smith said. "Hopefully he dribbles
so much he gets tired."