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Nets needed ‘humbling’ Celtics experience: Kyrie Irving

The Nets’ first-round sweep at the hands of Boston wasn’t just humbling. It was also motivating. 

At least according to Kyrie Irving, who said the playoff drubbing went down exactly how it was supposed to — and precisely how it needed to in order to drive the Nets this season. 

“Get ’em up. I’ve got to get them up on both ends of the floor. I’ve got to be a complete player. Coming for different hardware this year, bro. I’ve been in the lab crazy, since we got 4-0’d,” Irving said on “The Boyz Night Podcast,” before adding three times that the sweep occurred just how it should have. “It was meant to happen like that.” 

Irving has largely kept a low profile this offseason, but he spoke with hosts KaiCenat, YourRage and Bruce Ray in a podcast that dropped Sunday. And in a wide-ranging interview that included a host of topics, he admitted that Brooklyn’s one-sided defeat against his former Celtics teammates was as inevitable as it was instructive. 

“It was meant to happen like that,” Irving said. “Motivation, bro. We needed it. We needed that humbling experience, especially going against the Celtics. It was already built in to be that matchup. 

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the second hal
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7).
AP Photo

“So we’re going to see them again. We’re going to have to. They’re going to be where they’re going to be. But those young’uns over there in Boston, bro, I got to see them grow up. So to see them doing what they did last year on the Finals stage, making it that far, I’m glad they had to go through us.” 

Those young’uns are All-Star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who played alongside Irving for his two years at TD Garden but chafed under his leadership at times. Irving’s tenure ended poorly with the Celtics, but Irving — whose father played at Boston University, and who spent a good amount of time in the city growing up — reiterated the positive feelings he has for the city. 

“I had a good time in Boston, bro. I was going there since I was probably 6 years old to a college basketball camp at Boston University. I always had family there. I spent a lot of time there,” Irving said. “But when I played there, man I met my wife there and we settled down. So a lot of good memories. Just on the court, things didn’t work out as I would have liked.” 

Last season didn’t go as Irving and the Nets would have liked. 

Brooklyn got swept by Boston, with the Celtics going on to the NBA Finals and the Nets going on to a chaotic offseason. 

Irving found out the full max contract that had been offered last summer — before he’d missed two-thirds of the season due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine — was no longer on the table. He and the Nets couldn’t come to a compromise, so on June 30 he ended up opting in to the last year of his contract at $36.5 million, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after this season. 

Days later, Kevin Durant requested a trade, rocking the NBA. 

But with Durant eventually relenting, now he, Irving and Ben Simmons are considered a contender in the Eastern Conference. They’ll face the defending conference champions four times — at home Dec. 4 and Jan. 12, and at TD Garden on Feb. 1 and March 3. 

The Nets will get to prove Irving’s theory right — presuming they can stay healthy. 

“That’s all that matters. That’s all that matters,” Irving said. “All the hypotheticals that come when nobody is healthy and when you’re not 100 percent. … I played 29 games, I barely played home games. It wasn’t a typical season I would have wanted. But things happen. I had to stand on a whole bunch of bigger stuff that just that.” 

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