Kyrie Irving ready to leave turbulent times in Brooklyn behind and focus on future in Dallas

Kyrie Irving is ready to leave the turbulent times in Brooklyn behind and focus on his future in Dallas

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving is ready to leave the turbulent times in Brooklyn behind and focus on his future in Dallas.

A year after he was traded by the Nets, Irving returned for the first time Tuesday night and said he doesn't worry about people's opinions of his 3 1/2 seasons with Brooklyn. Nor does he think there's any point dwelling about the bad breaks on the court and all the drama that came off it.

“I don’t want to get too deep into it because I love protecting the people that I’m in business with, even if it doesn’t work out,” Irving said. "Again, I wish all those guys well, but conversations that needed to be had weren’t had before the trade deadline and I don’t know if anything needed to be salvaged, I just think it was time to get my own peace of mind and go somewhere where I was able to thrive.

“Being in a situation where I didn’t have to worry about kind of behind-the-back talk or the media talk, or not knowing how to handle real-life circumstances that has nothing to do with the game of basketball. Has everything to do with how you handle someone as a person and while I was here I learned a lot of lessons, but I’ve made my peace again, like I said, and I just want to move forward.”

Irving scored 36 points in front of a crowd that included a number of family and friends of the point guard who grew up in New York and New Jersey. A Nets fan who watched them play in the NBA Finals in the early 2000s made a celebrated move to join them in the summer of 2019 alongside close friend Kevin Durant.

James Harden came in the 2020-21 season but they never got close to a title. Brooklyn won just one series with the All-Star trio, then lost Harden and Irving to injuries against eventual champion Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference semifinals, losing in overtime in Game 7 when Durant's shot at the end of regulation was ruled a tying 2-pointer instead of a series-winning 3.

Irving was ineligible to play in most of Brooklyn's home games the next season because of his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as mandated in New York City, and a frustrated Harden asked to be traded. Then Irving was suspended by the team last season when he refused to apologize for posting a link to an antisemitic work on social media. The deteriorated relationship ended when he was dealt to Dallas midway through the season.

“Things could have changed and we look back at the past and you have 20-20 vision, this could have gone right or this would have happened,” Irving said. “If I didn’t get injured versus the Bucks do I still ask for a trade, or KD’s foot wasn't on the 3-point line are we talking about a different legacy here if James doesn’t ask for a trade? All the would've, could’ve, should’ve, hopefully after this night we can just put that to rest and just move forward and I can look forward to the rest of my career and just handling it in Dallas and going after my second championship.”

The Nets didn't give Irving a tribute video, which they did for Durant. Fans booed him early in the game, but he eventually heard more cheers and was greeted warmly by many fans after the game.

Yet he also exchanged words with one of them during the game in reference to the vaccine mandate. Some fans thought Irving should have gotten the shot so he could play, others supported him for standing up for his beliefs.

So he won't judge his tenure just by the underwhelming results.

“Obviously I fell short in terms of the championship aspirations, but for me I think it was bigger than a championship here,” Irving said. “I had to really take some moral stances that propelled me into a place in my life that I had to become accustomed to. There were some political things that were going on here as well that I couldn’t control that I was responsible for. There were some things that I did on my accord that I look back on and they were mistakes and I have to be accountable for those things. Not perfect, but one thing I can say is I’ve been able to learn from things and continue to push forward.”

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