Kyrie Irving was persona non grata by Boston Celtics fans Wednesday even if he was nowhere near the arena. The point guard received boos and derisive chants for leaving Boston to sign a max contract with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer.
The Nets had hoped to have Irving back to face the team he left after two seasons on Friday afternoon when they host the Celtics, who hope to get another big game from Kemba Walker.
The Nets announced early Friday that Irving will instead miss an eighth consecutive game.
Irving has not played since Nov. 14 in Denver due to right shoulder impingement that he initially sustained two days earlier in Utah. The Nets are 5-2 since Irving last played and saw a four-game winning streak snapped with Wednesday’s 121-110 loss at Boston on a night in which they hit 21 3-pointers on 56 attempts.
Even though Irving was not in the building, fans constantly booed any reference to him and some even put up posters in the vicinity labeling the All-Star point guard “a coward”. Afterward, Irving took to social media by writing a lengthy Instagram post that read: “It happens all the time and Tonight just shows how Sports/Entertainment will always be ignorant and obtrusive. It’s one big SHOW that means very little in the real world.”
Spencer Dinwiddie has helped the Nets get by without Irving, averaging 23.4 points in the last seven games but he was held to 16 on 5-of-19 shooting Wednesday after getting at least 20 in a career-high six straight games. The Nets struggled without him on the floor, allowing a 24-11 run spanning the third and fourth quarters.
“We’ve got confidence in everybody’s talent in this locker room so we’re not really worried about that,” Dinwiddie said. “Who plays and who doesn’t, we can’t control that. At the end of the day, we believe in the guys, one through 15.”
The Nets will hope to stop Walker, who torched them for 39 points in his return from a one-game absence following a scary neck injury last Friday following a collision with teammate Semi Ojeleye in Denver. Walker shot 13 of 24 and made six 3-pointers while often getting off mid-range jumpers against Nets center Jarrett Allen.
Like the Celtics, Walker was hardly paying attention to the reaction toward Irving. Instead, he was more focused on returning after a short absence.
“I’ve been over it. I could have played last game, honestly,” Walker said. “If I’m on the court, I’m on the court. That’s really it. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I wanted to win. I wanted to be aggressive, build the intensity.”
Walker is averaging 22.3 points in his first season with the Celtics and has four 30-point games. Jayson Tatum is not far behind at 20.2 points after getting 16 Wednesday while Jaylen Brown is averaging 19.4 after finishing with 22 Wednesday, his third straight game with at least 22 points.
The Celtics are 3-3 since ripping off 10 straight wins Oct. 25-Nov. 15. The three losses are by a combined eight points and Boston is still waiting to get Gordon Hayward back from the broken left hand he sustained in San Antonio on Nov. 9.
The Celtics lost both visits to Brooklyn last season but are 11-2 in the past 13 meetings with the Nets.
–Field Level Media