The Brooklyn Nets will travel to Boston for Game 3 of their first round series against the Celtics on Friday. That means Kyrie Irving will have to prepare to play in front of his old crowd at TD Garden.
Earlier this week, the Nets point guard expressed his excitement at getting back on the court with his teammates but also mentioned that he hoped that the fans would keep things “strictly basketball.”
He continued by saying that he was hoping to not see, hear or experience any “belligerence or any racism” over the weekend at TD Garden.
“I mean it’s not my first time being an opponent in Boston,” Irving said, via NESN.com. “So, you know, I’m just looking forward to competing with my teammates, and hopefully we just keep it strictly basketball. You know there’s no belligerence or any racism going on, subtle racism and people yelling (expletive) from the crowd. But even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and just gonna focus on what we can control.”
Irving’s concerns are certainly valid. Already this week, a 76ers fan dumped popcorn on Russell Westbrook and a Knicks fan tried to spit on Trae Young.
On Thursday, Celtics guard Marcus Smart backed up Irving’s comments by revealing that he’s also heard racist remarks thrown around TD Garden while playing.
“Yeah, I’ve heard it. I’ve heard a couple of things,” Smart said when asked if he’s heard Boston fans make racist comments, per Keith Smith. “It’s hard to hear that and then have them support us as players. It’s kind of sad and sickening.”
Marcus Smart on if he's heard Boston fans make racist comments: "Yeah, I've heard it. I've hard a couple of things. It's hard to hear that and then have them support us as players. It's kind of sad and sickening."
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 27, 2021
Smart’s comments directly contradict those from Celtics general manager Danny Ainge on Thursday. The longtime executive claimed that he’d never had a player tell him about racist comments from the Boston crowd.
“I think that we take those kind of things seriously,” Ainge said when told of Irving’s comments, via NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg. “I never heard any of that, from any player that I’ve ever played with in my 26 years in Boston. I never heard that before from Kyrie and I talked to him quite a bit.”
Fans haven’t had the best track record this week in the NBA, so hopefully those in TD Garden will be respectful to the visiting Nets on Friday.