On Friday, the Celtics lost to the Nets, 112-107, in Brooklyn. Two days earlier, it was the Celtics who defeated the Nets in Boston. Kyrie Irving didn't play in either game, but the stories wrote themselves anyway. Irving's tumultuous Boston tenure, and eventual departure, is the topic that just won't die.
Marcus Smart, for one, is tired of it.
"Quite frankly, I'm really honestly tired of hearing about Kyrie," Smart said after Boston's loss Friday. "Kyrie is no longer with the Boston Celtics. It's a slap in the face to everybody on this team to keep hearing Kyrie's name, because every one of these guys have put in the work, and we continue to put in the work and we are here and still competing, and yet everybody, including the Boston fans, wants to talk about Kyrie. Let's talk about the Boston Celtics."
Smart, pretty obviously, has a point here. The Celtics are one of the best stories in the NBA this season, yet their success is rarely talked about independent of last season. And the disappointments of last season, rightly or wrongly, have been largely attached to Kyrie.
Kemba Walker is one of the best players in the league, yet the prism through which he's often viewed is how he differs from Kyrie.
Smart recently went on Zach Lowe's podcast, where he talked about ... Kyrie.
When Brad Stevens is asked about the importance of mental health awareness in the NBA, he is, in effect, being asked about ... Kyrie, who recently posted this message after chants of "Kyrie Sucks" broke out in the aftermath of the Celtics' aforementioned win over the Nets in Boston.
Indeed, all this Kyrie/Boston talk has mushroomed with the Nets and Celtics meeting twice in three days. It certainly won't stay like this forever. But the point remains: There is an obsession with the Kyrie/Boston divorce that puts it on par with, say, LeBron James leaving Cleveland, or Kevin Durant leaving Golden State, only those guys won championships with those teams.
The Celtics didn't win anything with Kyrie. They are pretty clearly better without him. The way his time in Boston came to an end is surely rife with drama, and I've certainly been as guilty as anyone in terms of keeping the Kyrie/Boston story alive. Admittedly, the contrast of this Celtics team with and without Kyrie is fascinating to me. It obviously is to a lot of people.
But the bitterness of the divorce does seem disproportionately strong when you really think about the marriage in the first place. Kyrie didn't choose Boston, for starters. Yes, he pledged his long-term allegiance to the team prior to last season, but all things considered, Kyrie and the Celtics weren't some lifelong union that needs to be properly mourned.
They were a teenage fling. An arranged fling at that. They made it a couple years, the final one of which was a lost cause, and sure there were some emotions involved. But it's over. They both chose to go to the dance with somebody else, and they both appear a whole lot happier for the split.
Let it go, already.
That said, I do think it's important to provide the full context of Smart's quote. My CBS colleague James Herbert was in the media scrum when Smart was asked about Kyrie and whether there were "hard feelings" with how it ended, and it was clear to him, as it was to me in listening to James' audio of the quote, that Smart was in no way attacking Kyrie with his response. He wasn't upset. The first part of the quote that won't get nearly as much traction, if any at all, made that clear.
"I mean, there is no hard feelings," said Smart, who embraced Kyrie on the court, as did a lot of other Celtics, after the game in Brooklyn. "I didn't hug Kyrie to get on TV. That's two guys that are trying to make a living for their families being professional athletes. That's my brother, regardless of what he did. He works hard."
Make what you want of the "regardless of what he did" part, but in my estimation, Smart was simply alluding to the way Kyrie left Boston. Everyone has a different opinion on that. That's fine. Kyrie is a divisive player and person. But it's also understandable if Smart if tired of hearing about it.