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What Kyrie Irving said after losing to Celtics in NBA Finals

Celtics owner Stephen Pagliuca on historic NBA Final win for team
Celtics owner Stephen Pagliuca on historic NBA Final win for team 03:32

BOSTON -- Celtics fans not only got to see their team win a title on Monday night, but they also got to watch them send Kyrie Irving home in the NBA Finals. Irving -- who is villain No. 1 in Boston -- and the Mavericks went 0-3 at TD Garden during the championship round.

It's been five years since Irving spurned the Celtics and left via free agency, but fans remain extremely miffed at the talented but mercurial guard. Aside from some lackluster play on the floor, Irving did very little to repair his image with Boston fans during the series. He said that he wasn't impressed with the Boston crowd in Game 1, and then spoke of the Celtics "cult" the day before Game 5. 

Visit to the Boston bench

Celtics fans got the last laugh though, with the team winning the franchise's 18th title at the expense of Irving and his Mavs. Before leaving the floor late in Boston's 108-66 title-clinching win on Monday night, Irving stopped by the Boston bench to congratulate the Celtics on their impending victory. It caught some off guard, including head coach Joe Mazzulla, but many of the Celtics remain close with their former teammate.

After the loss, Irving said that his trip to the Boston bench was a way of showing the Celtics some respect for the journey they took to an NBA title. He pretty much said they became the perfect team during their postseason run.

"It was emotional anyway. I mean, every series was emotional, just because I was just uncertain on how it was going to go and how we were going to respond to a little bit of adversity. We finally ran into a team where they beat us fair and square, and we weren't able to respond to a lot of their runs and we weren't able to execute at a high level. So when I was shaking everybody's hands, that was more of a sign of respect for their journey," he said. 

"They have been through an incredible five-year span of going to Game 7s or losing in the Finals, so they know what this bitter feeling feels like being up here answering questions about what this next year holds and I think they used everything as motivation.

"They just came together as a team"

"They were healthy, and they really kept their head down and weren't paying attention to any of the personal accolades or individual accolades. I think they just came together as a team and were okay with each person being great in their role and selflessly putting their best foot forward," he added. "So I think we learned more than anything from this series on what it takes to not only get back to this level, but win at this level, and the Celtics are the perfect example for us this season because of how much they have had to deal with in the past few years."

Irving's departure could have left the Celtics organization in shambles, but instead the franchise focused on developing Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and surrounding their young talent with complementary pieces. It all paid off Monday night, and Irving commended his former teammates for their growth and their ability to block out all the outside noise while setting their sights on winning a championship. 

Irving on Brown and Tatum

"It's admirable, you know, and to see -- did [Jaylen Brown] win Finals MVP? Yeah, that was big-time to see that trophy in his hands. I think him and JT should have split it, but those two guys in particular have, you know, almost been like students and as well now becoming teachers in their own right," he said of Tatum and Brown. "So to see them accomplish -- see them accomplish that, I'm really proud and also extremely motivated to get back to this position in the next few years with my guys and be able to win this thing."

The Celtics' defense made like extremely difficult for Irving throughout the NBA Finals. He averaged only 19.8 points per game, a number that was inflated by his 35-point effort in Game 3 when he escaped Boston as the series shifted to Dallas. But the Mavs were in an 0-2 hole at that point after Irving scored just 28 points over the first two games, and he had just 15 points off 5-for-16 shooting in Game 5. For the series, Irving shot an abysmal 27.6 percent from three-point range.

This was Irving's first full season in Dallas, and he hopes that the Mavs can grow into a team like the one they just lost to in the Finals.

Looking to the future

"I mean, basketball is a game of centimeters, man, sometimes inches, so when a ball is flying off your hands, sometimes it's going to feel good, sometimes it isn't. That's the maturity aspect," he said after Game 5. "You got to move on to the next thing, and I've been talking about that. Whether I'm playing well specifically scoring-wise or I'm not, there is a team aspect here that we're becoming more gelled into or dialed into.

"I can score 25 points, but if I don't, we got to be able to pick each other up, and I think that's what we're learning about each other now, where they're going to be games where the shooting is not going to go well, particularly for me or someone else on the team, and that's where we have to galvanize as a group and other players make plays and opportunities created for one another. I've been at the point of attack through most of my drives going against the Celtics one-on-one or coming off screens," he said. "So that's what the summer is for, is just continuing to work on those things that I saw this year, the physicality, being able to adjust to it and by next year be in a better position."

He remains "very confident" in Dallas, and believes they'll be right back in title contention next season.

"I see an opportunity for us to really build our future in a positive manner where this is almost like a regular thing for us, and we're competing for championships. You know, I think from a spiritual standpoint, I think I enjoyed this journey more than any other season, just because of the redemption arc and being able to learn as much as I did about myself and my teammates and the organization and the people that I'm around. It's a lot of good people here so it makes coming to work a lot of fun," he said. 

Boston fans will always hold some disdain toward Irving for how things ended with him and the Celtics and for his antics at TD Garden during his Brooklyn Nets days. But Irving leaving the franchise allowed Tatum and Brown to grow into the champions they are today, and it's clear that his departure was a blessing in disguise. 

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