BOSTON — Kyrie Irving said he has not spoken with LeBron James since the trade that delivered him to the Boston Celtics, but he showered his former teammate with praise and stressed that his decision to push for a trade was motivated by an opportunity to find out what more he can accomplish.
The Celtics formally introduced Irving and fellow summer acquisition Gordon Hayward on Friday at TD Garden. The Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, and the Miami Heat’s 2020 second-round pick in exchange for Irving. Hayward signed a four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics in July.
Looking relaxed and often playfully interacting with both Hayward and the Boston brass seated beside him, Irving seemed very much as if he was embracing being the new face of the franchise.
“I can’t wait to get on the floor and maximize my potential,” Irving said. “I just want to be around those incredible coaches and those incredible minds and those incredible individuals, and I feel like in doing that, Boston came right at the exact time and it was meant to be that way. I trust in that, and I’m glad to be here.”
Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward showed some early chemistry Friday, engaging in jovial banter during their introductory news conference with the Celtics.
Irving was pushed on his decision to leave Cleveland and the status of his relationship with James.
“I haven’t spoken to [James], and my intent [in asking for a trade], like I said, was for my best intentions,” Irving said. “To look back at the amount of ground we covered in the last three-year span … to really realize how special that was and how much stuff happened in that amount of time, I’d be sitting up here and telling you guys a lie if I didn’t tell you I learned so much from that guy.
“The perfection of the craft comes in a variety of forms. And you watch, you ask a lot of the great players, ‘What does it take to be great?’ I’ve had the unique opportunity to play with one of the greats and it was awesome. … When you look back and you’re eternally grateful for the moments that you’ve had and shared; you’re able to put peace with that journey and start anew.”
Irving repeatedly stressed how Boston was the right situation for him to advance his career.
“It was my time to do what was best for me in terms of my intentions, and that’s going after something bigger than myself, and obviously being in an environment that was conducive for my potential,” Irving said. “I think that statement is just self explanatory because it’s pretty direct in terms of what my intent is — it’s to be happy and be with a group of individuals that I can grow with. That’s not a knock on anything that has transpired in my six years [in Cleveland], because it was an unbelievable experience. To think about what we accomplished in Cleveland and individually as well, it bypasses the amount of moments I had with all the special people out there.
“Me leaving there wasn’t about basketball; it was more or less about creating that foundation of me in Cleveland, and then now taking this next step as a 25-year-old evolving man and being the best basketball player I can be.”
The Celtics originally traded for Irving on Aug. 22, but the deal wasn’t finalized until Wednesday night when the Celtics added Miami’s second-round pick as further compensation after Cleveland raised concerns about the status of Thomas’ injured hip.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge declined to comment when asked about why the trade got stuck in limbo for eight days.