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Why did Kyrie Irving leave the Celtics? A timeline of the events that preceded Nets star’s exit

Why did Kyrie Irving leave the Celtics? A timeline of the events that preceded Nets star's exit

Kyrie Irving is no longer a stranger to the hostile environment of TD Garden. After the Nets split Games 3 and 4 against the Celtics during the 2021 NBA Playoffs en route to a 4-1 series win, Irving played two more games on the road against Boston this season to prepare for his 2022 first-round matchup.

After assuring Celtics fans prior to the 2018 season that he would be re-signing with the team, Irving absconded for Brooklyn the very next offseason when his contract expired. Since then, it’s been nothing but hostility in TD Garden, which is sure to ramp up in the postseason.

MORE: NBA Playoff schedule 2022: Full bracket, dates, times, TV channels

This time, however, the Celtics find themselves with home-court advantage. The Nets will be visiting Boston for Games 1 and 2 of the series, as they look to right the ship on what has been a roller coaster of a season.

Why exactly did Irving leave the Celtics? And why did Boston fans take his departure so hard? Here’s everything you need to know about Irving’s tumultuous final year with the Celtics.


Why did Kyrie Irving leave the Celtics for the Nets?

Irving left the Celtics because he wanted to return closer to his New Jersey home. He confirmed as much in his 2019 media day availability with the Nets, and his decision to leave was influenced by the passing of his grandfather early in the 2018-19 NBA season.

“After he passed, basketball was the last thing on my mind,” Irving said. “A lot of basketball and the joy I had from it was sucked away from me. There was a facial expression that I carried around with me throughout the year. Didn’t allow anyone to get close to me in that instance, and it really bothered me.

“I didn’t take the necessary steps to get counseling or get therapy or anything to deal with someone that close to me dying. I’ve never dealt with anything like that, so, for me, I responded in ways that were uncharacteristic, and I had to acknowledge that fact.”

Irving did talk to the Celtics about the issue, and he expressed a desire to re-sign. However, after reflecting more on his grandfather’s death and how basketball prevented Irving from seeing him before his passing, his thought process started to shift.

“I talked to Danny [Ainge] and I wanted to re-sign. So throughout the year, it started becoming more and more clear that my relationship within my home life had a way higher precedence than the organization or anyone,” Irving said.

“Throughout that year, [things] just became rocky and a lot of the battles I thought I could battle through from that team environment, I just wasn’t ready for. I failed those guys in a sense that I didn’t give them everything that I could have during that season, especially with the pieces that we had.”

After the disappointing season, Irving made the exit that he had been building up to and went to play for the Nets. That allowed him an opportunity to play closer to home and also gave him the luxury of playing alongside Kevin Durant, who signed with Brooklyn that same summer.

That took some of the pressure that he “just wasn’t ready for” off the table.

Timeline of Kyrie Irving’s departure from Celtics

July 21, 2017: Irving requests trade, names Knicks among preferred destinations

When Irving initially requested a trade from Cleveland, Chris Haynes noted Irving’s four preferred teams: The Knicks, Heat, Spurs and Timberwolves.

Aug. 22, 2017: Cavaliers trade Kyrie Irving to Celtics

The Cavaliers finally ended the Irving saga by trading him to Boston. The deal got them a haul of three picks and three players.

Oct. 4, 2018: Irving commits to re-signing with the Celtics during preseason fan event

“If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here,” Irving told the Boston crowd, per

Oct. 5, 2018: Irving reaffirms his happiness in Boston, praises organization for ‘taking a chance’

The next day, Irving continued to praise the Celtics for “taking a chance” on him, saying that he enjoyed playing in Boston.

“I’m happy here,” Irving said, per ESPN. “Every single day is at an all-time competitive high. What more can you ask for from an organization than taking a chance as far as getting me out of Cleveland? Really taking a chance regardless of whether I signed back or not.

“They had the same attitude. They just wanted to show me what being a Celtic is about, and that I was going to come around, and I absolutely did. I believe in it. I believe in the franchise.”

Irving commented that he wanted to see his jersey in the TD Garden rafters one day along with the retired numbers of other Celtics greats.

“I have every intention of signing with Boston next year. I do have a dream of putting my No. 11 in the rafters one day if I’m so blessed to do that,” Irving said, per NBC Sports Boston. “I’ve worked my tail off, obviously a lot of great players have come before me, but to throw my name in Boston Celtics tradition and history is something I’m glad I can do. And I’m planning on doing so.”

Oct. 20, 2018: Irving says he nearly requested trade to New York after Knicks game

After a game in New York, Irving confirmed the Knicks were a preferred destination for him.

“Every team was under consideration,” he said. “But obviously New York held a special place for me, just being from [New] Jersey and obviously envisioning myself as a free agent and ultimately taking a meeting and playing for [David Fizdale] and a great young core that they have here.

“Thinking about playing with [Kristaps Porzingis], that was a big thing before I made my decision to sign back with — to plan on re-signing back, I don’t wanna get in trouble, plan with re-signing back with Boston. But yeah of course, New York was a strong consideration.”

Jan. 12, 2019: Irving chides Gordon Hayward for giving Jayson Tatum final shot vs. Magic

However, as the season went along, there appeared to be growing tension within the locker room and frustration on Irving’s part. That came to a head after Hayward threw a late-game pass to Tatum to try to let the then-rookie win the game. Irving screamed at Hayward after the play.

Irving apparently wanted a chance at the last shot. After the Celtics’ loss, he spoke about the team’s lack of experience and how he differed from his teammates.

“The best thing I can say is experience, we’re lacking it and because of that we have a lot of learning to do, so we have a lot of ground to make up in that aspect,” Irving said, per WEEI. “You know, it gets tough. When it gets hard, you have to think. You have to do the right things. You can’t gamble and think that it’s going to be the winning play. You have to be able to play through the full 48 minutes, no matter what’s going on and hold your head high when you make mistakes. When your job is called upon, you have to do it to the best of your ability. You have to come in and make an impact for the minutes that you’re playing out there. 

“You have to appreciate to be out there and just competing. It doesn’t matter who you’re going against, it matters the type of preparation you have — what you’re going out and trying to accomplish. What’s the big picture? What are we doing here? These are a lot of things that I don’t think that some of my teammates have faced just every single day. It’s not easy to be great.”

Feb. 1, 2019: Irving retracts promise to re-sign with Celtics: ‘I’m going to do what’s best for my career’

Shortly thereafter, Irving walked back on his desire to rejoin the Celtics.

“At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for my career,” Irving said, per NBC Sports Boston. “I spent the last eight years trying to do what everyone else wanted me to do — managers, other personnel — and I don’t owe anybody s—. I still have confidence in Boston and what they can promise for the future and what we have in terms of pieces. That’s what excited me at the beginning of the season.

“… It’s my decision at the end of the day. Who cares who said what’s best for him, like, it doesn’t matter. It’s unwarranted commentary, and of course it’s going to continue throughout the season. I’m aware of that. I’m a professional, I’m not going to disrespect anybody but like I said, it really comes down to what’s best for me and my family.”

That comment marked a major shift in Irving’s tenor and seemed to indicate that he was thinking about — if not, planning to — leave the Celtics. 

Feb. 17, 2019: Irving and Kevin Durant stoke rumors with All-Star Game conversation

Later that month at the NBA All-Star Game, Irving had a discussion with Durant, who was on the Warriors. There was plenty of speculation about what the two were discussing — perhaps teaming up in Brooklyn — but after being asked about it, Irving said that he was merely talking to one of his best friends.

“I don’t have a private life when I’m out there in the NBA,” Irving said, per The Boston Globe. “Somebody wants to take a video, it is what it is. Pour water on [the speculation]? I’m a human being talking to another best friend of mine. It’s just crazy.

“This is the stuff that just doesn’t make the league fun. Nobody helps promote the league by doing s— like that. Just fictitious, putting things on like what we’re talking about, it’s crazy. I guess that’s what you want, huh?”

Irving’s future remained in doubt for the rest of the season. The Celtics continued to stumble along until the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Bucks. Irving shot 25-for-83 over their final four games of the season against Milwaukee.

July 7, 2019: Kyrie Irving signs with Brooklyn Nets for four years, $136.49 million

Then, of course, Irving signed with the Nets in free agency and completed an exit that went from improbable to expected in a matter of months.

Dec. 18, 2020: Kyrie Irving returns to TD Garden, burns sage in empty arena

Irving stirred up conversation before a preseason game against the Celtics, walking around the arena (which still wasn’t hosting fans amid the COVID-19 pandemic) and burning sage. After the game, Irving said that burning sage was simply part of his pregame ritual.

May 28, 2021: Kyrie Irving returns to TD Garden for Game 3 of Nets-Celtics series

Irving returned to TD Garden, playing as a Net for the first time with Boston fans in attendance. Heading into the matchup, Irving said that he hoped his return would be “strictly about basketball” and Celtics fans would avoid “subtle racism.”

Irving scored 16 points in a losing effort for the Nets, receiving boos every time he touched the ball. In Game 4, Irving broke out, scoring 39 points and pulling down 11 boards in a 141-126 win. The Nets would go on to close out the series in Game 5 at the Barclays Center.

What did the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving?

The Celtics acquired Irving from the Cavaliers as part of a four-player deal. Boston sent three players and three draft picks to Cleveland in order to acquire the All-Star point guard.

Here’s a look at the details of the trade:

Celtics acquire:

Cavaliers acquire:

  • PG Isaiah Thomas
  • SF/PF Jae Crowder
  • C Ante Zizic
  • 2018 first-round draft pick (Nets)
  • Two 2020 second-round picks

The first-round pick that the Cavaliers acquired became point guard Collin Sexton, who had his 2021-22 campaign shortened after tearing his meniscus in November.

The original framework of the deal had only one second-round pick going Cleveland’s way, but after the Cavaliers came away from Thomas’ physical discouraged with what it showed, Boston agreed to include another pick. Thomas had suffered a hip injury the previous season and had surgery to repair the issue.

The Sporting News’ Jacob Camenker contributed to this article.

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Bellator 274 post-event facts: Andrey Koreshkov joins 15-win club, nets other records

Bellator 274 post-event facts: Andrey Koreshkov joins 15-win club, nets other records

The second Bellator event of the year went down Saturday with Bellator 274 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

A potential welterweight title contender emerged in the main event. Logan Storley (13-1 MMA, 8-1 BMMA) showed the full depth of his skill set when he outworked Neiman Gracie (11-3 MMA, 9-3 BMMA) over the course of five rounds in the first non-title, five round main event in company history to take home a unanimous decision.

Storley was just one of the big winners on the night, and for more on the numbers, check below for 35 post-event facts to come out of Bellator 274.

Event stats

Betting favorites went 8-5 on the main card.

Betting favorites fell to 0-2 in Bellator main events this year.

Total fight time for the 13-bout card was 2:04:56.


Logan Storley def. Neiman Gracie

Logan Storley

Storley earned his first Bellator main event win.

Gracie fell to 8-3 since he dropped to the welterweight division in February 2015.

Gracie has suffered all three of his career losses by decision.


Andrey Koreshkov def. Chance Rencountre

Andrey Koreshkov

Andrey Koreshkov’s (25-4 MMA, 15-4 BMMA) 15 victories in Bellator welterweight competition are most in divisional history.

Koreshkov’s eight stoppage victories in Bellator welterweight competition are third-most in divisional history behind Douglas Lima (nine) and Michael Page (nine).

Koreshkov’s eight knockout victories in Bellator welterweight competition are tied with Lima and Page for most in divisional history.

Chance Rencountre (16-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) fell to 2-1 since his final UFC fight in November 2019.

Rencountre has suffered both of his career stoppage losses by knockout.


Adam Piccolotti def. Georgi Karakhanyan

Adam Piccolotti

Georgi Karakhanyan (31-13-1 MMA, 9-11 BMMA) fell to 3-4 since he returned to Bellator for a third stint in March 2019.

Karakhanyan fell to 3-3 since he moved up to the Bellator lightweight division in February 2020.

Karakhanyan has suffered 10 of his 13 career losses by decision.

Karakhanyan’s 11 losses in Bellator competition are tied with Saad Awad for most in company history.


Brennan Ward def. Brandon Bell

Brennan Ward

Brennan Ward (15-6 MMA, 10-6 BMMA) returned to MMA competition from a career-long layoff and earned his first victory since November 2016.

Ward has earned 14 of his 15 career victories by stoppage.

Ward has earned all 10 of his Bellator victories by stoppage.


Davion Franklin def. Said Sowma

Davion Franklin

Davion Franklin’s (5-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) five-fight Bellator winning streak at heavyweight is the second-longest active streak in the division behind Steve Mowry (six).

Said Sowma (8-3 MMA, 2-2 BMMA) has suffered both of his Bellator losses by decision.


Nick Browne def. Mandel Nallo

Nick Browne

Nick Browne (13-1 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) has earned both of his Bellator victories by stoppage.

Mandel Nallo (8-2 MMA, 3-2 BMMA) has suffered both of his career losses by stoppage.


Jaylon Bates def. Chris Disonell

Jaylon Bates

Jaylon Bates’ (5-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) five-fight Bellator winning streak at bantamweight is tied with Raufeon Stots for the longest active streak in the division.

Bates’ four stoppage victories in Bellator bantamweight competition are tied with Eduardo Dantas for most in divisional history.

Bates’ four submission victories in Bellator bantamweight competition are most in divisional history.


Bobby King def. Aviv Gozali

Bobby King

Bobby King (11-4 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) has earned eight of his 11 career victories by stoppage.

Aviv Gozali (6-1 MMA, 6-1 BMMA) had his six-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of his career.


DeAnna Bennett def. Justin Kish

DeAnna Bennett

DeAnna Bennett (12-7-1 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) has earned eight of her 12 career victories by decision. That includes both of her Bellator wins.

Justin Kish’s (7-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) three-fight losing skid is the longest of her career. She hasn’t earned a victory since January 2020.

Kish fell to 1-4 since she moved up to the flyweight division in January 2018.

Kish has suffered four of her five career losses by decision.


Justin Montalvo def. Corey Samuels

Justin Montalvo

Justin Montalvo (5-0 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) has earned four of his five career victories by stoppage.

Montalvo has earned all four of his career stoppage victories by knockout.

Corey Samuels (3-3 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) has suffered all three of his career losses by stoppage.


Isiah Hokit def. Theodore Macuka

Isaiah Hokit vs. Theodore Macuka

Theodore Macuka (1-3 MMA, 0-2 BMMA) has suffered all three of his career losses by stoppage.

Macuka suffered the first submission loss of his career.