Mazzulla gets philosophical about Kyrie's ‘villain' status in Boston

Mazzulla gets philosophical about Kyrie’s ‘villain’ status in Boston originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Leave it to Joe Mazzulla to make us ponder our own existence during a midday press conference.

The Celtics head coach was fielding questions after Boston’s practice Friday when a reporter noted that Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving will be perceived as a “villain” during the 2024 NBA Finals due to his tumultuous two-season tenure with the C’s.

“Aren’t we all?” Mazzulla interjected.

When asked to clarify, Mazzulla responded:

“We’re all villains in someone’s eyes.”

We suppose that’s Mazzulla’s way of downplaying the Kyrie vs. Boston narrative, which undoubtedly will steal headlines between now and Thursday’s Game 1. While Irving left the Celtics five years ago and has faced Boston twice in the postseason since then (in 2021 and 2022 with the Brooklyn Nets), the nature of his exit likely will result in a chorus of boos Thursday night at TD Garden.

But to Mazzulla, Irving is just as much a “villain” as every other Mavs player the Celtics will face in this series.

“Listen, he’s a great player. He’s done a lot of great things,” Mazzulla said of Irving. “I think just how he’s carried himself, how he’s played this postseason has been one of the fun things to watch that’s one of the themes in the NBA.

“He’s a great player. (He’s) done a lot of great things over the course of his career and he’s playing really well. So, you have to respect that. You can’t take that for granted, and you have to be ready to guard him at a high, high level. That’s the most important thing.”

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Villain status aside, Boston will have its hands full with Irving, who averaged 27 points per game in the Western Conference Finals and dropped 36 points in Thursday’s decisive Game 5 to knock out the Minnesota Timberwolves. So, Mazzulla’s Celtics would be wise to block out the noise and focus on limiting Irving’s offensive brilliance.

As for Boston fans? Let’s just say they’re playing by a different set of rules.

“Our fans, they care. They care about the Celtics and they care about Boston,” veteran big man Al Horford told reporters Friday.

“This has been spoken about already, but when (Irving) left, it wasn’t ideal for everyone here. So, I know the fans — it’s the Finals, regardless of who’s coming in and who’s not, it’s gonna be lively. It’s gonna be exciting. It’s gonna be loud.”

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