Tuesday, October 17 – Celtics at Cavs
Pregame: How Will Kyrie be Greeted by Cleveland’s Crowd?
CLEVELAND – Cheers, or boos? That is the question.
Kyrie Irving, who spent the first six years of his career playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, makes his return tonight to Quicken Loans Arena as a member of the Boston Celtics. No one knows how he will be received.
On one hand, this is a player who quite literally brought the city its first championship in decades; he, not LeBron James nor any other Cavalier, hit the game-winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals.
One would think such an accomplishment would garner cheers.
On the other hand, this is a player who requested a trade from the organization and eventually wound up as a member of Cleveland’s top competitor, the Celtics.
One could assume that such a decision would garner boos.
Tonight, we’ll find out which hand holds more weight.
“I don’t know,” Cavs head coach Ty Lue said of what he expects from the Cleveland crowd. “I respect our fans, and whatever decision they make, I support them 100 percent.”
Lue is now Irving’s opposing coach, and he very well could have ill feelings toward the four-time All-Star as a result of the way their relationship came to an end in Cleveland. Brad Stevens, meanwhile, is Irving’s current coach, and he gave his perspective as to what information Cavs fans should use to tip their scales.
“My wife is from Cleveland. She grew up in Cleveland. Her whole family is still in Cleveland,” said Stevens, who seconds before noted that there undoubtedly will be a smattering of boos. “And I think they all greatly appreciate, obviously, what he did over the six years, but certainly on the biggest stage, under the brightest lights, a couple of years ago.”
Here’s a great way to anticipate what to expect tonight:
The Cavaliers will play a tribute video for Irving during this game. The crowd will cheer Irving and his accomplishments on during that moment.
Other than that, they’re going to boo him.
That’s exactly what happened when Ray Allen, who left the Celtics under similar but not identical circumstances, returned to Boston on Jan. 27, 2013, as a member of the hated Miami Heat.
Fans cheered for Allen during and after the video tribute, because he was a key cog in Boston winning its 17th championship banner. But when he checked into the game with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter, TD Garden became Boo Garden.
The big difference between these two scenarios is that Allen returned as a reserve, while Irving returns as a starter. Irving’s name will be announced during starting lineups, and that will be the first moment Cavs fan have to greet him.
So, cheers, or boos? Let’s go with the safe prediction: both.
We’ll find out for sure in less than an hour.
– Marc D’Amico