After just two seasons, Kyrie Irving left the Boston Celtics to team up with Kevin Durant on the Brooklyn Nets. And while many NBA fans were eager to watch him face his former team on the hardwood this season, Irving missed 44 games due to injury before the season was suspended, including all three of the Nets’ games against Boston. However, the Brooklyn point guard seems eager to face his Boston replacement and fellow Tri-State Area native, Kemba Walker, as he told former professional basketball player and Brooklyn native Darryl “Truck” Bryant on Instagram Live this weekend.
“We never talk about this,” Irving said. “Me and K-Walk. I want that match-up.”
Kyrie Irving wants all the smoke against Kemba Walker 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/3XbzTZZA8X
— NBA Off the Court (@nba_offthecourt) May 11, 2020
“That’s my big bro,” he continued. “You know we got mutual respect, but I know everybody wants to see it — out of New York, New Jersey. Every time we play against each other it’s always a game. He gave us 40, I gave him 40. Back and forth, that’s part of just where we grew up.”
Back in 2014, Irving, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, scored a then-career-high 44 points on Walker and the Hornets. Four years later, Walker, who hails from the Bronx, got his revenge when he dropped 43 points on Irving’s Celtics in a win at home in Charlotte. The two point guards seem to relish going up against one another on the court, although they did not get the opportunity to do so this season as Irving struggled with a nagging shoulder injury.
After first tweaking it early in the season, Irving suffered another injury to his right shoulder on Nov. 14 against the Atlanta Hawks and was forced to sit out until mid-January, sitting for both the games against the Celtics on Nov. 27 and 29, a two-game series which the teams ended up splitting. Just one month after he returned to the court in January, however, the Nets announced that he would miss the rest of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder. The Nets beat the Celtics 129-120 in overtime on March 3rd in which Caris LeVert exploded for 51 points and DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen combined for 25 rebounds.
Irving’s two seasons in Boston were also marked by injury — he enjoyed a strong first season but succumbed to injury and missed the team’s last 14 games and the entire playoffs, watching as youngsters Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier led the team to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to LeBron James’s Cavaliers in seven exciting games. His second and last season as a Celtic was marred by criticism and debates about his ability to lead, whether he was hindering the development of Boston’s young core and concerns about his injury history as the team struggled to hit the heights of the previous season.
Despite telling Boston fans that he would re-sign with the organization in October 2018, Irving later decided to sign a four-year deal with Brooklyn instead, incensing Celtics fans. The Celtics then brought in Walker from Charlotte to replace Irving, sending Rozier the other way. This past season, Walker proved to be an able replacement for the former No. 11, leading the team to third in the Eastern Conference standings before the season was suspended on March 11 due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Although limited to only 20 games this season for the Nets, Irving was one of the most productive players in the league, averaging 27.4 points a game while shooting 48% from the field, and 6.4 assists a game. In Boston, Walker played 50 games and averaged 21.2 points and 4.9 assists per game with a 42% field goal percentage.
While he is clearly itching to lace up against Walker again, Irving will likely have to sit and wait for now.