Kyrie Irving clarifies his apology for Thanksgiving remark
ATLANTA — Kyrie Irving addressed a series of issues Friday prior to the Celtics ending their three-game losing skid in a win over the Hawks, including his basketball mortality, team chemistry, and another apology for his statements disparaging Thanksgiving.
When asked about the longevity of Atlanta’s Vince Carter, who recently scored his 25,000th point at age 41 and continues to amaze with his athleticism, Irving, 26, made it clear he has no plans to remain in the NBA as he approaches his 40th birthday.
“Nah, nah, nah, once I’m done with this, hopefully in my early to mid 30s, I’m done with this,” he said. “I’m done with this game.”
Irving, who has pursued acting and various other business ventures, said there will be a time when basketball doesn’t hold the same importance it does now.
“I love basketball itself, but everything that comes with it, I’m not . . . it doesn’t really matter to me in terms of my life,” he said. “I enjoy the game. I enjoy playing with my teammates every single day. This is a dream I’ve had since I was a kid.
“I think everything else that comes with it doesn’t necessarily hold the same stature as it does for other people.”
The Celtics, who entered Friday against the Hawks having lost seven of their past 10 games, are one of the league’s biggest disappointments. Irving said he noticed a difference in how his teammates have been interacting over the past few days.
“We’re more adamant in a sense of urgency,” he said. “We’re kind of just letting our hair down a little bit in terms of the environment that we have. Before it was just like more of a professional setting where we go, we win, we lose, we go to the plane, we don’t say anything.
“And the interaction socially amongst players is a big deal for us because leaving this court, leaving this environment, you want to have a separation amongst it, and getting to know your teammates is a big deal, and I think last year, having a lot of new guys and of course dealing with adversity and this year where we actually have to get to know one another being in the trenches. That is also a big part of where we are as a team, finally just trying to jell together, finally.”
Following Wednesday’s frustrating home loss to the Knicks, Irving was wished a happy Thanksgiving by a reporter, and he responded by saying, “[Expletive] Thanksgiving,” a statement that made headlines into the morning.
Irving apologized on his Instagram account and then reiterated his regret Friday for the timing of his statement — but not the statement itself. Irving’s late mother was of Native American lineage, and he has embraced that heritage more in recent years.
“I don’t hold anybody in contempt or anything against them if they’re celebrating Thanksgiving,” he said. “Obviously, I let the frustrations after the game to fester into saying something like that. It shouldn’t be said in a professional setting no matter what my beliefs are in terms of Thanksgiving and where I come from.
“I don’t necessarily live in that hub as much anymore in terms of what I say and the amount of attention it gets due to social media. But the responsibility I have to make sure the kids as well as other adults and parents, certain things shouldn’t be said in that environment, no matter what my beliefs are.
“Knowing the backstory about where I come from as well as where my family comes from, it’s warranted to say something like that. As well as it shouldn’t ever be said like that if kids are listening.
“I wanted to issue an apology to that, saying that, especially to a woman [NBCSB sideline reporter Abby Chin] after the game. I don’t ever want to be in that position again.”
Horford sits out
Al Horford was out for Friday night’s game with a sore left knee, an injury that he said has been bothering him for weeks. Horford went to the locker room during Monday’s loss to the Hornets and returned, then he was ruled questionable for Wednesday against the Knicks.
He played in that game, but the injury has not substantially improved, prompting coach Brad Stevens to hold Horford out of the first of a back-to-back.
“I’ve been dealing with knee issues and we just thought it would be the best thing to do and get ready for Dallas,” Horford said. “It’s part of the season, it’s been a couple of weeks.
“We’ve gotten to a point where I don’t want to miss extended time, so we’re just staying ahead of it.”
Stevens said the club activated rookie center Robert Williams as depth behind Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis. Williams, has spent most of the season inactive or with G-League Maine, had 4 points, 3 rebounds, and a block in nine minutes Friday night.