NEW YORK — Marcus Smart sent a message to Boston fans: It’s time to move on.
The Celtics guard embraced Kyrie Irving after the Nets’ 112-107 win over the Celtics on Friday at Barclays Center, and then was asked whether he, Jayson Tatum, and other teammates was a sign that all has been forgiven.
Smart not only said there was nothing to forgive, but appeared annoyed.
“There is no hard feelings,” Smart said. “I didn’t hug Kyrie to get on TV. It’s two guys that are trying to make a living for their families, being professional athletes. That’s my brother, you know? Regardless of what he did. He works hard.
“And quite frankly, I’m really honestly tired of hearing about Kyrie. Kyrie’s no longer with the Boston Celtics. And it’s a slap across everybody on this team that’s here now to keep hearing Kyrie’s name, because every last one of these guys have put in the work and continue to put in the work, and we’re here and we’re still competing.
“But yet everybody, including the Boston fans, wanna talk about Kyrie. Let’s talk about the Boston Celtics.”
After spending the past two seasons with Boston and saying last October he planned on signing a new contract to stay, Irving signed a four-year contract with the Nets in July.
Before the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about Irving’s Instagram story following Wednesday’s Boston win at TD Garden, during which fans serenaded Brooklyn players with “Where’s Kyrie?” and “Kyrie Sucks!” chants throughout the game.
Irving, absent from Boston on Wednesday and out of both games with a shoulder impingement, criticized fans for prioritizing winning and team success over the mental health of the players.
“We’ve always talked about [mental health] with our teams in our own team setting, and we have our own group of people, and I think the leadership that the best players have provided on that is unbelievable and outstanding,” Stevens said. “I thought it was kicked off by [ Kevin] Love and [DeMar] DeRozan.”
Love and DeRozan publicly revealed they dealt with anxiety and mental health issues. Irving has not made such a public declaration, but did refer to pursuing personal happiness in his post.
“Sometimes I think we forget how great [these players] are,” Stevens said. “I think it’s good to step back and appreciate them for their greatness, whether it’s Kyrie or anyone. I don’t have much else to say. As we’ve talked [about] many times, I liked Kyrie, I appreciated Kyrie. We wished him well and I think coming home is something he wanted to do. He’s a free agent. He made that choice and we can’t do anything but respect that.”
Stevens, as he did Wednesday, again took the blame for the Celtics failing to meet expectations last season.
“The job of the coach is to put pieces together and I didn’t do it,” he said. “Danny [Ainge] is being a good boss. I didn’t do a very good job. If anything, it’s on us all collectively when you don’t get to where you want to go, but that should start with me. We learned a lot from last year, we moved forward in early June. We’re still answering those questions, but I understand.”
Irving, who missed his ninth straight game Friday, has begun on-court work but will miss Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat, according to head coach Kenny Atkinson. Irving was averaging 28.5 points, 7.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds before his injury.
Out of hand
Smart, in a long-range slump of late, admitted that his bruised left hand has been bothering him the past few games. He’s 10-for-46 (.217) from the 3-point line the past seven games, including 1-for-6 Friday.
“It’s going through the works, but it’s part of it,” he said. “Play through, and if it gets any worse, we’ll have to re-evaluate it and see what we want to do. Right now it’s OK, I can play through it. If I’m out there I’ve got to be able to produce and play. Otherwise, I need to sit.”
The Celtics opened the third quarter with a play to get Daniel Theis a layup. He missed it, then allowed Jarret Allen to rebound a Spencer Dinwiddie miss at the other end for a putback dunk. Stevens called timeout 33 seconds into the period and inserted Enes Kanter.
Theis did not play for the remainder of the game, and Stevens confirmed afterward that Theis was available.
“We talked about it all year. We’re going to have a rotating center spot,” he said. “Now that Enes is getting healthier, I thought that Enes was really good in the first half. I went with Enes early, and it’s part of it.”
Kanter played nearly 21 minutes, and was a plus-10, with 10 points and six rebounds. Theis was a minus-14 in his seven minutes.