Kevin Garnett on Kyrie Irving Leaving Celtics: You Need 'Major Cojones' in BOS

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2019

BOSTON - MARCH 24:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the game against the Denver Nuggets at The TD Garden on March 24, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Celtics won 113-99.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Kevin Garnett questioned whether the Boston Celtics were ever the right fit for Kyrie Irving, citing the pressure that comes with playing in Boston.

"Boston's a tough town, dawg. You have to have some major cojones to be there," Garrett said after saying he wasn't surprised Irving left the Celtics in free agency, per the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy. "You got to want that. The people want it for you. That's why Paul [Pierce] is perfect for it. Paul wants the shot every time. Like, 'You're 0-for-14.' And he's like, 'I know, but they WANT it.'"

Garnett spent six years with the Celtics, helping the team win an NBA title in 2008 and reach the Finals in 2010. The 43-year-old has spoken fondly of his time in Boston and how wearing a Celtics jersey gave him a different sense of purpose on the court.

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Irving didn't create the same kind of memories in Boston.

He attempted to start on the right foot, telling reporters after his 2017 trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers he was happy to play in "a real, live sports city." In an ad for Nike shot at TD Garden, he also left the impression that he hoped his No. 11 jersey would hang in the rafters alongside the franchise's biggest legends.

Instead, the six-time All-Star was gone after two years, with the team reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018 and getting bounced in the second round a season ago.

Irving became a scapegoat for the Celtics' generally underwhelming performance in 2018-19, though ESPN's Jackie MacMullan reported a number of factors were responsible. Gordon Hayward struggled upon returning to the court from his fractured ankle, and young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown didn't deliver either.

However, earlier comments from MacMullan raised questions about whether the Irving-Celtics partnership was doomed to fail from the start.

"The part of the thing is Kyrie Irving didn't like Boston," she said on The Hoop Collective Podcast (h/t RealGM). "I've been told this by many people. He didn't like living in Boston. He just didn't. By the end, he had issues with Brad [Stevens]. By the end he had issues with Danny [Ainge]. By the end he had issues with pretty much all of us."

After signing a four-year, $136.4 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets, Irving became public enemy No. 1 in Boston, with fans at TD Garden chanting "Kyrie sucks!" in the Celtics' 121-110 win, even though he wasn't playing.

As frustrated as the fans might have been with Irving's decision, his re-signing with Boston might have arguably been a worse outcome given how quickly things had deteriorated for the respective parties.