BOSTON (CBS) — It’s been an up-and-down start to Kyrie Irving’s career in Boston, as the point guard tries to adapt to life with a new franchise.
Irving is still putting up some decent numbers, but everything changed on opening night when Gordon Hayward went down just five minutes into the season. An 0-2 start didn’t help, and Boston’s first win of the season was overshadowed by a verbal spat Irving had with a fan in Philadelphia.
Asked “Where’s LeBron?” as he walked off the court at halftime, Irving responded by yelling a dirty phrase back. It was caught on video, and the league hit the C’s guard with a $25,000 fine for the incident.
Celtics president of basketball ops. Danny Ainge joined Toucher & Rich on Thursday morning to discuss a number of topics, including Irving’s incident with the fan. He said it went a lot deeper than just the halftime exchange.
“I checked in with the security people and got the whole story. It was a lot more than that. There were things going on throughout the entire game and there was a dispute between security people as to whether that fan should have been ejected earlier. It was a whole game of chattering with that group of people,” explained Ainge.
“Unfortunately, you get busted on video now and fans yell and scream and try to trap you. That’s part of the fun for the fans, they can do pretty much anything they want and the players have a higher standard. I think it should be that way, to an extent,” Ainge continued. “Players have to understand that people are out there trying to trap them.
“Fans have been yelling at Kyrie probably from the time he was in high school. He was a great player at Duke and with the Cavs. To his credit, he’s been in the league seven years and really hasn’t had incidents before,” added Ainge. “They caught him at a weak moment, but he probably felt the fan deserved it.”
Ainge himself wouldn’t curse at a fan, but he said he’s heard plenty of verbal barbs between players and fans over his lengthy career in the NBA. That really is no surprise, given the Celtics teams of the 80s, not to mention Ainge employed Kevin Garnett for six seasons.
“I’ve heard a lot, from a lot of players yelling at fans and the back-and-forth. It’s not that uncommon for players to scream back at fans,” he said. “The only difference now is the cell phone cameras.”
Ainge felt some heat back in June when he traded the first overall pick to Philadelphia for the third pick and a future, protected selection. He’s looked a whole lot better since the start of the season, with Markelle Fultz dealing with shoulder issues and Jayson Tatum dazzling over his first four games, prompting Rich to call him a “genius” — much to Fred’s chagrin.
Asked why they decided to pass on Fultz, Ainge wouldn’t go into any details and said no one should judge either player this early in their careers.
“I know you have to ask that question, but I cant answer it,” replied Ainge. “I really liked all the kids that we looked at at the top of the draft. We really liked Jayson, and we didn’t think there was a huge drop off from top to bottom, from one through seven. There was a lot of good quality in the draft, just no one who stood out completely.
“I would never talk bad about young kids, and I think we still have to wait a few years down the road before we make any judgement on any of these young kids,” he said.
Ainge also gave a quick Gordon Hayward update, as well as updates on the injured Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart. He also touched on Lavar Ball attending Lakers practices, and if he’s making life difficult for Lonzo Ball as he starts his NBA career. Listen to the full podcast above!