BOSTON (CBS) — Kyrie Irving spoke after the Nets beat the Celtics on Tuesday night, stating that he hopes that there will be no “belligerence or any racism going on, subtle racism” from the Boston fans when the series shifts to the TD Garden.

Naturally, the people of Boston reacted strongly to that statement, as Irving has given Celtics fans plenty of basketball-related reasons for disliking him. Namely, he told season-ticket holders that he planned to sign long-term with the Celtics “if you guys will have me back,” then went through a tumultuous season, then shot 30 percent in four straight playoff losses to Milwaukee, and then bolted for Brooklyn in free agency to join forces with Kevin Durant — a plan that was hatched when the two stars spoke at that year’s All-Star Game.

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Despite Irving’s history with the Celtics, head coach Brad Stevens didn’t try to rebut or dismiss anything that Irving said. Instead, in his weekly interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak & Bertrand” show, he said that such comments need to be taken seriously.

“I’d certainly take any comments like that, I think you should take them very, very seriously,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what context he was discussing there, but I do think, I know that the [TD] Garden, I know that the Celtics, I know that the NBA, I know that everybody is very alert to making sure that our fans don’t cross the line. And I think that that’s really important.”

Stevens said that he hasn’t directly heard about incidents of overt or subtle racism taking place at Celtics games, but that doesn’t mean that such comments from Irving shouldn’t carry a lot of weight.

“People shouldn’t ever feel like they’re being discriminated against. But I think that everybody is dialed into that now,” Stevens said. “That hasn’t been brought to my attention that that’s happened, maybe but once or twice since I’ve been here. And it was dealt with immediately. But maybe it’s happened and guys haven’t talked about it, and certainly, Kyrie’s never mentioned anything to me about it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And I think that those things should always be taken really seriously.”

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Irving, 29, said in 2019 that he had never personally been targeted by any racist comments in Boston, either as an opponent or as a member of the home team.

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Friday night in Game 3 will mark his first visit to TD Garden with fans in attendance since he left the team in the summer of 2019.

CBSBoston.com Staff