Kyrie Irving’s return to Cleveland after forcing a trade earlier this offseason was always going to be an interesting experience, but after his recent comments, things could get pretty crazy inside Quicken Loans Arena.

Ahead of the Celtics‘ opening night matchup against the Cavaliers in Cleveland, Irving said he was excited to be playing in a “real, live sports city”  following his offseason trade to Boston. And judging by the reactions on social media, people in Cleveland are not taking it well. 

Irving, however, is not worried or nervous about his return to “The Q.” In a recent interview with Marc J. Spears, he said, “it’s just hoops.” Via ESPN:

“No. Why would it be? It’s just hoops,” Irving said before Wednesday’s shootaround in preparation for a preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets. “It’s just hooping. I understand the magnitude … But I know what it is going to entail in terms of marketing, whatever the case may be, to garner up this energy to make people feel a certain type of way. I get all that. It’s part of the game. It’s been a part of the game for a while. But, it’s just two hoops and a basketball.

“It’s all love no matter what. I have heard boos at times to hearing cheers in the parade. I’ve been in the championship parade as well as being down 30 in ‘Q Arena.’ So, I’ve heard it all. It’s just good to be there and hoop against a great team like the Cavs.”

Irving may be putting on a brave face in trying to seem relaxed and low-key about the return, but there’s just no way this can be “just hoops.” That could be true once the game starts, and he gets locked in to trying to help the Celtics win, but especially in the lead up to Tuesday’s matchup, there has to be more going on his head.

He wouldn’t have forced a trade out if it was “just hoops.” He wouldn’t have made the comments he did about Boston compared to Cleveland if it was “just hoops.” You can’t win a team their first ever championship on a game-winning 3-pointer on the road in Game 7 and have your first game back in town in another jersey be “just hoops.”

That’s just not possible, no matter how much Irving wants it to be the case. 


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