Iman Shumpert on Kyrie Irving’s bad rap as teammate: ‘If you treat him like an alien, then he’ll be an alien’
Brooklyn Nets floor general Kyrie Irving has had a bad rap as a teammate after a 2018-19 season that fell well below expectations, one filled with turmoil, mood swings, and plenty of grim juju in a veteran Boston Celtics locker room. Iman Shumpert, once again Irving’s teammate after spending three seasons with him in Cleveland, thinks his reputation is merely the result of hearsay.
“Everybody gets to tweet whatever they want nowadays, and now they’re talking about how Ky doesn’t want to play against Boston?” Shumpert told Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “It’s like gee, y’all saw the man shoot it bad. His shoulder was bothering him. It just happens to be on the schedule.”
Irving was met with “coward” fliers after not making the trip to Boston for his return to the TD Garden, a welcome that was expected from an infuriated Celtics fan base after last season’s disappointing end.
The 27-year-old missed Wednesday’s game with a right shoulder injury that’s caused him to miss the last seven games. An ex-player and former NBA champion told Vardon that Irving misses these games because he isn’t mentally tough.
Irving took plenty of flack for at times alienating himself from the rest of the Celtics, but Shumpert urged there’s more than meets the eye.
“They hand us a bunch of money and say you should be able to deal with it,” said Shumpert. “It’s one of those things where Ky sometimes chooses to be quiet and not say anything and not express himself.”
Irving said he was dealing with the loss of his grandfather last season and that caused him to go into a shell for parts of the season.
“People separate from him thinking he wants to separate — but he doesn’t want to separate,” Shumpert said. “He is actually pretty regular. If you treat him like an alien, then he’ll be an alien. If you make it up in your mind that he’s an alien and I don’t need to talk to him, then he’s not going to say anything to you. Because he feels alienated.”
The Nets seemed plenty satisfied with Irving, but some former teammates have come from the shadows to speak about his character. Shumpert is among those who seem to understand him after spending three years together and maintaining a friendship — something Irving will hope to build with the rest of the roster.