Irving was seen burning sage — which is known as “smudging” — on the court at TD Garden during warm-ups before his Nets beat the Boston Celtics 113-89 on Friday night in the NBA preseason finale for both teams.
“It just comes from a lot of native tribes,” Irving said after the game. “Being able to sage, just cleanse the energy, make sure that we’re all balanced. When we come into this job, we come into this place, it’s not anything that I don’t do at home that I did today. I saged last game, and I plan to sage almost every game if the opposing team will allow me to.
“But, literally, it’s more or less for us to stay connected and for us to feel great about going to work and feeling safe and provided for from our ancestors. I’m not going to bring too much of the spirituality into basketball, but yeah, it’s part of my native culture where I’m from.”
Irving was inducted into the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe — of which his mother, Elizabeth, was a member — in the summer of 2018. When he was seen burning the sage before Friday’s game, it was speculated that it could have something to do with his coming back and playing in Boston for the first time since leaving as a free agent to join the Nets last summer.
But it came as no surprise to his teammates.
“That’s his thing. Kyrie probably sages his room before he plays 2K when he gets home,” Kevin Durant told ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth.
“That’s just what he does. That gives us good energy. He does it in the locker room. That’s his thing, and we all respect him. We respect his method, and he comes out here and plays extremely hard for us.”
As for the game itself, the Nets cruised, blowing out the Celtics a week before the two teams are scheduled to meet in Boston on Christmas Day (5 p.m. ET, ABC). Irving had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in 28 minutes, while Durant had 25 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes.
And, despite Irving’s acrimonious departure from Boston, as well as the trials and tribulations that went into his second season with the Celtics, he was all smiles postgame. He had a long chat and embrace with Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen, and exchanged greetings with former teammates Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis and Robert Williams.
Irving traded jerseys with Tatum and Williams, and had a long, upbeat chat with both Brown and Tatum before exiting the court. He said afterward that coming back to play here wasn’t anything noteworthy for him.
“It’s like another day at the job, honestly,” Irving said. “I’m grateful to be able to have relationships with a lot of these guys who are still here, guys who aren’t here still. And, at the end of the day, we went to war together. And I respect all those young men down there.
“We’re not even young. We’re just young kings growing in a business where we want to do what makes us happy. To see Jayson get better, to see Jaylen get better, to see these guys mature and be in the positions they’re in, I’m nothing but proud of them. To see other guys be happy, that’s all I could want. Coming here is easy, man. Performing here is easy. Performing here is easy. Basketball is the easy part. It’s just the external stuff beforehand that gets noisy, so I try to limit that.”