ATLANTA — When the Boston Celtics face the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on Friday night, they’ll become the latest team to see Hawks forward Vince Carter still serving as an effective role player despite him rapidly approaching his 42nd birthday.
According to Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, though, his career won’t be lasting anywhere near that long.
“No, no,” Irving said with a smile before the Celtics held morning shootaround ahead of the game. “Once I’m done with this, hopefully in my early-to-mid-30s, I’m done with this.”
Carter surpassed the 25,000-point barrier in Wednesday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors. Irving, 26, passed the 10,000-point barrier last Friday, also against Toronto, back in Boston. But he said his rationale behind wanting to be done with his career far sooner than Carter is not because of a lack of desire to play basketball for that long, but because of all that comes with life as an NBA star away from the court.
“I love basketball itself,” Irving said. “But everything that comes with it? It doesn’t really matter to me, in terms of my life. I enjoy the game, I enjoy being with my teammates, playing every single day.
“Being an NBA player, this is a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. I think everything else that comes with it doesn’t hold the same stature it once did.
“But I enjoy it, though. I love this game.”
He added that he would like people looking in at him and other players from the outside to appreciate the amount of work and effort they put into perfecting their craft, and some of the stress that creates.
“I would say, I don’t want to go into major detail, but I would just say I wish there was sometimes more empathy in terms of what we’ve committed ourselves to doing every single day,” he said. “Putting our bodies on the line, understanding kind of the mental strain you put on just trying to be great every single day, and just literally putting the ball in the hoop better than you did yesterday. It comes at a price, but it’s what we all signed up [for], and it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to take for as long as possible in order to win as many championships and be as successful as I can.
“I just think the material gain in it just doesn’t really matter to me anymore as much as it once did. The little things are just what make the game special. Coming every single day and playing with these guys, and still try to figure out what that challenge is, to be better as a basketball player rather than like, ‘What’s my popularity like?’ or ‘What branding could be done here?’ or something like that. That all comes, but I think the love of the game should always outshine everything else that comes with the NBA lifestyle.”
Irving also addressed saying “f— Thanksgiving” at the end of his interview session with reporters in Boston following Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks that dropped the Celtics to 9-9 this season.
Irving, whose mother was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, was inducted into the tribe in a traditional Lakota naming ceremony in August, along with his sister, and given the name “Little Mountain.” He said his comment came from that history, but that he doesn’t have any issue with others celebrating the holiday, and it wasn’t the right way, or forum, to express that view.
“I think the realization of just the message that you want to send,” Irving said. “Obviously I don’t hold anybody in contempt or anything against them if they celebrate Thanksgiving or anything like that. [I] obviously allowed the frustrations after the game to fester into something that shouldn’t be said in a professional setting, no matter what my beliefs are in terms of Thanksgiving and where I come from.
“I don’t necessarily live in that hub as much anymore, in terms of what I say and the amount of attention it gets through social media and everywhere, where it’s kind of popular. But I think the responsibility I have to make sure that the kids, as well as other adults and parents, understand certain [things] shouldn’t be said in that environment no matter what your beliefs are, and obviously I think knowing the backstory about where I come from, as well as where my family comes from, it’s warranted to say something like that, but as well as it shouldn’t be said like that, especially if kids are listening.
“So I wanted to issue an apology to that, just saying that, especially to a woman like that after the game … I don’t ever want to be in that position again.”