Video: Did Kyrie Irving Take a Shot at LeBron James in Celtics Preseason Debut?

Kyrie Irving got his first outing in a Celtics uniform at TD Garden on Monday night, a 94-82 win over the Charlotte Hornets at TD Garden in Boston.

Irving’s Celtics debut was solid—though it was strange to see him in green-and-white and not lining up next to LeBron James in red-and-yellow.

Along with Gordon Hayward, the Celtics’ major free-agent summer acquisition and a man also making his debut, the Celtics had a very different look from the team that lost to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals at the end of May.

Irving, who was benched along with Hayward for the second half, has been pretty quiet since that trade in August that sent Isaiah Thomas, beloved in Boston, to the Cavaliers along with a draft pick that relies on the Brooklyn Nets playing down to expectations.

Even in his ESPN First Take interview with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman, Irving was careful to keep his criticism of James, the Cavaliers and their coaching staff veiled. The nearest Irving came to outright criticism of James was when he described the leaked trade news as “hurtful.” (Smith had previously claimed Irving’s camp believed James had leaked the news).

Irving’s apparent shot at James on Monday night was in the same vein. The point guard wore a cap after the game that read, “Popularity contests are not truth contests,” in a video posted to YouTube by the Boston Globe’s national NBA writer Gary Washburn.

Irving and James meet on opposite sides of the court for the first time on October 18 when the Cavaliers visit the Celtics in the NBA season opener at TD Garden. Perhaps only then will the weird passive-aggressiveness stop.

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