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Marcus Smart shares candid thoughts about Kyrie’s comments, C’s fans originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Marcus Smart understands where his former Boston Celtics teammate is coming from.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving said Tuesday night he hopes he doesn’t experience any “belligerence” or “subtle racism” from the TD Garden crowd in Friday night’s Game 3, which will be his first game in Boston with fans in attendance since leaving the team in 2019.

When asked if he’d experienced racism at the Garden before, Irving replied, “I’m not the only one that can attest to this.”

Smart confirmed Thursday he’s heard TD Garden fans direct racially-charged comments at opposing players.

Danny Ainge addresses impact of Irving’s comments about C’s fans

“Yeah, I’ve heard a couple of them. It’s kind of sad and sickening,” Smart told reporters, as seen in the video above. “Even though it’s an opposing team, we’ve had guys on your home team that you’re saying these racial slurs and you expect us to go out here and play for you. It’s tough.”

A fan at the Garden was given a two-year ban for yelling a racial slur at DeMarcus Cousins during the Celtics’ Jan. 26, 2019, game against the Golden State Warriors. Irving was with the Celtics at the time while his future Nets teammate, Kevin Durant, was with Golden State. Irving said at the time he hadn’t personally heard any racist remarks from fans.

Smart hopes that remains the case when Irving returns Friday night.

“We just want everyone to be respectful, on and off the court,” Smart said. “We want that same respect that we give to fans and the crowd to come out here and put on a good show and not to interfere in that type of manner with them. We expect the same in return from us.”

Irving likely will hear boos from Celtics fans who feel he reneged on his promise to re-sign with the team prior to the 2018-19 season. But there’s a clear line between boos and racial epithets, and Smart urged Boston fans not to cross it.

“We’re out here to perform and entertain for the crowd. We just wanted to be respectful on both ends,” Smart said. “We were kind of seen around the league now with a couple other incidents with fans in the crowd. We don’t want our crowd to be like that.”

Game 3 of the teams’ first-round series begins Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET in front of a 25% capacity crowd, while the Garden will be at near full capacity for Game 4 on Sunday.