The new NBA season begins with a highly-anticipated clash between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics as Kyrie Irving returns to face his former team.
The All-Star point guard shocked the Cavs this summer by requesting a trade and was offloaded to the Celtics in a deal that saw Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic move in the opposite direction.
This opening night encounter was scheduled prior to Irving's move to Boston, but his presence has added a major subplot to the game.
Kyrie reportedly wanted to leave northeast Ohio because of an unwillingness to continue playing with LeBron James and all eyes will be on the pair as they come face to face for the first time since the trade.
The 25-year-old added more fuel to the fire when he recently said that Boston feels like "a real live sports city" unlike Cleveland.
It will now be interesting to see the kind of reception he gets from the Wine and Gold faithful who adored him for six years.
'Uncle Drew' stated that he isn't approaching the game with any anxiousness saying "it's just hoops".
But he'll be happy to know that his new teammates have his back and are keen to help him enjoy a winning return to Quicken Loans Arena.
In an interview with MassLive, Gordon Hayward said he understands how big the game will be for Kyrie and that they'll all be looking to play their best game for him.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be a fun atmosphere for sure,” Hayward said, per Jay King of MassLive. “A huge game for Kyrie and I think one we’re all looking to play our best for him. Not only for the team, but for him. We know it’s a big game for him.”
With Thomas out with a hip injury, Crowder is the only former Celtic expected to play in a Cavaliers uniform and it promises to be an emotional occasion for him too.
Irving, though, is looking to stay level-headed and take the game in his stride, but he certainly understands the hype surrounding it.
“All the kind of energy behind it is created anywhere except from me,” said Irving. “That’s pretty much it. It’s all created from the excitement and the division of, let’s get it to be Cleveland vs. Boston. And I understand that. That’s what makes basketball great. It’s what makes the NBA great.
"It makes your job great as well and all our jobs as well. Because it’s all from literally two hoops and a basketball, so the excitement is garnered over time. And I can even see that it’s starting to brew up now.”
This mouthwatering contest takes place on Tuesday night in what is sure to be a sell-out crowd in 'The Land'.