LeBron 'mad' about no longer playing with Irving

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With Kyrie Irving set to play in his first NBA Finals since 2017 when the Boston Celtics host the Dallas Mavericks in Thursday’s Game 1 (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC), his former teammate LeBron James admitted just how much he misses playing with the eight-time All-Star.

“I’m so f—ing happy and so proud to watch him continue his growth,” James told his co-host, JJ Redick, on an episode of their “Mind the Game” podcast released Tuesday. “I’m so f—ing mad at the same time that I’m not his running mate anymore.”

James and Irving played three seasons together with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014 to ’17, making it to three straight Finals and winning the championship in 2016, with Irving hitting the title-clinching 3-pointer in Game 7 to beat the Golden State Warriors.

“I just remember those times,” James said.

Irving requested a trade out of Cleveland in the summer of 2017, in part to be able to showcase his game out from under James’ shadow. Irving was dealt to Boston and a couple of seasons later, the two stars developed a deeper appreciation for each other when Irving reconnected with James for guidance on how to lead the young Celtics the way the four-time MVP had led the Cavs.

Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of several teams to aggressively pursue Irving leading up to the trade deadline before the Brooklyn Nets ultimately sent him to Dallas in a package that included Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, an unprotected first-round pick in 2029 and two second-round picks. The Lakers’ offer centered on Russell Westbrook and two future first-round picks in 2027 and 2029, sources told ESPN.

James, who openly lobbied for L.A. to acquire Irving, lamented the point guard landing with the Mavs at the time.

“I can’t sit here and say I’m not disappointed on not being able to land such a talent, but [also] someone that I had great chemistry with, and know I got great chemistry with on the floor, that can help you win championships, in my mind, in my eyes,” James told ESPN’s Michael Wilbon last February.

While the Celtics are the favorites in the Finals (-225, according to ESPN BET), James said that Irving’s presence makes the Mavericks more than just an underdog. Specifically, James said Irving’s performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, when the 13-year veteran scored 24 of his 30 points in the first half to jump on the Minnesota Timberwolves, made him reconsider Dallas’ chances this postseason.

“That was like, ‘Oh s—, Dallas may be able to not only win the Western Conference finals, they might be able to win the whole thing,'” James said. “Because of that [Irving] wild card. … He’s the most gifted player the NBA has ever seen.”

Irving, 32, is averaging 22.8 points on 48.5% shooting (42.1% from 3) with 5.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game this postseason as the Mavs’ No. 2 option behind Luka Doncic.

“To have a guy like Kyrie Irving as the ultimate wild card,” James said. “It’s like having a Draw 4 in your hand every time someone deals you cards in Uno.”

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