NEW YORK -- Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving expressed frustration with the clear protective mask that he wore while returning to game action Tuesday night, but said it was still a better option than the black one he once used during a memorable performance here in New York.
Irving famously scored a then-career-high 41 points against the New York Knicks while wearing a black mask in December 2012, during his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving soon changed to a clear fitted version.
Irving was aware that social media was clamoring for a return of the black mask, but he playfully detailed why it was better to stick with a clear one to protect the facial fracture he suffered when a teammate elbowed him last week.
"I was telling some of my teammates, some of the fans, too, they were asking me whether I was going to wear the black mask. The difference with the black mask is that [teammates are] not getting the ball, because I couldn't see outside of my [direct] eyesight," Irving said Tuesday night, to laughter.
"[Teammates were] like, 'Oh, the Masked Man! The Black Mask!' I scored that many [points for Cleveland] because I was just looking at the basket. So a lot of my peripheral vision and driving, I could only see what's in front of me. That black mask, like, it just takes away your vision. So I'm just like, 'Oh, see basket.' Like, this is just the best-case scenario. So that's the whole black mask thing.
"I'm glad I get to wear a clear one. I'm telling these guys, like, 'Come on, show some gratitude.' I'm showing gratitude, too, for not wearing that black mask. So, yeah, hopefully a few more weeks in the [clear] mask and I'll be out of it."
Irving repeatedly wrestled with the mask Tuesday, fidgeting with the straps at times while dribbling up the court and removing it completely during almost every dead-ball situation. When he missed a layup while being fouled on a late first-half drive, Irving angrily pried the mask off his face.
Asked after the game how his face was feeling, Irving deadpanned, "It's broken. So that's that."
He initially brushed aside a question about the discomfort, saying simply, "It is what it is." But he eventually relented and said that the mask makes things difficult for him.
"It's almost like having somewhat foggy blinders on," Irving said. "When I take off the mask, I can see everything. And when I have the mask on, I'm really dialed into what's in front of me. My peripherals are a little cut off, up and down. It's something to get used to."
Irving is expected to remain in the mask for the next couple of weeks, including Thursday's showdown with the visiting Golden State Warriors.