"Go ahead, do what you do. He wanted to wear the number, let him wear the number. It doesn't matter," Irving said during a Q&A with reporters in Manhattan to promote his upcoming movie, "Uncle Drew."
"The story is probably going to be the number. But I'm more excited about who [Sexton] is as a player in the league," Irving said. "The number thing is like, just chalk that up to the game. It's cool. It's no hard feelings from my end. He just has to start at the chopping block just like everyone else did. So I'm excited for him."
The Cavs selected Sexton in the draft last week with the No. 8 pick that they acquired in the Irving trade with the Boston Celtics last summer. Sexton has said that he doesn't feel like he'll have to live up to expectations created by Irving. Irving, who hit the biggest shot in Cavs franchise history with a go-ahead 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, agrees with that idea. He also said on Monday that he appreciated the sentiment from some Cavs supporters that Irving's No. 2 should be off limits.
"The history, it's already captured, man. I was on one of the best teams in NBA history, in my opinion, just accomplishing something that was that much bigger than ourselves," Irving said in reference to the 2016 NBA champion Cavaliers. "A feat that's -- we're one of no other teams. We're one of one, in history [to rebound from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit]. So for me, I think the biggest thing is giving that jersey [he wore in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals] to my dad. If that's where the No. 2 legacy ends, then cool. Then I'm starting up a new one. No pressure for anyone else."
Irving is currently rehabbing from knee surgery that sidelined him for the Celtics' surprising playoff run to the Eastern Conference finals. He said on Monday that he's progressing well and expects to be able to get on the court again in about two weeks.
"[There's] so much time from now until the start of the season, it's literally imperative I take my time with this," Irving said in reference to the April surgery that removed two screws from his knee that caused a bacterial infection. "It's imperative for what I'm gearing up for. I've kind of been somewhat quiet about it, but the last two months have been pretty intense for me."
Irving said earlier this month that he won't sign a contract extension with the Celtics this summer because it doesn't make sense financially. He instead will likely test free agency in the summer of 2019 and has braced himself for the daily barrage of questions and speculation about his potential free agency.
When asked if he's heard from any Knicks fans about his free agency, Irving said that he'd heard from members of that fan base -- and fans of other teams -- recently. He said he's been approached in person and has heard from many fans on social media. The Knicks were one of the teams on Irving's desired list of trade destinations last summer when he requested a trade from the Cavs, per ESPN's Chris Haynes. Things could change drastically over the next 12 months, but if Irving tests free agency in 2019, several opposing executives expect the 26-year-old to give New York consideration.
"It's just a ways away, man," Irving said. "But [the public discussion around his potential free agency] is already starting. As long as I could just divide the attention up, and it just doesn't infiltrate what I'm focused on during the season, then I'm cool with it."
Irving said he was filming "Uncle Drew" in Atlanta the days and weeks leading up to his trade to Boston last offseason. Irving said he in the midst of filming a scene when he was informed of the trade.
"All the alerts started going off on everyone's phone. I got a call from my agent," Irving said. "The day it happened, the dancing [in the movie] got a little better."