Kyrie Irving heard the "We want Kyrie! We want Kyrie!" chants that echoed through Madison Square Garden.

He seemed more annoyed than flattered.

"It's nothing but a distraction at this point," he said.

Irving and the Boston Celtics handled it as easily as they handled the overmatched New York Knicks, winning 113-99 on Friday night.

Irving had 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists before a crowd eager to start the free agent wooing five months early.

Irving is one of the headline names in the 2019 free-agent class, and though he said at a Celtics fan event last fall that he intended to re-sign in Boston, that may be no guarantee. He told reporters at the morning shootaround to "Ask me July 1" if his plans had changed.

Discouraged earlier this season by the play of some of his younger teammates, his frustration now is with the talk about matters beyond basketball, with the trade deadline less than a week away and his name being tied to Anthony Davis' future as he seeks a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.

So the former New Jersey high school star figured it would be a scene when he was back in the area.

"Like I said, I'm appreciative of the fan support I get in any arena, but of course coming back home," he said. "Obviously what's going on in terms of that noise and commentary is just a bunch of nonsense right now. Can't do anything about it so I'm just accepting, I'm appreciative, but at the same time I've got a game to focus on."

LeBron sits out

LeBron James sat out for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Golden State Warriors, two days after he returned from a 17-game absence with a strained left groin he hurt at Oracle Arena on Christmas night.

Coach Luke Walton made the announcement about James' "load management" some 80 minutes before Saturday night's tipoff, saying James woke up Friday "pretty sore" after playing 40 minutes in a 123-120 overtime victory over the Clippers on Thursday in his return.

James had 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in that game.

Walton says by resting James, 34, it gives the four-time MVP a few more days to recover before the Lakers play at Indiana on Tuesday.