Lil Rel Howery says Kyrie Irving was hyping up Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum before the season started

"Kyrie was very excited about playing with those young guys."

Kyrie Irving Jayson Tatum
Kyrie Irving hugs Jayson Tatum at the end of a regular-season game against the Houston Rockets. –John Tlumacki/Globe staff

Actor Lil Rel Howery said Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving was already praising his new Celtics teammates before the regular season even tipped off.

“Kyrie was very excited about playing with those young guys, [Jaylen] Brown and [Jayson] Tatum,” Howery said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Thursday night. “He was hyping them up — and this was before the season.”

Howery and Irving met as co-stars for the movie, “Uncle Drew.” While the basketball comedy premieres June 29, filming began last summer — when Irving was still a member of the Cavaliers. Howery said the day before the cast’s first read-through, he heard about Irving’s reported request to leave Cleveland.


“I wanted to ask, like, ‘Hey man, you good? You want to talk about something?'” Howery told host Jimmy Kimmel Thursday.

Howery said he refrained from talking to Irving about the impending trade until the pair got to know each other a little better. Irving ended up finding out about the official news of the trade during a dancing scene of the movie.

“We were in the club shooting a scene, and he just runs out, so happy,” Howery said. “He comes back and everybody is applauding.”

Although Howery is a diehard Chicago Bulls fan, he told Kimmel he bought an Irving jersey — much to the chagrin of fellow Chicagoans — and “enjoyed watching” Boston compete this season. He said Irving also sent him some shoes.

“That was such a great team this year, man,” Howery said.

Irving’s early fandom of his teammates apparently didn’t die down, either.

He was recently very complimentary of both Tatum and Brown, as well as the rest of the team, for their postseason efforts in spite of his and forward Gordon Hayward’s absence. He gave a shoutout to their drive and “desire to be great.”

“I mean, we went to Game 7 of the freakin’ Eastern Conference Finals, man,” he said.


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