2018-19 Boston Celtics

Has anything ever gone from so good to so bad so quickly?

Jim Rome
May 09, 2019 - 12:55 pm
Kyrie Irving

USA Today

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And then there’s Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics. Has anything ever gone from so good to so bad so quickly?

I’m not talking about the incredible ride from one win away from the finals last year to the golf course this year. I’m not talking about Kyrie pledging in October that he wanted to re-sign in Boston only to be bailing in May.

I’m talking about this postseason. These playoffs. Hell, this series. Let’s not forget Boston won five straight games to start the playoffs. After a bumpy regular season, they flipped the switch. Supposedly. They didn’t just sweep Indiana in the first round. They won the first game of the Milwaukee series. And they didn’t just GRIND it out, either. They went to Milwaukee and beat Milwaukee in Milwaukee 112-90.

They beat the Bucks by 22 and had one of their former players telling everyone it was all over. That wasn’t a dream.  That really happened. That wasn’t ancient history. That was barely a week and a half ago.

And then they lost four straight. And didn’t just lose those four games, they got hammered. They were humiliated. They played arguable their best game of the season and then lost four in a row. Go up 1-0 and lose in 5. Tip of the cap. That is awesome. Almost as awesome as the chants of “Go home Boston” and “Paul Pierce sucks!” That filled the arena last night.

But back to Boston, you have to be really special to be that awful. And while there are a number of different places we can look, and Milwaukee deserves a ton of credit, let’s be honest, this is all about one thing: Kyrie.

Because nothing summed up this season and these playoffs better than Kyrie Irving last night. If you thought he was disinterested and disengaged in Game 4, he went to a new level in Game 5.

And he posted one of the all-time great stat lines. 6 for 21 from the field, 1 assist. That is so Kyrie it hurts. Elimination game Russell Westbrook looks at that stat line and says, hey, maybe you should pass a little more.

Remember when Kyrie said he wouldn't go 8 for 22 again.

He was right. He didn’t. He went 7 for 22 and then 6 for 21.

And you know what tells me how disinterested and disengaged he was? He stopped at 21 shots. He gave up on himself and on his team. Come on, Kyrie. We could’ve really had something special last night. Maybe a 40-shot night. Maybe a 50 piece.

If he had left for the Knicks at halftime last night, would anyone have noticed? Would anyone have cared? Hell, Boston fans would’ve helped him pack.

Speaking of Boston fans, remember this moment from back in October?

How badly do Celtic fans was to hit that with the manual buzzer right now.

The only thing more disappointing that Kyrie quitting at 21 shots was the postgame press conference. I was expecting him to go full-on sour vent. Telling everyone to go back to their miserable lives.

But instead, he was saying things like this: “I know I won’t forget something like this. For me, it’s just moving on to the next thing, and seeing where that ends up.”

Uhh, okay. Or this, when asked about what he’s valuing in free agency: “I’ll be honest with you: I’m just trying to get back to Boston safely, spend time with my friends and family, decompress, do what human beings do.”

And also this: “They kept a body on me practically the whole game, then they put us in some rotations offensively and defensively, did a great job of running their offense with pace, making us think out there. And I think that’s where one of the important lessons I’m going to take from this, is just how smart our team has to be in order to be at that next level.”

And that’s the most telling quote of all. Forget the stuff about him complaining about the attention that he received during the regular season and the cameras being in his face. Kyrie just realized what it takes to be a star in the playoffs. The other team is going to focus on you, game in and game out, they are going to scheme for you and try to stop you. And incredibly….he seems to be surprised by that.

How he’s surprised by that is beyond me. But he just realized that it’s a lot harder than it looks. Being the man is a lot harder than being the man next to the man.

And until he proves otherwise, Kyrie isn’t the man. He wants to be the man. He wants the perks of being the man, but he doesn’t want the responsibility of being the man. He thinks he’s the man, but he’s not the man.

He’s Robin who thinks he’s Batman. You’re Goose, not Mav. Garfunkel, not Simon. Oates, not Hall. Barney, not Fred. Stop me if you see a pattern. You can star in movies, but not on a playoff team. You aren’t the guy. You’re the guy next to the guy.  Nothing about you says you’re a one.  Nothing.  Not in how you play and most of all, not in how you lead. 

You’re the guy who steps up when the actual guy has a tough night. Don’t get me wrong. Kyrie’s still really good. He’s just not as good as he thinks he is, as a player, and more importantly as a leader. You are the sidekick. You're Kyrie, not LeBron. 

You're 1B, not 1A. Go find your 1A. Because no matter what you think, you aren’t him.  You don’t want to play second fiddle to anyone but aren’t built to be the alpha.  And that’s bad place to be, Kyrie.