Kyrie’s Tenure In Boston

The Celtics seem to have gotten worse since he returned.

Jim Rome
May 07, 2019 - 1:01 pm
Tom Haberstroh

USA Today

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Let’s go back to May 27, 2018. Game 7. Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics starting lineup: Tatum, Horford, Baynes, Rozier, and Brown. That starting five, which included a 20 year old, a 21 year old, and a 24 year old, started Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. And nearly won the damn thing. They had a 3-2 series lead. And then LeBron went LeBron.

But coming out of that series, every Boston fan was saying, wait until Gordon Hayward comes back and wait until Kyrie Irving comes back. And then they did. And now… Celtics fans can’t wait for Kyrie to leave.

That is truly incredible. If last night was Kyrie’s final game in Boston as a Celtic, I don’t think there will be too many fans sorry to see him go.

What an amazing 11 months it’s been. And what an amazing last night it was.

Kyrie, playing at home, went for 23 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds. Not great, not terrible. But dig a little deeper, and you realize….it actually is terrible.

Because everything about his performance was terrible. His head didn’t seem to be in the game. His heart didn’t seem to be in it. When his team needed him most, he was nowhere to be found.

He left the court before the game was over.

And I know that’s a classic sports radio thing. Guys leaving the court early or not shaking hands at the end of the series is the easiest topic ever. That’s right up there with the designated hitter and whether Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame for lazy talk radio topics.

I could say a few things about how Kyrie is a quitter, go to the phones, and take three hours of calls on that. Easiest and laziest thing ever. Same show that every other hack in the world is doing.

Here’s the thing about Kyrie leaving the court early. It didn’t matter. And that’s the problem. Because he barely seemed to be on the court in the first place.

Not when guys like George Hill and Pat Connaughton are absolutely dominating Boston’s backcourt. Don’t get me wrong, Hill and Connaughton are gamers. They battle. But they aren’t superstars. That can’t happen if you’re Kyrie Irving in a must-win game.

Kyrie Irving after Game 3: "From this point on, I don't think you'll see another 8-for-22."

Kyrie Irving in Game 4: 7 for 22.

Jim Rome today: Awesome.

I love that. He was right. We didn’t see another 8 for 22. That would’ve been an improvement.

But if you ask him, the problem wasn’t that he took 22 shots, it’s that he didn’t take more. “For me, the 22 shots? I should have shot 30. I’m that great of a shooter.”

I see him working. There’s the legendary Kobe story about going 0 for 30 before he’d go 0 for 9, because 0 for 9 means you beat yourself. And that’s where Kyrie is coming from. I guess. Sort of.

One problem. In the last three games, he’s gone 19 for 62. The volume of shots isn’t the issue. It’s the volume that are going in.

But the more telling part of Irving’s night came earlier in that answer: “I’m a basketball player. I prepare the right way. Like I said, it’s a little different when your rhythm is challenged every play down. You’re being picked up full court. They’re doing things to test you. The expectations on me are going to be sky high. I try to utilize their aggression against them and still put my teammates in great position while still being aggressive. I’m trying to do it all.”

Uh, right. That’s how it goes. When you want to be a superstar, that’s what happens.

The Milwaukee Bucks, a basketball team you are playing in the playoffs, are going to try to play defense against you. That’s how it goes.

They might pick you up full court. They might do things to test you. That’s what happens.

Are you new to this? Because you can’t honestly be telling everyone that this is hard. IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HARD. THAT’S THE POINT.  

If you are who you claim to be, that’s what expected of you. The problem is, I’m not sure you are who you claim to be.

You wanted to be “THE MAN” and to have your own team and then throughout the season, you ducked that. Being “THE MAN” on a team is awesome when you’re winning. But it also means you have to step up when you’re losing. And Kyrie ducked that as often as possible.

You wanted it. You got it. And you can’t handle it.

Now Kyrie is down 3-1. But he’s been there before. Cleveland was down 3-1 to the Warriors in 2016. Is there anything he can draw on from that:

“It’s hard to make any comparisons.” And then he added “I think that the difference is just the experience.”

Nope. The difference is the 2016 Cavs had LeBron James and the 2019 Celtics have Kyrie Irving. That’s the difference. LeBron James is the man. Kyrie Irving thinks he’s the man. Kyrie Irving wants the perks of being the man without the responsibilities that come along with it.

And this is a warning to every team looking at Kyrie this summer. The Celtics seem to have gotten worse since he returned. That’s not necessarily all on him, but it’s worth looking at.

And here’s another thing you need to ask yourself if you want to sign him: is Kyrie the guy you want to build around? Does he make the guys around him better?

Ask the Celtics. They were one win from the Finals last year and they’re one loss from the golf course this year.

Did he make them better? Was he worth it? Someone will pay max money for Kyrie. Just know what you’re getting when you sign him.