I made a mistake, and I’ll be the first to admit it. When the Celtics acquired Kyrie Irving, I thought we were just getting his superstar abilities and scoring prowess. Losing Isaiah Thomas meant we lost a team player. We lost someone that connected with the locker room and had the respect from his teammates to lead the team. We traded that for a 25-year-old who has no experience as being a team leader. I knew Kyrie would have more of a chance to prove himself as a well-rounded player and not someone who plays in the shadows of LeBron. When acquiring Kyrie, I figured Al Horford would have to step up as the central leader of the team to keep everyone together.
I didn’t have high expectations for Kyrie being a leader. In my previous article, I believe I said I expect Kyrie to drop at least 30 points a game while being in Brad Steven’s system. If Isaiah could nearly average 30 points a game in Brad’s system, I thought the sky would be the limit for Kyrie.
So far this season, Kyrie is averaging a cool 22 points per game. That’s three points less than his average from last season but is right around his career average. I also believed Kyrie would average a little over seven assists per game, but right now he only is averaging 5.7 per game, which is also around his career average. 22 points and not even six assists per game for Kyrie Irving aren’t jaw-dropping, eye-opening numbers that we are used to seeing from him. If someone just looked at Kyrie’s stats and compared them to years past, they’d think something was wrong. They’d think maybe Kyrie screwed up leaving Cleveland and coming to Boston.
Here’s the thing, Kyrie didn’t screw up. His numbers aren’t popping out like they have in the years prior coming to Boston, but Boston is 7-2 and sits alone with the best record in the NBA. When Kyrie was in Cleveland, it was all about superstar and isolation basketball. There was no “team” basketball in Cleveland. It was, “give the ball to LeBron and play through him” basketball.
Now, Kyrie is on a team. He’s being coached by a real coach, not LeBron. He’s finally able to play team basketball and show off his leadership skills. Kyrie isn’t putting up insane numbers, but he’s doing what he has to do for his team to win. The Celtics are currently on a seven-game win streak, so I think he’s doing his job. The season started a week earlier than it usually does, so the players didn’t get a lot of time in training camp to build their chemistry. This was especially tough for the Celtics, who acquired Kyrie late in the offseason and only had four returning players from last year’s team. The more the team has been playing with each other, the better they are getting.
The Celtics started the season 0-2, which was not surprising. Losing to Cleveland opening night sucked, but after losing Hayward early in the game shook everyone. That loss was acceptable. Losing to the Giannis and the Bucks was a tad bit less acceptable, but the team was still trying to figure out how to play with each other without Gordon Hayward in the lineup. After the third game, everything started to click.
Kyrie got out of his shooting slump and has scored at least 20 points during the Celtics seven-game win streak. He’s found his role within the team and is playing it really, really well. One of the most significant concerns with Kyrie over the years was his defense. He’s proved he is an offensive superstar that can take over games but was never able to assert himself as a credible defender. Until this season. Kyrie is second in the NBA with a 93 defensive rating, behind his teammate Al Horford. May I also add that I think Al Horford and Kyrie Irving are slowly becoming a deadly duo in the NBA. They play so well together it’s crazy. It was like a match made in Heaven. Anyways, Kyrie is ranked first in the NBA in steals per game. At 2.6 per game, he’s averaging a whole steal and some more than his career average.
I will say I did believe that Kyrie would improve on defense when he got traded to Boston. Cleveland doesn’t seem to care for defense, but if you’re playing in Boston under Brad Stevens, you’re going to be playing defense. He’s learned and excelled under his new system. Learning from Brad Stevens is one of the best things to happen to Kyrie so far in his young career.
“Brad fits perfectly in terms of that because he has an intellectual mind and is an intellectual human being,” Kyrie Irving told UCONN women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. “It was something I was unbelievably craving in terms of what I wanted for my career.”
Coming to Boston was the best thing that could’ve happened for Kyrie Irving and his career. The direction in which he is heading is trending higher than it has ever before. Brad Stevens is starting to unlock “MVP Kyrie” and will take him places he never thought he could go.
I’m sorry Kyrie if I ever doubted you. Losing Isaiah gave me trust issues, but after this 7-2 start, you gained my trust. I trust that you can be the leader on this team that will eventually lead the Celtics to Banner 18. Every doubt I’ve had in my head is gone. You have the keys, not only to the team but to my heart. Don’t let me down Kyrie. Take the ball and run with it.