Many reports have tabbed Kyrie Irving as the source of the toxicity around the Celtics last season, but a former teammate refuted those claims over the weekend. “Kyrie got a lot of the blame and was undeserving,” Jaylen Brown told Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. “It wasn’t his fault that certain guys couldn’t take a step back. It wasn’t his fault. That was the front office and the coach’s fault.” He gets a lot of that blame because he was the star. But a lot of that should be on the organization and coaching staff. It’s in the past. Kyrie is in a better place in Brooklyn, somewhere his roots are. He’ll be fine.” The Nets snapped a two-game skid by beating the 76ers, a feel-good win they thought they needed before hitting the road for games against the Pelicans (Tuesday) and Spurs (Thursday).
The first step to reviving your career is admitting you were the problem. “I failed those guys,” Kyrie Irving said, referring to last year’s disappointing season with the Boston Celtics. “I didn’t give them everything I could have during that season.”
“Basketball and the joy I had from it was sucked away from me,” Irving said. “There was a facial expression that I carried around with me throughout the year. I didn’t allow anyone to get close to me. I didn’t take the necessary steps to get counseling or get therapy to deal with somebody that close to me dying. I’ve never dealt with anything like that.”
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens refuses to blame Kyrie Irving for last year’s failed season. “I like Kyrie and I wish him well,” said Stevens, speaking at a fundraiser in Boston at the Celtics practice facility. “Last year’s season didn’t go the way that we wanted it to, but that’s not on one person. That’s the responsibility of the whole group. It’s a team sport, everybody’s involved in that. There’s no way we should ever look at it any different.”
“He had a second-team All NBA season here,” Stevens said. “When you think about that and you look at his stats, he had as good a season as he’s had in his career—and he has the right, like every other free agent, to go choose their own destination.
Chris Forsberg: Marcus Smart on The Jump on 2018-19 Celtics dysfunction: “Let's call a spade a spade, right? It’s true. We were dysfunctional. … We all took part in it."
Sean Deveney: A veteran player told me a couple of years ago that his role in Boston was tough because he was never really told what was expected of him and that Stevens didn’t necessarily connect with players. That appeared to be the case this season, too, when the Celtics had a chemistry meltdown and Stevens could not rein in his locker room. One agent told me, “Most players don’t need their hands held, but they want to know where they stand and what they need to do. That’s not always coming from Stevens and it can be frustrating.”
ESPN's Jackie MacMullan explained Irving's disdain for the city on the "Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective" podcast. "Kyrie Irving didn't like Boston," MacMullan said. "I've been told this by many people. He didn't like living in Boston. He just didn't. By the end, he had issues with Brad [Stevens]. By the end, he had issues with Danny [Ainge]. By the end, he had issues with pretty much all of us."
Rob Parker: “What happened with Kyrie and Boston, and why did things go awry?” Chris Mannix: “You can write a whole book on what went wrong because the season was basically a disaster from start to finish. His relationship with the young players on the roster was awful. Jaylen Brown he was probably the worst with, I don’t think it was great with Jayson Tatum, and it was awful with Terry Rozier because Terry was supplanted at a position he thought he did enough to win. That created a pretty nasty atmosphere. Kyrie’s leadership skills were lacking and he failed at it. He was the first player to be coached by Brad Stevens who didn’t really enjoy being coached by Brad Stevens and that relationship wasn’t solid.”
Jackie MacMullan shared her thoughts on Arbella Early Edition Tuesday night. She cited Brad Stevens 'force feeding' Gordon Hayward to help him come back from his gruesome ankle injury as what started the Celtics' chemistry issues that seemingly plagued the team all year long. "You hate to pick on Gordon Hayward because he was coming back from injury and he was doing the best he could, but I really think that’s where it started," she said. "They were force feeding him on his teammates, Brad [Stevens] knew Gordon well, he wanted to get his confidence back.”
"I would contend that Brad Stevens would have done that for any player on that roster that had a catastrophic injury, he would want to fill him with that same confidence, but that’s not what happened," MacMullan continued. "He gave the benefit of the doubt over and over to a player that wasn’t ready, to a guy who had history with him, and it rankled that locker room, and it bothered that locker room."
Irving was AWOL emotionally much of this season in Boston. Of course he tried to lead, in his way. No one’s saying he didn’t. But it didn’t work. And the not-working was obvious, even though Irving is loath to explain himself and his methods to outsiders. His teammates defended him Thursday — “that’s just a bullshit statement to say that his leadership killed us,” Marcus Smart said, per The Athletic’s Jared Weiss — and, it’s true, no one person should get the blame for what happened.
Chris Forsberg: Marcus Smart on notion that Kyrie’s leadership hurt chemistry of the Celtics. “Bullshit. … That’s just a bullshit statement to say his leadership killed us.” Said he hasn’t talked to Kyrie about coming back but supports whatever he chooses to do. “I love Kyrie, as a brother."
“Everybody was running around with their heads cut off, like chickens,” backup point guard Terry Rozier III told Yahoo Sports. “Coach was in a tough position, one of the toughest positions, dealing with all these guys with attitudes, all that sh--. Guys that's All-Stars, guys getting paid a lot of money, guys trying to get paid. It's tough.” Rozier said he saw it on the first day of training camp, so many talented players who could make a case for bigger roles. “I feel like I sacrificed the most, but I’d do it any day for this team,” Rozier told Yahoo Sports. “A lot of things weren't fair to me, but it's not about me. That's why I don't bitch and complain.”
“I don't give a f--- what nobody say, I sacrificed the most out of anybody. I'm a top point guard in this league. I feel like it's a fresh start, whether I'm here or whether I'm gone.” said Rozier, a star last postseason in Irving’s absence who’s about to hit restricted free agency in July.
Meanwhile, Terry Rozier gave a “no comment” when asked about the Celtics having his matching rights, commending Brad Stevens for “dealing with a lot of guys that want to be great trying to get theirs.” The Celtics held on to Rozier as an insurance policy in case Irving left this summer, but Rozier and his agents will try to price the team out of his market. It leaves Boston with a conundrum of whether, with Rozier likely gone, moving forward with Irving is actually in their best interest.
Celtics players concede that earlier in the season Irving's mood swings often left them treading lightly in the locker room. Both Stevens and Ainge addressed it with their best player, and he promised to be more aware. "His positive outlook lately has made a huge difference," Rozier says.
“Trade rumors don’t bother me,” he said in his deep monotone. “They’re talking about trading me for guys like Anthony Davis. So, I mean, I must be doing something pretty well.” When pressed on whether this bothered him, he didn’t budge: “I love the game of basketball. Being traded is part of the game. I’ll play for whomever. It’s something I can’t control.”
Terry Rozier’s postgame comments were. Not because he scored 21 points. Because he felt it was appropriate to tell reporters he was ready to start the postseason because he didn’t have fun in the regular season. Yeah. I know I’m happy, I can speak for myself. The season hasn’t been fun, personally. I know there’s better things to come. I know we’re going to have a great playoff push and I’m ready for it.
Danny Ainge has defended Kyrie Irving's comments in the past, and he did so again Thursday — to a certain extent. Irving appeared to call out Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics coaching staff Saturday night after a loss to the Hornets, suggesting his team should have trapped Kemba Walker instead of allowing the Charlotte star to "torch" the C's. Ainge was asked about Irving's comments Thursday during his weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich." "I did hear (Irving's comments). It's not that uncommon," the Celtics' president of basketball operations said. "Guys get frustrated, and maybe that was the first thing that came to his mind is, 'We should have done something different with Kemba.' "
That, to many, sounds like Boston has a proverbial switch that can be flipped come playoff time where all the intensity and effort come flooding back and the preseason projection Celtics can storm the floor and knock our socks off. Danny Ainge, appearing today on 98.5′s Toucher & Rich show, disputes that notion, saying it’s a bit more nuanced than that. “I don’t really believe that you can flip a switch," Ainge said. “But I do believe that things can come together, your health, your concentration, your focus can be better.”
“I’m excited right now because our team is getting healthy, we haven’t had Baynes and Horford, in the lineup very much this year," Ainge said. "I’m excited about where we can be in the playoff and not just this game Friday, I think it will be a fun game on Friday night, I think that we have seven fun games to finish the season.”
It was the latest frustrating outing for the Celtics (43-31), who held an extended players-only meeting after the game. The locker room wasn't opened to reporters until more than 30 minutes after the final buzzer. "Winning's hard. Team environments are hard," Irving said. "It's not as simple as listening to everybody else speak about what's going on with the team. ... Nobody's been in my position. Nobody here. So I don't expect anybody to understand that. Nobody can speak on it. "For me, my focus is figuring out, the guys I have in this locker room, is how to get the best out of them and them get the best out of me."
Coach Brad Stevens was also delayed before speaking with reporters. He said he opened the floor for players to offer insights into their current struggles, but said it wasn't uncharacteristic for him to seek such input. "There's some frustration in there," Stevens said. "We don't need to ride the emotional rollercoaster. We need to get a lot better."
Brian Robb: Stevens on his lengthy postgame chat with team: "I wouldn't call that a meeting. It lasted a little bit longer than usual."
Jared Weiss: Stevens on long locker room open conversation with team: “That’s not all that unusual. We have an open locker room. Guys talk, so I wouldn’t call that a meeting...It might have lasted a little bit longer than my typical pre game, see you tomorrow speech.”
Scott Souza: #Celtics coach Brad Stevens: I have never been a part of a team that has been solely reliant on making shots. For the last month that's what we've been. @CLNSMedia @CelticsCLNS
“We’ve just got to take a deep breath,” Marcus Smart calmly stated after the game as he leaned back in a chair in front of his locker. “We’ve just gotta take a deep breath and calm down. We’re anxious, we want to get some wins, and we want to get back on the track of winning, but we really got to take a deep breath and get back to the team that really got us the reputation that we upheld into this season. Just being dogs on the court, making nobody want to play against us. Right now, teams just feel like they can do whatever they want against us. That’s on us, we gotta fix it. We will.”
“I think recently transition defense has been a problem for us,” said Gordon Hayward, who emerged from the NBA’s concussion protocol Sunday night to deliver a 13-point, 10 rebound performance. “I think a lot of times, for the most part, when we are able to set our defense, we’ve been pretty tough, but sometimes we’re not getting back. Some of that’s offensive blows, shot selection, long rebounds, turnovers – but definitely transition defense. When they’re coming at you and you’re not set, that’s tough to defend. So that’s been a key of ours in film sessions and we’ve gotta make sure that we hold ourselves to that.”
Chris Forsberg: Danny Ainge on @Toucherandrich takes positive approach on state of team: “It’s not as gloomy and doomy to me. I see a lot of good things happening … Statistically, in a lot of ways, we are better than in our  and 55-win seasons, and I believe that we are. Time will tell."
When asked how to to fix things, he put it pretty simply. “Win. It’s like the cure it all goes away," he told Leahy. "A week ago we was he talk, all the negativity now we win two games and everybody love us. That’s just how it go.”
Card games, dice games, enthusiastic chatter and some music from DJ Kyrie, according to several players who all agreed the team’s spirits changed by the time the flight landed in California. “It was a good ride,” Marcus Morris said. “It just so happened to come after we got our ass beat. And at that time it kind of changed the outlook on everything, and guys just had a better attitude, man. Just more positive. And I think it carried over into the games.”
“Even the guys that usually are real to themselves, really don’t talk as much, everybody was together,” Marcus Smart said. “Everybody was interacting with one another. All smiles and laughs.”
Chris Grenham: Jaylen Brown on The Jump on if he thinks he should be starting: "It doesn't matter to me as long as we keep winning."
“Because we have a team that’s so talented, the media is always going to [overreact],” Celtics forward Marcus Morris told Yahoo Sports. “You lose one game and it’s like the [end of the world]. But now, I bet now since we won the game [Tuesday night], they’re going to be like, ‘Ah, [expletive], now they can go to the championship and all this other [expletive]. You know how it goes. It’s just what it is. But I think this was a good game for us, a great turnaround. It was a big win on Golden State’s home court. It’s definitely a statement win for us.”
“To be honest, I’m not feeling good at all,” Brown said. “The losing, it’s not a good feeling. I’m not too good about that. “Because right now it’s not good. It’s toxic. I can’t really point out one thing. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just going to try to be part of the change. I’m going to try to do my best. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
When asked how he helps change the culture, Brown said: “I just try to come out and play hard and hopefully that sparks some [change]. But it’s not just up to one person. It’s up to the whole group. “Everybody has to be on page,” he said. “If one person’s not on page, it’s going to affect the whole group. I just try to come out and play hard and see where that leaves me.”
These days, Irving plays lackadaisical defense, and unfocused offense. Sources around the team told me that Irving’s persona has changed, too: He’s become disengaged and detached from those around the team. There is talk that Irving’s friendships on the team start and end with Tatum, with whom he shares an agent. Two sources peg Irving’s change in demeanor to early February, around the time he was asked about the possibility of joining the New York Knicks next season. That’s when Irving infamously said he’d make the best decision for his family and that he didn’t “owe anybody shit.” This induced panic among Boston fans. After all, it was a much different tune than the one Irving was singing in October 2018, when he told a gathering of Celtics season-ticket holders that he intended to re-sign with the team (multiple sources say that same commitment was expressed to his teammates).
On Sunday afternoon, Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving was entering TD Garden ahead of a nationally televised game against the Houston Rockets. Ordinarily, it would be the kind of moment Irving lived for: a big stage, a big opponent, and a big moment. “I’m not gonna miss any of this shit when I’m done playing,” said Irving. Someone standing nearby noted that the lights and cameras are all part of basketball. Irving responded, “I don’t care if it is.”
Or maybe they have one, and that identity is discontent. I spent some time around the team over the past few days, in Boston. After Friday’s win against the Wizards, all you could hear was the thud of Semi Ojeleye’s weights hitting the floor behind a closed door next to the Celtics locker room. Besides a short conversation between Irving and Rozier, everyone in the locker room was quiet. According to various team reporters, it’s been like that all year, no matter if the team wins or loses.
"Right now, unfortunately, we are going through a really bad stretch," Horford said. "This is when our group, we need to make sure that we stay together and even closer because I know it's hard. We're the first ones that don't want to lose, but we just need to continue to work because we feel like we can be better than this."
“I don’t normally do that, but I felt like we were kind of splitting apart,” Ojeleye said during a quiet moment at his locker. “And I think we have to try to change it. I mean, the season’s wasting away. In the NBA teams are only together for so long. So it’s time to change it.”
Count Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck among those disappointed with the team's performance of late. Speaking Saturday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Grousbeck said the Celtics just finished the "worst February" he can remember since taking over the team in 2002. The Celtics were 5-6 last month, including a finishing stretch where they lost four straight games.
Grousbeck acknowledged that the Celtics aren't necessarily worried about finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, adding that the team as constructed has "the capability of getting to the Finals." "We also have the capability of losing in the first round," Grousbeck said, according to Boston.com. "We have a very, very good set of opponents in the East, all of whom have beaten us in the last month."
Heading into Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the Celtics (38-25) sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for fourth and home-court advantage in the first round. "I really have a lot of hope for these guys," Grousbeck said. "I give us a chance. I don't think anybody wants to play us in the playoffs. I really do think, after 16 years in the league, that these guys still have a chance."
Jay King: Jaylen Brown said he’s looking at the struggles “optimistically.” “I look at it as a good opportunity to come out and play hard, play Celtics basketball, to prove that I love the game and I’m here to play.”
Jay King: Marcus Morris on his tweet last night expressing confidence: “I don’t tweet a lot at all. And I really meant it. We’re gonna get this shit together. We’re gonna have a better attitude. We owe each other to play better, man.”
Chris Forsberg: Marcus Morris, unprompted, held court at shootaround this morning. Pinned blame on himself for part of Boston’s struggles. Said he wants to be a better leader. “Bring some soul back to this shit, man."
Reporter: “What’s your confidence level in the team going forward?” Irving: “What do you mean? What kind of question is that?” Reporter: “A legitimate one.” Irving “Nah. Next question.”
Apparently their head coach concurs. Brad Stevens was asked directly Wednesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" if there's a "chemistry issue" on the Celtics and seemed to confirm as much. "As I've said many times, in our locker room I think we have a bunch of well-intentioned guys. I really do," Stevens said. "But there's been no question that ever since the start of the year, being able to play well together has been off and on. It hasn't been as good as it can be or needs to be."
Marcus said that you guys aren’t playing together. Is that a fair diagnosis? Irving: “It’s Marcus’ opinion. I respect it.” Q. Is it yours? Irving: (Silence.)
"What are the main ingredients to those collapses? Not being together," Smart said. "And that's it. We're just not together. Plain and simple. That's it. Because if we were together, that wouldn't happen. We're all talking and linking up, but like I said, it's something we're going through, and it's something we're going to have to continue to work at and figure it out."
"This is real," the coach said. "The reality is that we're taking a lot of shortcuts and not being as solid as we have been in the past in the last two games. I thought we were really good against Milwaukee. So, it's not like we don't know what we need to do, but for whatever reason, we've taken too many shortcuts. You can't do that against any team. Certainly tonight, they exposed us and played great."
Kyrie Irving was no different than the rest of the Celtics who reacted to Marcus Morris’ harsh criticism of the team following a home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers a week ago. “There was some truth into [Morris’ comments],” said Irving, who has missed the past two games - both Celtics wins - following Morris’ comments and spoke on the matter for the first time Saturday. “We obviously understand we have a lot of talent in our locker room,” Irving said. “So, it’s been a lot to manage. We’ve come out pretty successful. Obviously, not as successful as we would like to be.”
Marcus Morris missed the playoffs during five of his first six NBA seasons. He once played on a team that finished the regular season with 25 wins. Now that he sees the best opportunity of his career, he sounds plenty urgent to capitalize on it. “I’ve been in the league eight years. I haven’t been on a team that has a chance to win a championship,” Morris said Monday afternoon. “And I’m on it now. I can smell it, I can taste it. And I just felt like one thing we’re missing is enjoying the game, enjoying this process, and I just spoke on it.”
“The Big Three only got one,” Morris said, “and they had a hell of a team. So that tells you how hard this shit is. As I’m going back and watching different times of them winning, that shit looked like it was a lot of fun. They looked like they really had a fucking ball. They worked their ass off, but they really had a good time playing with each other no matter what was going on off the court. It really looked genuine. It looked like they were enjoying the game.”
Tom Westerholm: Brad Stevens: “One of the things that we say at the very beginning of the year is that we don’t want to be a team quoted as unnamed sources. So if you’re going to say something, you’ve got to put your name next to it. Marcus’ frustrations were obvious and evident."
John Karalis: Brad Stevens: "those are frustrating losses. I was asked this morning at a sponsor event, like, when do you let go of those losses? When I die they’ll be gone. Those piss you off. And if it doesn’t you’re not in a good place. That’s why I don’t care what Marcus said."
Adam Himmelsbach: Brad Stevens with a fair take on fun: "When you lose big leads and you’re getting booed--rightfully so--off the court, it’s not like, ‘Hey, man, that was awesome.’ That sucks. It’s not fun. So, whatever. Like, play well."
Jay King: Marcus Morris on how his teammates responded to his comments: “For the most part they agreed.” Said the media caught him at a right time when he was hot.
Brian Robb: Al Horford on Celtics' chemistry: "I do feel like when we're playing like we need to play, our team clicks great. We just need to stick together. It's frustrating for us, we don't want to be losing. We're going to figure it out."
Chris Forsberg: Al Horford said the team addressed Marcus Morris’ comments this morning and are moving on. Al said the two LA losses were bad but will make the team better in the long run.
Jay King: Stevens said Morris said a lot of stuff you can’t really argue over the last two games. Stevens wants the Celtics to own their comments, not speak anonymously. Said it’s “fun as hell” when teams always play super connected. Said Celtics like each other and have good intentions.
Gary Washburn: The #Celtics locker room issues aren't that big of a surprise to some NBA folks I talked to today. The consensus is that the players aren't necessarily beefing but they aren't that close. It's like they are trying to coexist politely, and it's not working.
Jay King: Marcus Morris said when he looks at the Celtics he sees a bunch of individuals. Said he sees everyone else having fun around the league, they don’t have fun. “It hasn’t been fun for a long time.” Marcus Morris: "I watch all these other teams around the league and guys are up on the bench ... they’re enjoying everything, and they’re playing together and they’re playing to win. And when I look at us I just see a bunch of individuals.”
“The goal has to be to win,” Morris said. “Bottom line. We’ve gotta play to win. That’s sacrificing playing hard, that’s sacrificing being a better teammate, that’s sacrificing whatever it is. We have to put it to the side. No one’s getting traded. The trade deadline’s over. We’re competing for a championship. And that’s how we’ve gotta approach these games. Win, lose or draw, man. We’re going to lose games, but we don’t have no attitude, we don’t have no toughness, we ain’t having fun. It’s been a long season.”
Scott Souza: #Celtics coach Brad Stevens on Kyrie Irving's postgame comments Wednesday: I thought the way that I read his comments the other night was there was a lot of reflection back on what he said, and a lot of accountability, and a lot of talk about how hard it is to be a leader.
Chris Forsberg: More Brad on Kyrie: “Leadership starts with what you do on the court -- he was pretty damn good on Wednesday night -- and then it’s how you serve your teammates and then everything else is what it is. Everything else follows suits from those two things."
"[Jaylen] was right. I gotta do the right things and not point fingers at individuals and really realize what we can do as group, despite when we go on the road or the mishaps we may have. I've been there to the championship. I've tasted it. But I can't expect that they're gonna get it. I'm just really working on my patience and just coming to helping these guys realize that we can do it against the best teams; but in order to be that championship-level team, we gotta do that every single day to help our team prove to not just the Raptors or Golden State that we can play with them, but we gotta prove it to every team that we can really play with them."
Jay King: Kyrie Irving said he did a poor job with his public comments. “I should have kept it in-house. ... I can’t do it publicly like that.”
Monday was the gift and curse, Irving’s words coming to life. Nonchalant play against a Nets team that played harder and with more conviction led to the lopsided score and chants of “Kyrie’s leaving!” from a confident Barclays Center crowd. “Kyrie said a lot after the last game and it was probably stuff that people didn’t want to hear,” Terry Rozier III told Yahoo Sports. “But it’s showing.”
Clearly, he’s not afraid of his words being drowned out over the course of 82 games. He’s craved this moment and this level of influence. His teammates are taking heed, saying his words were encouraging about the comeback Monday, which saw the Celtics cut the lead to seven with a minute remaining. “It’s the truth,” Celtics second-year forward Jayson Tatum said. “He knows what it takes to win a championship and most of us don’t. Sometimes you have to be brutally honest in this profession to get the best out of one another. It came from a good place.”
“I don’t think we’ve all been on a team like this,” Rozier told Yahoo. “Young guys who can play, guys who did things in their career, the group that was together last year, then you bring Kyrie and Hayward back, it’s a lot with it.” When asked if the roster was too talented, Rozier didn’t back down. “Too talented, yeah. Too talented.”
On Monday, Irving seemed to walk his comments back a little bit. But he reiterated that the Celtics' opportunity to win is what keeps him edgy whenever it feels like Boston isn’t playing to its potential. “When you win, you want to taste it again," Irving said. "I never want to come from a place where I don’t want to sound like or maybe feel like I don’t want to win a championship. Sometimes I may come off and say things, never to question my teammates in public like that ever again, but I just want to win so bad. I came from a place where I asked for a trade and I come in here and believe in this organization, and I want these young guys to be successful. In order to do that we’ve all got to be on the same page and have that mindset that, a championship or nothing, and that can get the best of me at times.”
At some point, the Celtics need to get off the roller coaster. “Yeah, you get to a point where you have great games, good games,” Marcus Smart told the Herald as he slumped against a wall that led out of the visitors’ dressing room, in Orlando. “And then you turn around and have a game like this, and, you know, it’s hard. It’s frustrating. It’s monotonous and real, real, real repetitive right now, and something’s got to change to stop that. We’ve got to get better as a team. We’ve got to close out games better. We can’t let guys play like All-Stars and beat us on their own. That’s how it’s been for us all year. I don’t know what to tell you. We’re going to keep getting our butts kicked and keep getting beat if we don’t change it. That’s all I can say.”
The close proximity of highs and lows is wearing on the Celts. “Obviously, man, we’ve got to get it together,” said Marcus Morris. “You know, we show a lot of signs of greatness, and then we take a step back. It’s still a long season. Forty games left. If we keep chipping at it, keep getting better, you know, the best is yet to come, I think. I mean, man we up and down. But we’re still staying positive and I still think we’ll turn it around and start getting better.”
Hayward offered a verbal shrug. “It’s definitely a little frustrating,” he said. “Puzzling is a good word. I think we’re trying to figure it out. We have stretches where we’re really, really good and really tough. And then we have other stretches where we’re not at all. We’ve got to be able to be consistent. I’ve got to be able to be consistent. Especially on the road. We haven’t been nearly as good on the road.”
Boston fell 105-103 in Orlando on Saturday night. On the Celtics' final possession, Irving did not touch the ball, and Jayson Tatum missed a tough baseline jumper at the buzzer that would have tied the game. Irving appeared frustrated with Gordon Hayward, who inbounded the ball on the play. When asked about his on-court reaction, Irving was terse: "Next question. J.T. got a good look, so let's move on."
When he expanded on the Celtics' overall state, though, Irving had plenty to say. A team that most expected to be one of the league's best is currently 25-17 and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. To Irving, the team's struggles boil down to one thing. "Experience," he said. "We're lacking it, and because of that we have a lot of learning to do." Irving later added: "The young guys don’t know what it takes to be a championship level team. What it takes every day. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we’re trying to get to the Finals?"
He added later: “What’s the big picture? What are we doing here? These are things I don’t think some of my teammates have faced of just every single day. It’s not easy to be great. So the things you’re doing, that you’ve done your entire career of being able to coast by in certain situations and you’ve gotten away with your youth and stuff like that, being on a championship ball club, you can’t get away with that.”
"We're better than most teams in this league," Irving said. "It's just going out and proving it every single night and demanding it and actually showing it. So until we do that every single night and realize our depth is a positive, and all the wishes and could-haves and should-have-done-that, once that goes out the window, then we’ll be better. But until then, we’re going to keep having these ups and downs."
Adam Himmelsbach: Kyrie is sitting at his locker just staring straight ahead. Hasn’t showered yet. Most of the other players have already dressed and left.
Chris Mannix: Al Horford: "We play hard at times. I don't know if we play hard enough all the time."
Long after that play, long after his teammates had departed the locker room, Irving did not really want to expand on his clear frustration with the game’s end. Earlier, Hayward acknowledged it for him. “I think he would have liked for me to pass it to Al and have him cut off of it,” Hayward said. “You know, it was late clock, and we’ve worked on that play before and I’ve seen [Tatum] hit that in practice countless times, so I felt like it was a good shot.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he is not concerned about the minor altercation involving Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown in the second quarter of Boston’s loss to the Heat Thursday. The incident occurred during a timeout with 7 minutes 12 seconds left in the second quarter. In a video posted on Instagram by a fan who was sitting behind Boston’s bench, Morris is seen shoving Brown with two hands. Brown did not react, and teammates quickly got between them before the situation escalated further. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” Ainge said by phone from Boston Friday. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
During a timeout at 7:12 of the second quarter, video posted on social media by a fan sitting behind the Celts’ bench showed Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris quarreling. When the talk appeared to get more heated and they got closer, Marcus Smart stepped between the two and Morris shoved Brown as they were being separated.
Ainge was well aware of the situation when speaking with the Herald today. “I honestly didn’t think anything of it,” the club’s president of basketball operations said in a phone conversation. “I like Marcus’ and Jaylen’s character and personalities and feistiness, and, like, I just think nothing of something like this. It’s something where those things happen to best friends even. Heck, I remember those things happening to (Rajon) Rondo and Perk (Kendrick Perkins). You know, they’re best buddies, but it’s just the heat of the battle, and I didn’t have a second thought about it.”
Ainge clearly was not a fan of Brown being lax getting back on defense, and neither, it seems, is Brad Stevens, who removed him from the game. Brown did not return until the last 37 seconds of the third quarter, though Stevens said that was because the group on the floor was engineering a comeback. Brown played just 13:50. “Everybody has those moments, and those are way more of a concern,” said Ainge is the defensive lapse. “But I know that my coach calls guys out on those things and shows them on film and manages those things really well.”
“Truth is, I’m not necessarily playing the minutes that I want, the role that I want, that selfishly I would want for myself,” Celtics star Kyrie Irving said last Friday. “And that all goes on the back burner in terms of being patient with what I have to do to grow as a leader of this team and help these other young guys to be more prepared for what they will encounter as they get older in this league and then what we’re going through right now.”
The incident did not get personal, according to witnesses. Irving and Stevens are known to have a close relationship, which Irving has credited as part of the reason he has committed long-term to Boston. It is not unusual for a star player and his team to have these types of blow-ups, but it needed to occur and came during a notable turning point early in this Celtics season.
June 28, 2022 | 3:09 am EDT Update
Jake Fischer on Jalen Brunson: From everything I’ve heard, it really does sound like things have shifted, and he is more more likely than not to become a member of the Knicks as opposed to the Dallas Mavericks.
“Kevin Durant was very loyal to Kyrie Irving through this process… So the expectation right now is that Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving will move forward for the Nets on this roster this year.” 🗣️ Adrian Wojnarowski
Nets Daily: Woj on KD: “Kevin Durant now has what he wants, which was Kyrie Irving back on the Nets season, so the expectation is that right now, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will move forward … but Kevin Durant hasn’t talked yet. has not expressed that publicly. We’ll wait and see.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Irving has until Wednesday at 5 PM to file the paperwork on his opt-in. The Nets can still move Irving as an expiring contract, but the opt-in means he’s no longer eligible to get the immediate long-term deal he wanted as part of a sign-and-trade.
Speaking via ESPN, Windhorst said Monday: “Let’s take a look at Miles Bridges. He’s not being offered, from what I’m told, a max contract from the Charlotte Hornets right now. So, he’s going to go out into the market place, starting on Thursday or Friday, and see if he can get that offer from somewhere else.”
The Athletic conducted a poll, asking 16 officials in NBA front offices what they would deem a fair number for Barrett in an extension this summer or fall. Responses ranged from $15 million to $30 million a year. No one advocated for the Knicks to give him the max. Exactly half of the responses were a nice, clean four years, $100 million, making it by far the most common proposal from the polled executives.