Storyline: Kyrie-Stevens Dynamic

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Kyrie Irving tried to explain what separates Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens during an appearance on JJ Redick’s podcast Friday. “What is it that makes him so great?” asked Redick, the Philadelphia 76ers guard. “Because everybody for a couple of years it was like, oh, Brad runs great ATOs — after timeout plays. Like, he’s got great ATOs, great set pieces. Is it in-game stuff, is it discipline, what is it?” “He brings the ultimate unwavering confidence, yet so chill, but assertive, demanding, but he does it in the just most unique way,” Irving replied. “And it’s like almost bringing college to the NBA. I feel like we’re a very professional team, but the way we run things and the way we demand excellence out of each other is something like being on a college team. Just our film study, our preparation, our walkthroughs, our shootarounds. “He has adjusted to the NBA life but yet he still remains and has the high-character integrity of being that up-and-coming college coach that he was. And he was great in college, and then made the transition into the league. He didn’t necessarily have the best of teams, but he demanded excellence out of them, and he was always unwavering, he was always chill. And he demands it out of you. I keep saying demands, but… You want to play for him, you want to do it.”

Irving has been complimentary of Stevens and he has emphasized how much trust he has in his system. Krzyzewski said that’s evident just from watching Irving and seeing his interactions with his new coach. He said it is clear Stevens is allowing Irving to play with freedom and confidence, and that the two appear to be “a perfect match.” “I see it in their eyes and I see it in their actions,” Krzyzewski said. “Also, the fact that Brad is allowing Kyrie to lead in real time. That’s the best thing that can happen for a coach, where you have somebody on the court who’s leading while the game is going on. You’re not waiting for a huddle or whatever. That’s happening already, and that’s only going to grow. It’s a tremendous talent for a coach to have for a team, and a lot of people don’t have it. I’m telling you, real-time leadership while the game is going on, and I see it. It’s really neat to watch. I love watching how this is growing for them.”

The relationship between Irving and coach Brad Stevens is building in late-game situations, but Irving said Saturday it’s pretty much a teacher-student relationship. “There’s open dialogue but we prepare for [late in games],” Irving said. “He understands the talent that I have at that point, especially in the fourth quarter. But I also understand his brilliant mind, so when we’re preparing for walkthroughs or simulating situations then it’s kind of easy to go off one another. I’m able to see the reads and what’s going to happen and he makes the play calls. We’re just continuously building that trust for one another, so it’s pretty easy.”

Irving has long lauded Stevens’s tactical decisions, and said the dialogue is essentially one-sided. “Ain’t too much trading [ideas]; he’s the man, so for me I just try to soak up as much knowledge as possible,” Irving said. “Just being in the passenger’s seat, it’s like having a driving-school teacher. He’s driving you the whole time and he’s able to put you in the driving seat sometimes and you’re able to see the road. When you’re able to bounce ideas and have that type of connection, and it’s still developing, it’s pretty awesome. He does most of the teaching; I’m just there listening, just constantly taking as much knowledge as I can.”
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June 22, 2018 | 6:18 am EDT Update
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According to Robinson, Kawhi has to take responsibility and step up as a leader of the franchise if he wants to be viewed on the same level as LeBron James. “If you want to be a top two or three player in the league, you’ve got to be a leader. LeBron doesn’t sit around waiting for people to talk for him. LeBron gets out there and says ‘hey, this is my team, this is what’s happening.’ And I think that’s where Kawhi is. He’s meant so much for our franchise. We love him, we all want him to be there next year. But we want him to be there and take control.”
Storyline: Kawhi Leonard Free Agency
Has Riley had any conversations with Dwyane Wade, who is contemplating retirement, recently? “I haven’t talked to Dwyane,” he said. “I’ve talked to his agent. I think now over the next nine days between now and July the 1st, now we can focus on all these things. We’ve shared texts. He’s communicated on a regular basis with a lot of people in the organization, but nothing has been decided with Dwyane. We want to have Dwyane back obviously, but there’s been no discussion about next year.”