The NBA’s Boston Celtics are underachieving and regressing as a basketball team in 2019.
In one of the most unusual situations I’ve ever seen in the NBA, the consensus of most basketball analysts is that the Celtics have TOO MANY talented players on the roster and have not jelled as championship caliber unit.
Though I don’t necessarily buy into the “too much” talent discussion, I do think that the Celtics are dealing with a simple math problem which can be solved by subtracting one unfortunate mistake.
Last season, Kyrie Irving came to the Celtics from a championship run with LeBron James in Cleveland. He was (and, for now, still is) expected to be the on-floor leader to help mold the young Celtics into an NBA championship team.
Due to an injury late in the season, Irving watched from the bench as Coach Brad Stevens took the Celtics’ youngsters to the verge of the 2018 NBA Finals. Only that pesky LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers stood in the way (again) from the C’s going to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
The year before (without Irving) in 2017, the young (coach and players) Celtics were carried by a 5’9” sparkplug guard named Isaiah Thomas to the Eastern Conference finals before bowing out to Cleveland (which had LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving at the time).
Kyrie Irving, who played only one season of college hoops under Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke before bolting to the NBA, is already a five time NBA All-Star who won’t even turn 27 until March. There has never been a question that he is a talented NBA player.
The real question, though, is whether he is the leader that the Boston Celtics’ General Manager, Danny Ainge, thought he would be to help mold this team into a championship squad.
The jury is out on that question, but, based on the Celtics’ record this season (as of this writing, Boston is 25-17 and in fifth place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference), the team is regressing with a roster filled with young players who want to make their own mark in the league.
Though he played a wily aging basketball player in this summer’s movie entitled “Uncle Drew”, Kyrie Irving seems to be the odd man out in Boston.
Last weekend, Irving called out his Celtics’ teammates after a loss on the road in Orlando.
“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?”
The team’s response? A loss in Brooklyn on Monday night and a 0-3 record on this road trip.
So much for Uncle Drew’s locker room leadership skills.
Boston has a great young coach in Brad Stevens who has rebuilt this team (along with GM Danny Ainge) with some good draft picks with a system built on hustle and teamwork. He did the same thing as a college coach at tiny Butler University.
Brad Stevens doesn’t appear to need a “superstar” player such as Kyrie Irving to succeed. His college teams were all disciplined teams stocked with hungry players who enjoyed being in the role of underdogs.
Brad Stevens is in new territory. He now has to deal with his existing young “pups” with the added pressure of dealing with an NBA diva in Kyrie Irving.
The Brad Stevens’ Celtics were gaining momentum and improving with every season before the addition of toxic superstar Kyrie Irving to this particular squad.
The stats don’t lie.
Prior to Kyrie Irving’s arrival in Boston, Brad Stevens’ Celtics improved from a non-playoff team to seventh, then fifth, then first place in the NBA Eastern Conference.
Since Kyrie Irving was added to the roster, Boston dropped to second place ending 2018 and is now in fifth place this season.
Kyrie Irving is an unquestionably talented individual basketball player. He may end up as a Hall-of-Famer someday.
But, in Boston in 2019, Irving doesn’t seem to be the right fit for the current coach or the other players on the roster.
Boston’s GM Danny Ainge hired head coach Brad Stevens, drafted most of the current players, and made the acquisition of this young superstar named Kyrie Irving.
Ainge is on the hot seat right now. Though he has done well in assembling the pieces of the Boston Celtics, he needs to take a refresher course in chemistry – soon. This team is unraveling and may explode at any moment.
Based on all measures, the Kyrie Irving experiment simply isn’t working in Boston with its current coach and roster of players.
The problems in Boston may be best resolved by subtraction.
Unless things change quickly in Beantown…B’bye, Kyrie.