There’s been some of this, “It worked with Kyrie in 2018, why didn’t it work with Kyrie in 2019?” going around and I thought I might address that.
The 2017-18 regular season was miles apart from the 2018-19 regular season. Both regular seasons saw the same Celtics team go into battle, however, saw two totally different results. One saw a result where the young guys were able to play alongside Kyrie Irving, one saw a result where the young guys absolutely could not play alongside Kyrie. Why did this happen? The 2018 Celtics Playoff run combined with Gordon Hayward’s injury.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 18, 2019
In my personal opinion, the 2017-18 season was a feel out year. The team was completely new. Only Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Al Horford, and Marcus Smart remained on the roster from the 2016-17 team, that made the Eastern Conference Finals. Not only was the team completely new, the team took a devastating hit on Opening Night when Gordon Hayward broke his ankle 6 minutes into the season. There were no egos at this time. All the guys wanted to do was play basketball, win games, and rally around Gordon Hayward’s loss. This includes Kyrie Irving. He didn’t take over as much, let the team flow, and tried to fit into the system as the season went along, as everyone else did the same. Everyone was feeling each other out, having fun, and winning games. Remember that inspirational 16 game winning streak the team went on, after dropping the 1st two games of the season to Cleveland and Milwaukee? That was fun basketball with no egos. Fast forward about 60 games into the season, Kyrie goes down. Uh oh. “This Celtics team isn’t going anywhere. I got Milwaukee in the 1st round.” “Well it took them 7 against the Bucks, Sixers will take them out quickly.” “Well, looks like it’s over, they ran into LeBron.” The team, without Kyrie, defied the odds and came a couple of possessions away from playing in the NBA Finals. The young guys were feeling good about themselves. I’m willing to bet most of them thought, “Hey, I’m a star in this league.” Not saying some aren’t, but you still have to play team basketball. Not only did the young guys not play team basketball this past season, Kyrie didn’t either.
Kyrie came in, tried to take over the team, tried to take over on the court, and didn’t let things run freely. He was selfish, along with other guys on the team. Kyrie wasn’t trying to play free anymore, he was trying to create his own system. The numbers will tell you differently, but numbers don’t show the full story, nor do they show what’s really happening on the court. Kyrie Irving was doing this thing where he was hanging back, letting the young guys take their charity shots, then he just wouldn’t go to them the rest of the game. This is partly why Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier were subpar this past year, why Jaylen Brown was terrible up until January, and why Gordon Hayward never returned to his All-Star self. There was no sharing of the ball outside of these little time frames. And this has a domino effect. When one guy takes a haul of shots, the next time another guy gets the ball he’s going to want to shoot it because he knows he’s not getting the ball back. This, in my mind, effected Terry Rozier the most. Terry would play limited minutes off the bench, wouldn’t get the number of touches he wanted, and when he got the ball, his instant reaction was, “I’m going to shoot it.” That’s not the way to win ball games. Everyone during the 2017-18 season was worried about making the right basketball plays. During the 2018-19 season, everyone was worried about getting theirs, getting their stats up.
Does a lot of the blame go on Kyrie? Yes, but it also falls on the other guys in the locker room. Losing Kyrie Irving now may feel like a loss for the Celtics, however, in the future, this could be the best thing for the Celtics. Let the young guys spread their wings again, let Gordon Hayward play freely within the offense, and let this team be who they are. A lot of people seem to think that comes out to be a 38 win team, let me assure you though that that’s not the case. The Celtics are going to be contenders next year, now with the league-wide open, and if their young guys really take a step, they might even win the whole thing. It’s in the realm of possibilities and that’s without Kyrie Irving.
By: Seamus Zarlingo