Kyrie Irving enjoying bumpy journey, says Celtics have ‘chance of a lifetime'


BOSTON — As he is wont to do, Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving was offering one of his typically thoughtful-but-sprawling responses on the state of the team after Sunday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets, noting how the Celtics have a “chance of a lifetime” and gushing about how much he’s enjoying the bump-filled journey when he offered a bit of a non sequitur.

“Talking to you guys is boring,” said Irving. "It’s really boring, honestly.”

He quickly clarified that he meant no disrespect, sounding a bit like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights when he punctuates biting criticism by adding, “with all due respect.”

But here’s the thing. The feeling is not mutual. Irving is much-watch TV during his postgame news conferences the same way he’s must-watch TV during games. So, maybe not surprisingly, on the heels of Boston’s closed-door meeting after Friday’s loss to the Bucks, Irving was enthralling both on the court and off on Sunday night.

Start on the floor, where Irving erupted for 17 first-quarter points. It took him 11 seconds before a 19-foot jumper off a handoff from Al Horford on Boston’s first possession, and a transition pull-up from a step closer followed. When Irving pulled up from 27 feet a short time after, it was clear he was locked in. 

Irving finished with 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting over less than 29 minutes. He added five assists and four rebounds as the Celtics built as much as a 33-point lead before taking the fourth quarter off.


It was the sort of effort you expected from Irving after Boston’s well-publicized airing of the grievances after Friday’s loss (which Celtics coach Brad Stevens playfully dubbed Festivus and revealed it turned into another 90-minute session on Saturday’s offday).

Stevens, who typically downplays these sort of meetings, seemed almost energized by the way his players were willing to lay bare their issues. Said Stevens after Sunday’s win, “We’ll look back on it as a great experience. Because it was a bunch of really high-performing players in there just being really transparent young human beings, and I think that’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of.”

But after veteran Marcus Morris admitted he would have preferred the meeting stayed private, it was fair to wonder if Irving would acknowledge the gatherings and whether they were beneficial to the team.

During another fascinating seven-minute chat with reporters on Sunday night, Irving didn’t disappoint, particularly as he talked about sacrifice.

"We have so much depth. … It’s been well-publicized, as well as us coming to grips with us not playing the roles that we would exactly want,” said Irving. "But getting past those things, the ego-centric things, this is a chance of a lifetime for us. And I think that, in order to achieve what we want to, we have to be closer as a team and really understand that when someone takes a shot, it’s our shot, we feel good about it, now we get back on defense and we prepare the right way and we do the right things for one another and not just for ourselves. 

"So, I’m enjoying this. Every day is a new challenge. I’m just so open to what these guys have to offer and what we can accomplish by the end of the year.”


Eventually the conversation circled back to the younger players and the challenges they face in embracing changing roles.

“Having social media, having a lot of just pressures outside, and as well as bringing them into the locker room, I think that it’s fairly tough,” said Irving. "Because where our league is now, a lot of young guys have found a lot of success. And, honestly, watching the veterans that have come before me, they haven’t really done anything to be these so-called ‘greatest next things coming.’ You know what I mean?”

Later Irving added, "I think some of our young guys have never been on a championship kind of journey. I’ve never been in this one, being in this position and role. So it’s new for me as well. But it takes time. And you have to really open yourself up to communicating with these guys, and them communicating with you, and telling them how they feel about their roles, and us just being open to fixing things and helping one another rather than just allowing outside influences to dictate how you feel about your role

"Everybody else from the outside: ‘You’re supposed to be this young, great player. You’re supposed to be averaging this.’ But no one here is in the locker room except for us. So you guys don’t know what every day is like for us. A young guy coming in like Terry [Rozier], playing behind me. And [Jaylen Brown] and [Jayson Tatum,] and Gordon [Hayward] going to the bench, and what that does mentally. And Gordon coming off an injury. Like, they talk about it but you never know what they’re really feeling. 

"So I’m just glad that we can have that open dialogue now where we can just figure it out and know what the big picture is. Like, how do we get to this stage in winning?”

Maybe it was just a coincidence, or possibly just the byproduct of a lopsided win in which Gino danced on the JumboTron in the final minutes, but the Celtics seemed so much looser on Sunday. On the bench, it seemed like Irving and Tatum were constantly grabbing at each other’s heads, a playful scuff after one of Boston’s big plays. They stood together for a walkoff interview and kept laughing and smiling.


It was interesting to watch because team meetings have a way of tipping one of two ways: Either players accept criticism without emotion and work to fix the issues, or teams splinter because no one is willing to work to actually address the problems.

If younger players felt targeted in the meetings, not a single one has shown it. And the way the Celtics worked for good looks for much of Sunday’s game, it was clear that a message about seeking best shots was emphasized.

We know with these Celtics not to overreact to one win. Consistency has been this team’s biggest issue. But it was an encouraging first step and maybe Stevens is right that the team will reflect fondly on a very private moment that became extremely public because of when it took place. 

And you can’t help but go back to Irving’s larger point: These Celtics know they have a real chance to do something special. This is a championship-caliber team if they can figure out how all these talented parts best complement each other. That they’ve struggled so much to make it all work, and work consistently, is what led to Friday’s meeting.

The bad news for Irving is that he’s going to have to keep dealing with our boring questions. Maybe they’ll get more exciting if this team starts to play with more consistency. But, hey, it’s part of the journey.

And Irving is probably willing to endure that if it means this team figures things out and plays deep into the summer.

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