Kyrie the disgruntled young star. Kyrie the oft-injured phenom. Kyrie the Game 7 absentee. Kyrie the movie star. Kyrie the non-committed. Uncle Drew. The shoe salesman. The Flat-earther. The handle. The weirdo. Kyrie Irving is a lot of things and this fall, he’ll finally get to be the two things that we’ve all been waiting for: a basketball player and more importantly, a Celtic.
We easily forget that. Even though Irving spent sixty games repping Boston, playing at an All-Star level, and gutting through a knee injury until he was eventually shut down, he isn’t part of the 2017-2018 lore. Last season will be remembered for the unexpected run the team made in the playoffs spearheaded by its young players like Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier. Revisionists will claim that losing Kyrie (and Gordon Hayward) was actually good for the future of the franchise.
There’s a statistical case that can be made that Kyrie is one of the league’s best players just as there’s one that pegs him as a ball-hogging, score first point guard, but I won’t litigate either side. Even in projection and prediction, we can get caught up in this obsession to rank and rate. Our hopes and dreams for next season get quantified by NBA2K, 538’s CARMELO projections, and SI’s player rankings as if a player’s worth can be boiled down to one number. As Kyrie channeling Teddy Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.”
To appreciate Kyrie is to live in the moment. In today’s world--sports or otherwise--that can be hard. With all the prognosticators and pundits, doubters and haters, there’s this need to analyze and over analyze every stat and sound bite. (Admittedly, we’re guilty of that here at CelticsBlog.) Don’t do that.
Strip away all your preconceptions about what a point guard should be like. Stop weighing his value to the price Danny Ainge paid to bring him to the Garden. Just enjoy it. There are basketball players and there are basketball players. Kyrie is of that special stuff. We can argue superlatives and count rings, but there are few players that treat basketball as an outlet for self-expression. There are greats that have honed their skills and perfected their craft, but watching Kyrie play is like witnessing an artist at work.
Workout videos surface all summer like whales breaching to take a breath before disappearing again under the deep waters. It’s a quick but majestic peek at the amazing. Yesterday, this video surfaced of Kyrie Irving with Kevin Durant, James Harden, and several members of the Miami Heat:
There’s not much to glean from a thirty second Instagram highlight reel; Kyrie is wearing a headband, at half speed he looks healthy, but most importantly, he looks happy to be back on the court. At Team USA’s mini-camp a month ago, you could see him itching to play. There’s a competitive spirit that hasn’t been awaken yet. That flame will be fanned in training camp and the preseason until it’s a roaring fire on October 16th against the Philadelphia 76ers. Expectations will temper enthusiasm. The grind of an 82-game season will dull emotion. The unexpected could derail the season. But right here and right now, Kyrie Irving is just playing basketball and that’s great.