ORLANDO - Following the Boston Celtics loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday night, the visiting locker room was extremely quiet. There wasn’t much talking. Players were hustling through their postgame duties, likely looking to get to the busses and put this loss behind them. Everyone except for Kyrie Irving. The Celtics all-star point guard sat at his locker with a dead stare across the room. Not looking at anyone or anything in particular, just a dead stare into space.
He had reason to be upset. The Celtics had just blown a 12-point second half lead, and lost to the (now) 18-24 Magic. Boston had a chance to win or tie the game on the final possession, but Jayson Tatum missed a jumper at the buzzer to force overtime. Immediately after the miss, Irving was visibly upset, getting at Gordon Hayward for not running the final play to his liking.
Despite his reaction, Irving didn’t have much to say regarding the final possession when he eventually met with the media. Sitting on a locker room folding table, he muttered only two quick responses. “JT got a good look, move on,” said Irving. “Next play.” According to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg, Irving said only 41 words in response to the first five questions. His next response? 410 words and over two minutes long. The focus? Experience, or the Celtics’ lack thereof.
“Experience. It’s the best thing I can say is experience,” said Irving. “We’re lacking it and, because of that, we have a lot of learning to do. So we have a lot of ground to make up in that aspect. It gets tough. When it gets hard you’ve got to think. You’ve got to do the right things. You can’t gamble and think that it’s going to be the winning play. You’ve got to be able to play the full 48 minutes, no matter what’s going on, and hold your head high when you make mistakes. When your job is called upon, you’ve got to do it to the best of your ability. You’ve got to come in and make an impact for the minutes that you’re playing out there.”
Irving then turned to the questions that players face on a day-to-day basis, and noted that some of his teammates, most likely the younger ones, haven’t had to face those questions to this point in their careers.
“You’ve got to appreciate being out there and just competing. It doesn’t matter who you’re going against. It matters the type of preparation you have, what you’re going out and trying to accomplish. What’s the big picture? What are we doing here? These are things I don’t think some of my teammates have faced of just every single day. It’s not easy to be great. So the things you’re doing, that you’ve done your entire career, of being able to coast by in certain situations, and you’ve gotten away with your youth and stuff like that. Being on a championship ball club, you can’t get away with that. You see the fans going crazy. You see it gets loud.”
The 26-year-old isn’t giving up on this team by any means. In fact, he made sure to note how they compare to the rest of the league in his mind.
“I know from the majority of the fact that we’re better than most teams in this league. It’s just going out and proving it every single night and demanding it and actually showing it. So until we do that every single night and realize our depth is a positive and all the wishes and could haves and should have done that, once that goes out the window, then we’ll be better. But until then, we’re going to keep having these ups and downs and these lulls of going against teams on the road and they just know they can take advantage of us down the stretch, or when this group is in or that’s group out.”
He then turned the conversation back to himself, saying that he needs to be a better leader going forward.
“I’ve got to be better as the leader of the team as doing so and making sure these guys have more experience in certain situations like that, being more communicative,” added Irving. “So I put it on me of just being better.”