Breakups are almost always messy and this was a bad breakup. Kyrie Irving left the Celtics 4 months ago, the Celtics replaced him with a better fitting star point guard, and the team has hit the ground running at the start of this season (injuries aside). Yet fans still aren’t over the Kyrie Irving situation. It looms over everything that happens in Boston, if only in a “thank goodness THAT’S over” sort of way.
Articles like this don’t help, I fully admit that. But this is a story in the respect that ...well, it is still a story. The Celtics and Nets play their next two games against each other so the stories are popping up again, even with Irving out with an injury.
Marcus Smart was asked about this on the Lowe Post podcast and he had some interesting thoughts. via CBS Sports
“You didn’t know what anybody was going through,” Smart told Lowe. “You was afraid to talk. You didn’t know how to talk to anybody. Growing up as young men, you’re always taught you don’t want to show your emotions, you don’t want to cry, and it’s this stigma on it that, you know, as a man you’re supposed to be manly, crying is not manly, talking about your feelings is not manly. When that’s not true. That hurts. It hurts you in the long run. And mental health is a big issue in a lot of sports. And that was what was going on. Everybody was afraid to talk to one another because 1) we didn’t know how, 2) we didn’t know if the person we were talking to was going to understand or if they were willing to understand. And instead of putting ourselves out there, we just decided to hold it in.”
He elaborates more here via The Athletic.
“It’s not that we didn’t know how to act (around him),” Smart said. “It’s that we didn’t know how he was going to act. We didn’t know what his moods were and we didn’t know what Kyrie was going through. And that made it tough on us because if somebody’s going through something in their life and you don’t really know what it is, it’s kind of hard to see what’s wrong with him, it’s kind of hard to (provide) some help. It’s not against Kyrie, it’s just a defense mechanism as a human being you have. And he wasn’t here long enough to really be able to open up the way he probably wanted to, and it probably got to him a little bit.”
Regardless of what the reasons were, Irving clearly didn’t fit in during his time in Boston and he decided to move on. As it turns out, that was probably best for all parties involved.
Interestingly, his replacement isn’t as heralded as a superstar, but he certainly seems like a much better fit. In fact, there’s an increasing opinion around the league that Walker is the better guy to have on your team.
Individually, Irving had possibly his best season as a pro. He was a second-team All-NBA selection for the first time, and he was inside the top 20 in ESPN’s real plus-minus and posted a positive defensive real plus-minus for the first time in his career.
A panel of seven executives asked recently whether Irving or Walker is the more talented player all chose Irving. However, six of those same seven executives said, if they had to choose to have one of them on their team, they’d rather have Walker.
This will continue to be a story until... well, until it isn’t anymore. These things tend to fade to the background as the fanbase takes a collective deep breath and moves on with their lives (somewhere Ray Allen must be happy to be bumped down the list a bit).
Live goes on, we’re all happier in this new chapter of our lives. That isn’t going to stop the emotions from being triggered when we see him again, but in time that will fade away too.