Close your eyes and think about a team that had everyone talking in the preseason about Championship dreams. The team struggles out of the gate and doesn’t really find their groove except in streaks here and there. They get up for certain matchups and fail horribly in others.
The 2010 Celtics had won at title (in 2008) and had enough veterans to put things together at the right time. It just wasn’t enough in the end to knock off Kobe and those Lakers rebounders. The 2016 Cavaliers hadn’t won a title, but at least they had been in the Finals the year before, and you know, they had LeBron James.
Kyrie Irving was also on that team and I’m sure he would like to prove, once and for all, that he’s just as much of a difference maker as LeBron was that year. He’s certainly confident in himself (via USA Today)
After a number of critical comments following losses at various points this season, Kyrie Irving struck a much more confident tone this time. Asked if he was worried about the Celtics’ struggles, Irving simply answered, “No.”
And why not?
”Because I’m here,” Irving said.
The problem with teams that think that they can “flip the switch” is that very often they are just wrong in their assumption. Championships are won by teams that have a combination of the most talent, the most effort, and the most luck. Take any leg of that stool away and the whole thing topples over.
It is still unfathomable to me that last year’s Eastern Conference try-hard team added Kyrie Irving (as well as a limited Gordon Hayward) and now all of a sudden they only show up when they feel like it. I know that Irving was on some flip-switchy teams in the past, but I don’t think we can blame it all on him either.
It goes up and down the roster. From Hero-Ball Rozier to Golden Boy Tatum to President Jaylen Brown to the entire bench (remember the Bench With Attitude?). About the only ones immune to the disease are (ironically) the veterans on the team.
You don’t see many complaints about the effort from Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, or Aron Baynes. Al Horford and Gordon Hayward have been limited at times by injury, but not necessarily by effort.
Brad Stevens can’t give the effort for them, but he can reward effort and hold those not giving it accountable. It is fair to question at this point if the team has failed to buy into his continuous improvement philosophy.
As much as I want this team to succeed, I almost fear what a long run in the playoffs (ultimately falling short) could do to increase the sense of entitlement this team already seems to have. Perhaps the success the team had in last year’s playoffs was the worst thing that could have happened to this team.
Can this team “flip the switch” and win a title this year? Anything less would be unsatisfying on several levels. This squad has not engendered the kind of adoration from fans that last year’s team achieved. There are still 22 games left, but is that enough time to change this team’s identity? As Yogi might say, it gets late early around here.