There are few sports writers that command the attention of Celtics fans. Jackie MacMullan is one of them. Nowadays, there are few Celtics--ahem, likely former Celtics--that draw the ire of Celtics fans than Kyrie Irving. So, when Jackie Mac writes about Irving and the 2018-2019 Celtics, it’s a must-read.
In her autopsy of last season, she makes three things abundantly clear: 1) last year’s disappointment does not fall squarely on Irving’s shoulders even though he awkwardly tried to be a leader, 2) team chemistry was poor particularly between the vets and young players, and 3) Brad Stevens blames himself. It’s an excellent piece that everybody should read, but here are a couple of snippets to whet your appetite.
On Kyrie and his relationship with Boston’s young core:
On Jan. 9, the Celtics blitzed the Indiana Pacers in Boston, then flew out that night to Miami, arriving at the team hotel after 2 a.m. on Thursday. Boston was set to play the Miami Heat that night, but, team sources said, that didn’t stop some of the young players from heading to South Beach, where the clubs stay open well past 5 a.m. It’s not uncommon for NBA players to go out when they’re on the road, but Irving was irked teammates decided to do it in the middle of back-to-back games.
On Irving’s souring relationship with the Celtics:
Could the Celtics have salvaged their relationship with their point guard? They afforded him several perks of stardom, including assigning a security guard to his table during team charity functions and allowing him to occasionally fly separately from the team when he had outside commitments. Much like the Cleveland Cavaliers, who still aren’t clear on all the reasons why Irving soured on them, the Celtics remain puzzled about exactly how their prized player became so disenchanted so quickly.
At the completion of the regular season, the team set up 100 balls in a room for their charitable partners. Everyone signed the balls except Irving. When pressed to do it, say team sources, he was neither aggressive nor confrontational. He merely said, “No, I’m not interested in that.”
Here’s Brad Stevens on the difficulty of making it work with such a talented roster:
“The bottom line,” Stevens told ESPN, “is that we had seven perimeter guys who were all very good players, and all of them brought something different and unique to the table. If you ask any one of them, I’m sure they’ll tell you it was hard to find all that they wanted this season.
”I don’t lose any sleep over that. They were all extremely competitive, well-intentioned guys. The pieces just didn’t fit.”
With free agency now a day away, the Celtics seem poised to fill Irving’s shoes with Kemba Walker. On The Hoop Collective podcast, MacMullan said. “I do think it will get done. I think, wink wink, it’s sort of already done...unless Michael Jordan changes his mind at the eleventh hour and offers Kemba a ton of money.” Many fans and pundits have suggested that while Walker might be a lesser talent than Irving, his leadership and chemistry could make up the difference.
In her story, Cedric Maxwell talks about the chemistry issues from last season rival what he dealt with with the ‘83 team. Over the summer, Boston waived an aging Tiny Archibald and traded for Dennis Johnson and won The Finals the following year. We’re still three months away from training camp and the make up of this team is far different than the Hall of Famers who have all had their numbers retired to the rafters, but don’t discount how much a year and a small tweak can make.