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Kyrie Irving's doing things he's never done before - and it might just fix what's ailed the Boston Celtics this season.

The Cs have suffered from something of a leadership void while dropping far too many games against lesser opponents in a season they were anticipated to have finally re-opened the door to title contention; you might argue for a lot of different granular factors as being as important, but, truthfully, most if not all of such causes are dependent causes.


Let me explain. For much of last season, Boston overachieved by necessity. Budding stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum began to step into outsized roles after Gordon Hayward went down in the season's first moments, and took the reigns outright once Irving's knee complications removed him from playoff availability.

They succeeded, one bad game away from a trip to the NBA Finals, only to re-up with Gordon and Kyrie, throwing an organically-forged chemistry into confusion. When it comes to establishing an order capable of high-level success, it tends to come about through two ways - the fearlessness that comes from having nothing to lose, and careful, deliberate planning and communication behind experienced leadership.

It can and does happen other ways, but usually shades of one or the other are at play, and for Boston, , it shifted from the former to the latter, except the clear leaders in terms of talent were either recovering (Hayward) or inexperienced in the leadership department (Irving). This vacuum led to unclear roles, and disjointed responses on both ends of the floor as players sought to fill in the evident gaps without the communication needed to make it work, which, as we saw would then lead to sulking and bad basketball.

Enter the epiphany of the importance of communication - not just what was said, but how, and in what way, to whom, and it has seemingly transformed Boston's (and Kyrie's) style of play. I am still on the not-using "turned the season around" frame given how new this most recent suggestion the Cs may have is, but when the rock moves around, the wins seem to come, particularly in this novel iteration of Uncle Drew.

Currently averaging eleven (yes, eleven!) assists per game over his last four games - all wins - Kyrie is playing some of the best basketball of the season, and some of the best non-playoff ball of his career. While it's not merely the number of assists themselves (Boston has lost a handful of games earlier this season on similarly assistive evenings to inferior opponents), the combination of leadership-by-example and more clearly defined roles supported by better communication seems to be taking hold.

While there's rumbles the play of Irving might even force him into the MVP conversation (seriously - his recent performances are so good, he nearly eclipsed one of Larry Bird's best night's against the Miami Heat), for now, I think the goal is just to maintain a semblance of this kind of play and the efficacy it inspires in his teammates while Boston works its way back up the standings - the Cs will need as much home court advantage as possible to achieve their lofty NBA-Finals-or-bust goals.

Ubuntu can take a lot of forms, but without communication, it's impossible.



For more stories by Justin, click here.



Image: Brian Babineau/NBAE; video: Boston Celtics, Tomasz Kordylewski
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justinquinnn 1/22/2019 01:49:00 PM Edit
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