How hard do you think it was for Irving to sit out the 2017-18 post-season with an injury as his teammates came so close to going to the NBA Finals. That Game 7 of the East Finals came to an awful end for Boston. The guys in green were within four points of Cleveland with 2:34 remaining in the game. They had been shooting horribly all game long, and it got worse in the last few minutes. Kyrie, not being short-changed on ego, must have truly believed he would have made the difference. No one took control in those last few minutes, and control is what was sorely needed.
Now to this past season. This may have been the best overall statistical season of his career. It was his best rebounding and assist season (5.0 RPG, 6.9 APG). It was also his best for blocks (0.5 BPG) and steals (1.5 SPG-tied 3 past seasons). He accomplished this while shooting 49%/40%/88% on field goals, 3-pointers an foul shots, respectively.
Any arguments I have with Irving have to do with his attitude - not his game. I have grown tired of his nebulous utterances and cranky post-game interviews. He may not be a pass-first point guard, but he averaged 6.9 assists per game - and 7.0 APG in the playoffs - good enough for 6th in the NBA. And other than Al Horford, no other Celtic was dishing the rock at any decent clip. I am about to broach a sound reason for Kyrie to remain in Boston.
Beyond being a superbly-talented basketball player - one that Boston may not want to see walk - let me introduce a WHAT IF. Let's say Kyrie heads to Brooklyn - lures Kevin Durant to play with him - and the Nets never get past the East Semis. Another failure for Irving. That would be tough to explain. Let's go back to Kyrie's quote when asked if the regular-season struggles would leak into the 2018-19 playoffs (per Boston.Com's Mark Dunphy):
(Irving) “No, we’ll be fine,” the star point guard told reporters.
(Interviewer) Why do you think that?
(Irving) “Because I’m here,” Irving replied.
Quote doesn't lack for confidence, does it? Call it cockiness if you want, but we hear that kind of talk from NBA players quite often. You may not notice it in him, but Irving had to be humbled a bit by the quick end to his season. He has to assume some blame for that. He doesn't want to be humbled again. Better for him to re-up with Boston - change his attitude - and be mentally prepared to be a true leader this time around - rather than move to a new team and possibly face another early exit from the post-season - and the ridicule that would follow.
We are seeing the multi-Championship Warriors down 1-3 with the Raptors, and it is looking like a 2020 Title may be up for grabs. Boston needs a rebound season. Would Kyrie be better off in Brooklyn? I doubt it. Does Danny Ainge want him back? Not if he doesn't change his act. Does Irving even want back in? He should. At 27 years old with an injury history (He has missed almost 19 games/season since he came into the League), he most-likely will go for an extended pay day. We will know more four days from now.
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Photo via Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images