After Irving's reflection of last season, it's time for everyone to move forward
Kyrie Irving exits the tunnel in a Celtics' uniform. Photo via Anthony J. Causi
Yesterday was media day for the Brooklyn Nets, and boy did Kyrie Irving catch the attention of Celtics' fans once again.
In his first press conference in a black and white Nets uniform, Irving was pretty open and honest when asked what changed after his now-infamous commitment to re-signing with Boston in front of a large crowd of Celtics' fans and season ticket holders.
His response to the question was just about 4 minutes long and very personal. In a quick summary, Irving spoke on the troubling death of his grandfather just a couple of weeks after his verbal commitment that night. He said that it was the first time he had ever lost someone that close to him and as a result, he had trouble dealing with it.
Having not been able to spend as much time with his grandfather in his final days due to his basketball career, Irving admitted that he felt resentful towards the sport and did not give it his all.
Although he claims to have maintained close and healthy relationships with all of his teammates and the organization as an individual, Kyrie also admitted to having failed as a leader in his time in Boston.
In his full answer, he also touches on why he believed the team didn't reach expectations and how he plans on rebuilding his personal relationships with his Celtics teammates going forward. You can check out his entire response here:
Kyrie Irving explains in-depth what went wrong last year after announcing that he planned on staying in Boston pic.twitter.com/e3ybU2Y9be
There was a lot more said in the press conference by Irving that was we could talk about for hours such as comments about Kevin Durant, his plans to "take over the league" and more, but we're just going to keep it to the Celtic's stuff for now.
To no one's surprise, Celtics' twitter pretty much exploded in response to the former Boston point guard's comments on the dramatic and very disappointing 2019 season as well as his rocky exit this summer.
Many chose to just accept the fact that things did not work out and respect Irving for owning up to everything. Others felt it was just a lot of excuses from the 27-year-old point guard and that it still didn't explain his immature methods of handling his free agency as well as his public attitude towards his younger teammates. All of it is up in the air and obviously subjective when it comes to what you think about it. Nonetheless, it is worth looking into one last time and comparing it to the timeline of events that took place last season in Boston.
Let's start at the commitment to re-sign, which happened right before the start of the season at the TD Garden on October 4th of 2018. Just the next day, Kyrie reaffirmed his commitment in a comment to the media that gave the indication the thought of leaving the Celtics had not even crossed his mind.
Just a few weeks later when the Celtics played the Knicks in New York, Irving was asked about the idea of him playing there (his hometown team) before he announced his plans to commit to the Celtics. Now obviously, Kyrie is signed with the Brooklyn Nets now not the Knicks, but they're just down the street and so it's interesting to look at as despite everything he says here, he still planned on committing to Boston. Take a look:
According to Irving in his press conference yesterday, the unfortunate loss of his grandfather took place not long after committing and Irving left for his memorial following the Celtics game against the Suns in Phoenix on November 8th.
That is when Kyrie's emotional struggles began. As he explains it, he found it hard to be motivated and fully engaged in the game of basketball due to the fact that it prevented him from spending time with his loved ones.
Yet, when the team overall had been underachieving, he seemed pretty frustrated and let the public know that he wasn't happy with the play of his teammates.
In January the Celtics' lost yet again in a close game to the Orlando Magic in Florida. They had an opportunity to win the game at the buzzer with an inbounds play and 2 seconds on the clock. The result was a Hayward inbound to Jayson Tatum who was forced to take a contested fadeaway to win the game, which he missed. Irving (who seemed to want the ball) let Hayward know it by yelling at him on his way off the court, something that caught the attention of a lot of sports media coverage.
Irving had this to say in the post-game interviews that night about his Celtics' teammates:
For someone who was resentful and not as engaged, he seemed to be pretty frustrated at losing and had no problem throwing his teammates under the bus for that.
Moving on, everyone knows the rest of the story. Irving called LeBron. Celtics never got back on track. All the negatively and backtracking when it came to free agency talk. Kyrie checked out in March and was a no show in the second round of the playoffs against Milwaukee. All the things we've read and talked about a million times and all the things we dealt with for an entire season and got sick of.
The point is, with Irving finally speaking on the issue after not communicating with the Celtics' organization or the fans throughout all of free agency this HAS to be the final chapter before we close the book on the Kyrie Irving era completely, once and for all.
While this article might make it sound like I don't believe Irving in what he said yesterday (even though I think some of it is a little off), that's really not the case.
In complete honesty, I defended Kyrie Irving in everything he said and did last season and I ended up being completely wrong about it. I felt like an idiot when he just left the way he did after everything that happened and for the first time in a long time, I was just as mad at him as a lot of Celtics fans were throughout the season.
That being said, as someone who's been waiting for an explanation for all of it from the guy, who am I to say he's making excuses when he finally speaks on the matter? If that is what he says happened I'm just going to have to take his word for it.
Who knows what kind of emotional state the guy was in after the death of a loved one. A lot of fans have been comparing his attitude towards his personal situation to that of Isaiah Thomas' after the loss of his sister right before the playoffs, who came out and played some of the best games in his career despite his terrible circumstances.
Isaiah Thomas scored 53 points in the playoffs on what would have been his sisters' 23rd birthday just a matter of days after her death. Photo via Greg M. Cooper
However, this just unfair to do.
The fact of the matter is, every single individual in our world deals with loss differently. Isaiah Thomas chose to embrace basketball and use it as a form of emotional therapy. To go out and play with his heart of his sleeve and the memory of his sister on his mind. Irving had the opposite reaction. He felt some resentment towards the sport for not allowing him to spend more time with his grandfather, who he was extremely close with before he was unfortunately gone forever. Both were completely reasonable reactions and both should be respected as such.
If Irving says that played a major part in his attitude, play, and leadership throughout the season then we should respect that and move forward from it. Does it explain leaving the organization after committing to resign? No, not really. Does it explain barely communicating with Danny Ainge and the front office throughout the process of free agency? No. Does it justify throwing his younger teammates specifically under the bus for the disappointing performance of the entire group? Not at all. But the point is, it's time to move on from all of it.
Irving owned up for failing as a leader and admitted he handled the situation poorly. Celtic's fans and the organization altogether appear to be completely satisfied with Kemba Walker as Irving's replacement and Kyrie seems to be happy in his new position beneath Kevin Durant on his hometown team the Brooklyn Nets. Everything that happened this summer between the two parties will probably end up being better for everyone in the long run.
Something I think will get overlooked in this whole thing was a comment Irving made within his 4-minute speech in a Nets uniform yesterday talking about the day he committed to re-signing:
"They loved me in Boston and I loved the Boston fans."
Many people ignore Irving's first season in Boston, in which after Hayward got injured expectations for the entire team were dropped to maybe a low playoff seed. Kyrie averaged 24 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds and the Celtics ended up being the number two seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Had he not gotten hurt towards the end of the regular season, there is a very good chance that Celtics' team would have advanced to the finals as they made it to game seven of the conference finals without him, but they just couldn't close it in the final minutes. In that time, Kyrie Irving as a Celtic worked and things were great.
So remember stuff like that, and leave the negativity in the past. Kyrie Irving is a complicated guy, something we all learned the hard way, but now its time to close the book on all of it and move on. Move on to the Kemba Walker era in Boston, let Kyrie do his thing in Brooklyn, and get excited for the most intriguing NBA season in quite some time.
But what do you think??? Did Irving's comments cover all the bases??? Are you willing to forgive and forget??? Are you ready to close the book on all of it??? Or do you think there's still a lot to be said on the matter??? Let me know in the comment section down below.