McCormack: For Kyrie, it’s all about team… now

If you take Kyrie Irving's postgame comments after the Celtics 102-88 win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday night at face value, the name on the back of his jersey is not nearly as important than what's emblazoned across the front.

Apparently, Kyrie Irving pretty much believes Brad Stevens is a basketball savant who walks on water and Tyronn Lue is not nearly his equal in terms of preparation, understanding and motivation as an NBA head coach.

But hey, given the circumstances, should anything Irving says be taken at face value? After all, this is a guy who believes the earth is flat and when pushed on whether he actually believes that to be true, doubled down last spring.

Irving, the former Cavaliers point guard who asked to be traded last summer and was subsequently dealt to the Boston Celtics on Aug. 22, joined Sean Grande on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston after he and his teammates soundly whipped his former squad, 102-88, on Wednesday night at TD Garden.

First, a disclaimer — Stevens is, at age 41, without question, one of if not the top coach in the NBA. The guy has always been a winner and since taking over as head coach of the preeminent franchise in basketball in 2013 straight after a terrific run at the collegiate level at Butler University, Stevens has become even more widely admired and respected.

However, in gushing about Stevens, his coach in Boston, Irving’s comments can most certainly be taken as backhanded swipes at his former coach, Lue.

Backhanded, of course, because it would come off as being The Bad Guy if he were to, you know, actually name names and own what he’s inferring. Doing that might damage what’s most important (to him) — his brand.

“It’s that, and more,” the guy whom the Cavaliers made the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft out of Duke said when asked if his relationship with Stevens through the halfway point of the 2018 season is what he hoped it would be. “In terms of having a head coach that allows you grow and wants to push you every single time you step on that floor, whether it’s practice, whether it be (in a) walk-through, whether it be during the game.”

But wait, Irving was just getting started.

“He is just consistently giving me encouragement and making sure that I understand how big this game is and how you manage it throughout (a) full 48 minutes, so I’m just very appreciative that I can follow a guy like that and that he allows you to be one of the leaders on the team.”

Apparently, being given the responsibility to take the biggest shot (a stepback 3-pointer), on the biggest stage (Game 7 of an NBA Finals) at the most crucial time (the game, the series, the championship on the line with less than a minute to play) in the history of a franchise wasn’t enough of a “big game.”

But wait, there’s still more. How about Irving helping the Celtics to prepare to face his former team, which paid him $55,736,393 for his services during his first six seasons in the league?

“We do have one of the best coaches in the league at preparing, so when I was a Cavalier, playing against the Boston Celtics teams, we all knew that they were going to be really prepared,” Irving said of Stevens. “But now that I’m on the Boston Celtics, I’m a member, I definitely have an idea of the best way to guard some of their actions.”

Of course, Stevens is more than willing to listen to his new star’s input. He’s too intelligent not to. However, apparently, Irving never had such “freedom” of expression while hanging his hat in Northeast Ohio.

“So, we lean on each other, but Brad does a great job of allowing that freedom for me to just put my input in and the best way to stop some of their actions. It’s a give-and-take, but I’ll leave it up to Brad to continue to prepare us best.”

How nice of him.

Irving scored just 11 points in the romp against the Cavaliers on Wednesday night. He didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. He wasn’t needed. That’s how lopsided the game was.

Basking in the glow of a well-deserved conquest — the same guy who asked to leave an organization that put him on a stage to be named Rookie of the Year in 2011-12, had reached three consecutive NBA Finals, winning Cleveland’s first major-sports championship since the 1964 Cleveland Browns in 2016, made four All-Star teams (earning game MVP honors in 2014), represented his country playing internationally and had an extremely popular “Uncle Drew” series of commercials — stressed it’s all about team.

Now, anyway.

Not, apparently, before this season tipped off, even while winning the most-cherished honor in sport — a championship ring.. you know, recognition of team achievement.

Or is it whatever fits Irving’s present-day narrative and helps promote, you know, his brand?

“It was definitely about the team and about us and what we were going to go accomplish out there,” he said. “Understanding, that we’re playing against a great team and in order to beat great teams, you have to stay locked in for 48 minutes.

“I mean, we held the under 90 points, I believe, and you do that against great teams, you could see that our energy was very, very high on the defensive end. and we got the great shots, offensively… just made it easier for us throughout the whole, entire game.”

And then, there was this:

“We stayed locked in, and that’s the true testament, right there — equal scoring, equal defensive possessions that we can all hang our hat on.”

Um, OK. Apparently, Stevens must indeed walk on water. After all, until he joined him in Boston, defense for Irving was simply the time wasted between taking shots, dribbling incessantly or not being a willing passer of the basketball.

He did, it should not be forgotten, be given the “freedom” to take more shots last season — as in, 1.5 more every game, on average — than the man regarded across the globe as the best player on the planet.

But wait, the planet is flat… right?

4 Comments on "McCormack: For Kyrie, it’s all about team… now"

  1. Rod Auerbach | January 4, 2018 at 10:30 am |

    This article reminds me of when I used to type extra words to make my research paper meet the word count. There’s so much extra information in here that’s not needed, and the journalist comes off as bitter and hurt, taking backhanded swipes at Irving. If Kyrie would tell the truth, which journalists often want, then he would be criticized by those same journalists for not “keeping it behind closed doors.” I think it’s easy to see that Lue is often outmatched from a coaching standpoint, and his all world player LBJ has saved him many times throughout the few years they’ve been together. Let’s just enjoy two good teams playing basketball.

    • Don McCormack Don McCormack | January 4, 2018 at 11:57 am |

      Hey, Mr. Aurebach… I’m betting you lit up a figurative victory cigar last night after the Celtics cruise-control romp over the Cavaliers. As well you should’ve, too — Boston clearly outplayed Cleveland from opening tip to final buzzer, even without needing anything more than 11 points from Irving. It will definitely be interesting to see how this all plays out all the way into early summer… thanks for reading!

  2. Brett A Bland | January 4, 2018 at 5:55 pm |

    Sam, I really question how good a coach Ty Lue is. I would definitely take brad over Ty. Last night the cavs just looked horrible. Ty could have mixed it up a little earlier than he did. I think his starting line up is problematic. Jr calderone and Chrowder nobody is even worried about on the offensive side. On the defensive side we can not rebound and we do not get back. We often cry about non calls and allow the other team to score.

    • I’m with you on all of that Brett. Hopefully the Isaiah Thomas addition will give them the punch they need. But man, something needs to be done about JR. He’s just jogging up and down the court.

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