The 2018-19 NBA season was a disappointing one for the Boston Celtics. Some might suggest that is an understatement. Coming off a 2018 playoff run that ended two games shy of an NBA Finals appearance, the season should have been easier.
Superstar Kyrie Irving and former All-Star Gordon Hayward were healthy after suffering injuries that kept them out of Boston’s line up for the 2018 playoff run.
However, neither player ever really settled back into head coach Brad Stevens’ rotation. Hayward showed glimpses of his former self as the season wore on but his three-point shooting was just 33% down 6% from his last full season in Utah and he only managed 11.5ppg in just over 25 minutes in 2018/19 for Boston.
Boston management should have expected a slow recovery as Hayward dislocated his ankle and broke his leg six-plus minutes into the 2017/18 season.
It appears that Boston management was more interested in playing the 29-year-old small forward who earned $31.2 million this past season.
As for Kyrie Irving, he had a very productive year. He shot 48% from the field, 40% from the three points arc, he averaged 23.8ppg and 6.9 appg.
Yet, Irving was not happy in Boston and so while his stat line says one thing it hides the fact that the point guard who was before this past season interested in resigning and staying in Boston clearly couldn’t wait for the playoffs to end in 2019 and opt-out of his contract.
In 2018/19 though, Irving rumbled out loud and to the media that his teammates “don’t know how to win”.
It was an odd statement because the only difference between the fourth-place Celtics in the East in 2019 and their Conference Finals appearance in 2018 is that Irving and Gordon were healthy and playing in 2019.
Now that Irving has signed to play for the Brooklyn Nets here’s a look at three questions for him going into the 2019/20 season:
#3 Can Kyrie Irving leave his locker room issues behind?
In all of professional sports, certain players have exhibited tremendous talent but have also been just as much trouble sometimes more than they are worth. The NBA has seen its fair share of trouble makers on and off the court amongst the player ranks.
In the past players like J. R. Ryder, Dennis Rodman, and even more recently players like DeMarcus Cousins or Jimmy Butler have been more than a handful for management to control, contain, or even keep focused on just playing the sport in which they can perform at high levels for great pay.
Kyrie Irving is now entering this category. The Cleveland Cavaliers had made three consecutive NBA Finals from 2015-2017 when Irving demanded a traded which landed him in Boston.
If you believe then Cavalier's general manager David Griffen who stated in a podcast, the Good N with host Jeff Goodman, that Irving wanted the ball and would be “second fiddle to the greatest player of his generation”.
If true, it's odd that Irving, with two years left on his deal felt restrained by LeBron James after appearing in three consecutive NBA Finals and winning once. However, players have made seemingly stranger decisions than this.
His desire to leave Cleveland wrecked the Cavaliers who got nothing from Isaiah Thomas, who was the point guard they got in return.
It was the Nets 2018 first-round draft pick that gave the Cavaliers any value in the deal for Irving as by mid-season 2018, which wound up being Cleveland's fourth straight year in the NBA Finals, saw the team make several deals to fix a broken roster that wound up fourth in the Eastern Conference.
Also, if David Griffen is right, LeBron James opted to leave Cleveland after the 2018 playoffs for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Irving might have had two more years in Cleveland as the go-to guy and would have qualified for a super-max deal in Cleveland.
His quality of play was great in Boston in 2018/19 but his constant calling out his teammates, his concern about being the go-to guy and perceived indifference in the second round playoffs series with Milwaukee leave many wondering about Irving being a locker room cancer.
He ruined the Cavaliers by asking for a trade, created locker room tension with his Boston teammates instead of showing leadership and is now onto his third team in three years, the Brooklyn Nets.