Kyrie Irving and the Celtics 2018-19: reasons for a catastrophe

Egos in conflict, disunity, lack of answers ... the most ambitious project of the Celtics in a long time has ended in sound failure.


A Celtics season that never started. We put all, from the team to the closest environment and from them to the analysts who are in the other corners of the world, so serious with that of 'as soon as they are put in, be careful' and that other of 'yes, but when the playoffs' and the fearsome 'but at the moment of truth, they will be the ones' that we passed, all, the course giving them more opportunities, delaying the big conclusions, spanking them with the small mouth. And eye, it agrees not to fall in the opportunism and to recognize that reasons had. So many that many would be tempted to think that if the season started again, everything could be radically different, and in that alternative universe Kyrie Irving would definitely vindicate himself away from that shadow of LeBron James that so elongated he came to seem, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would knock on the doors of the All Star, Brad Stevens would confirm himself as the Gregg Popovich of this era (he still has his original Gregg Popovich, by the way) and the Celtics would confirm that they were what in summer they seemed to be called: more reliable bet of the first This post LeBron James.

The talent was there, the competitiveness had been proven in two years in which, with less, they had won 53 and 55 games and had played two Eastern finals, the two lost with the eternal excuse LeBron, the second in seven agonizing parties and with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward in the infirmary. In Las Vegas they projected the Celtics 2018-19 in 57.5 victories, only behind the Warriors, where in fact many of us placed them by pure visual calculation. They finished in 49 (49-33), with eight and a half less, the biggest negative difference of any franchise other than the disasters of the Pelicans (with the injury of Anthony Davis ... and everything else) and the Lakers ( with LeBron's injury ... AND EVERYTHING ELSE). Whenever we imagine the possibilities of a team we tend to think of it in geometric progression: everything good that has been pointed out will be much better, both individually and collectively. Each unknown will be resolved in its best case scenario. And in this case it was difficult not to fall into that, so many times a bear trap: the alchemy of Stevens would work with the greatest talent he had ever had in his service and a possible quintet (Kyrie, Brown, Tatum, Hayward, Horford) that some were already trying to put names in summer, just in case. When tested with a Newport 5 that did not fit (neither that), Kyrie promised to renew and only Horford, in full preseason, warned that winning would not be so simple for something that sooner or later everyone learns in the NBA: never it is.

There is another topic that usually gives more dislikes than joys and that made us look with the handbrake put to these Celtics: the playoffs mode, the change of third in the hour of truth. Almost always, and except for champions of proven effectiveness still in good condition of review (the Lakers of Kobe and Shaq, the Warriors of the last season, before the future of Durant ate them the marrow), that train passes of all speed: teams are what they are and do not change by pressing a switch (playoffs ON / playoffs OFF). When it has not been wanted before, it is not usually possible to the taste of the consumer. Yes in matches, in sections of eliminatory, in specific moments often captivating. But not in complete eliminatory. It's hard to end bad habits and the Celtics have grown a garden full of them. The first game against the Bucks was the beautiful exception, the next four the return to reality. The two, Bucks and Celtics, have left the tie as they came out of the Regular Season. Neither more nor less and without cheating or cardboard. For talent and precedents, the Celtics deserved the benefit of the doubt. For sensations for more than six months, no. Reality is not always what sells the most, but ends up being damned stubborn.

A project designed for this exact moment

When people talk about making equipment, more times than it would seem logical that less is more. But, more than that, it is usually a mistake to try to cover too much, to bind the present and the future. The all in have their meaning beyond the slogan and Danny Ainge sometimes leads to the defect the virtue of being extremely jealous and calculating with its assets. After an impeccable reconstruction that has fed on the haste of the Nets in 2013, the worst transfer of history in Brooklyn but a new beginning on the fast track in Boston, his treasure of assets has been leaving a trail that has almost ended in this team: Kyrie Irving was number 1 of the draft (2011), Jayson Tatum 3 (2017), Jaylen Brown 3 (2016), Al Horford 3 (2007), Marcus Smart 6 (2014), Gordon Hayward 9 (2010) ... The booty has been reversed and is almost exhausted, although the Celtics tThey will still have three or four (the next week is the lottery) first-round picks in the next draft. They have young people of infinite projection, three maximum contracts of players all star (six Kyrie, five Horford and one Hayward) and the home run that supposed to remove Brad Stevens from Butler when he was 37 years old. Now, with 42, he's disappointed for the first time and has assumed that he has not done a good job and that this has been his most complicated season.

That is to say: the Celtics have always had their sights set on this season. It was not and is not the only option, a silver bullet in the air, but the first real one. A full team and a fearsome priori and, of course, an East without LeBron, which has won the Conference for the last eight years. Without the King of Akron (and that goes for the Sixers and Raptors, not so much for a Bucks in the most emergent point of the curve) the great obstacle disappeared but also, and that pressure has flown over the Conference since October, the great excuse for everything. While the Celtics cultivated their assets, the Sixers were turning the Process around and the Raptors reinvented themselves from within, Giannis Antetokounmpo has emerged in the East. That is not yet LeBron ... but he's ten years younger than him.

The Celtics should have more opportunities but this one was a real opportunity. Just remember how we saw each team from the East in summer and this time the injuries have respected them. So the season is a tremendous disappointment by objectives: below the expected and behind the previous one, marked (that yes) by the absences. And it is a major failure by sensations. The antidote that never appeared, the solution that was always around the next corner, the conspiracy that would be final, not like the previous one. Never a team had started 5-0 a playoffs and had lost four games in a row to fall eliminated. Much more modest versions of the Celtics have given much more war. Much rougher teams have avoided with blood and tears that the rival won two straight playoff games in the old Garden. These Celtics, in short, have not even paired with green pride. So even that blanks the disappointment.

Stevens is touched but not sunk, although in the total of the last three seasons of the feeling that it has seemed better the fewer wickers it has had at its disposal, and its systems of attack on the run to the funnel as soon as it has had a clear focus, before Isaiah Thomas and now Kyrie Irving. The Celtics 2018-19 have not been in the top 5 of the season neither in offensive rating nor in defensive rating. Neither in true shooting percentage, average scoring, net rating, shooting percentages ... They have not been a great team in almost any section or at any time, passed starring epic comebacks a year before to receive them and were, ultimately , the fourth in an East that started with four heavyweights. The fourth of four, and that after the injury of Victor Oladipo in Indiana Pacers. At minimum during the Regular Season thinking that everything could change in the playoffs. That's why his defeat has been like this: at minimums. Gordon Hayward continues to strengthen his injured leg and has taught at least some green shoots, not of course against the Bucks. But his need for minutes and confidence has clashed, in a team with an alpha male as clear as Kyrie, with the desire for prominence of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who came to have a lot of ball and many shots (by force hangs) in the heroic road of the 2018 playoffs. And even Terry Rozier, which was a sensation a year ago for these almost at this time, precisely against the Bucks ... The distribution of the ball, shots and responsibilities threatened as an obvious problem that finally has materialized and has been something that Stevens has never been able to solve completely. Not successful.

Anthony Davis' sainete in the middle section of the season unraveled the Lakers and the Pelicans but his shock wave also reached Boston. The young nucleus knew what it meant for their future that in NOLA they wanted to wait for the summer to negotiate merrily with Ainge. Now the situation is complex because it depends on what the hell Kyrie is going to do, something that maybe he does not know. The Celtics are perfectly positioned to take Davis, who would arrive for a single season and proclaiming to the four winds that he does not want (in principle) to continue in Boston further. But should the operation also be undertaken if Kyrie leaves for New York and at the cost of losing the young base without collecting two mega-stars in return? Do we really have to offer the planned super renovation to Kyrie, even though it was a question that until a few weeks ago had a clearly obvious answer? How much are they really worth, not in the market but on the track for Stevens, Brown andTatum? The latter, a silky and massive talent that played thrown as a rookie, has signed a horrible series against the Bucks: 12 points on average with 34% in shots and 10% in triples. Hayward will charge the next season 32.7 million dollars. Horford has a player option of 30.1 that may run or perhaps change for a contract of longer duration and less annual charge for the franchise. Marcus Morris ends contract and Rozier and Theis will be restricted free agents. Sin knowing what will happen to Kyrie, summer can be an absolute success or can end in, practically, a return to the box of exit. It is not the ideal scenario for a strategist of the profile of Ainge, who also has suffered a cardiac problem during these playoffs.

Kyrie in the eye of the hurricane

The Celtics, in short, face more vertigo than desired, in large part due to its sporting bump this season, the ramifications it may have or (maybe) the roots that already they are sunk in him and that in fact they have been able to cause it. And I speak, finally and finally, of the elephant in green pottery: Kyrie Irving.

Kyrie is an extraordinary, unique talent. One of the best scorers of his generation, maybe (by chances) of all the history of the NBA. There is no shot that can not score or any scrum of rivals that can not leave behind in the best video of the day of any night of matches. Kyrie is champion, with a prodigious performance topped with a triple winner that is NBA history. Kyrie is 27 years old and should now enter her best years. And this season has not dragged in the playoffs the knee problems that have weighed him other times in the past.

So what about Kyrie Irving?

Sano, ha has failed in the season in which he had to bring a winning project to the line of meta, shake off the shadow of LeBron that consumed him in Cleveland and claim everything that has nothing to do with ripping rivals on the track, something that to top it either has done in the first moment of extreme need: in the four defeats before the Bucks, 25/83 total shots (30%) and 5/27 in triples (18.5%) It seems that his teammates have been long season at his side, and of course it seems that Stevens is sorry to know that the kyriesystem spoils his plans of attack but it ends up becoming the only lifeline, which this time to top it did not even appear. His Celtics played better last season without Kyrie but they had no real choice to be champions ... because Kyrie was not there. Hence the question of the future that I have raised and to which some will tear their clothes: Kyrie is one of the most fun and definitive toys of the NBA but also one of the most complex. And the Celtics have to really know what they're up to and what they want to do with it.

Theoretically, we should not be making these statements in May 2019 but Kyrie started the course by saying that he would stay in the Celtics and then go on to insure that he did not owe a shit to anyone and what would be better to be asked on July 1. He has criticized his wardrobe and the young players, he has publicly repented, he has reconciled with a LeBron he has called to tell him that he now understands how hard it is to be a father; It has refused to openly clear the questions about its future (perhaps because it has not yet genuinely sincere answers) and has concentrated headlines, debates and huddles. It has ended up looking like every move of Ainge and Stevens has been aimed at understanding and recovering Kyrie. Maybe that's why when Morris said that no one in the team had any fun, no player came out to deny or qualify him. All that could compensate, in the rough, if in playoffs Kyrie would have worked in the format of a weapon of mass destruction. But it has not even been the case. So, in another twist that nobody expected for the script this season, now nobody questions the talent of Kyrie Irving but it does question Kyrie Irving. They are different things. And maybe the answers are in New York, because often there is nothing like retracing the path of a life and return home. Also if the earth were flat. Meanwhile, and with more doubts than expected, we must consider the Celtics favorites, still, to have him on the payroll when the next course starts. But ...

But, but but. It's been a bum season in Boston. And there's a summer of long euphoria or knife, with no middle ground. It's not what Ainge wanted or what Stevens expected, but it's what it is. That's how it usually is when things do not work out, and of course the Celtics 2018-19 have not come out, to the point that they could reach the autumn transformed into a teamdifferent. Or not. Aspirant to the ring. Or not. With your identity intact. Or not. It will be a process, one way or the other, exciting.



Photos from as.com

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