The “New” Kyrie
Ever since Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers, he has been battered with accusations insults and negative comments. But when the trade made its way to Boston, and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens got a hold of the former Duke point guard, a change was sparked in Irving’s game. He was tasked with leading a team as the focal point and playing without LeBron James. There were questions of if he would even be a good player, let alone the leader of the Boston Celtics.
The season opener looked hopeless. Facing off against the Cavaliers, in Cleveland no less, Boston lost its marquee free agent when forward Gordon Hayward went down with a season ending injury just minutes into the game. Nobody expected Kyrie Irving to come through in such a moment. To many basketball pundits, “Uncle Drew” went from the point guard who won the championship for Cleveland in 2016 to a point guard who was just average without the King as a teammate.
Though Boston lost that opening contest against Cleveland, Irving and the Celtics have adjusted since losing Hayward and now own the best record in the NBA with an 8-game winning streak.
Boston is still playing like the team they were expected to be, even without Gordon. Players have stepped up and played their roles very effectively. But the reason for Boston’s early success is Kyrie Irving.
There has been nothing but positive changes in the play of Kyrie since being a Celtic. Irving remains a top tier scorer and one of the best point guards in the NBA. While his point per game average has decreased slightly, he can still score and finish better than anyone, and is always there with the best handles in the league. He will always make the right pass and is bringing out the best in all the young players surrounding him.
Of course, the change everyone wants to discuss is on the defensive end.
Since being incorporated into Brad Stevens’ game plan, Kyrie has been able to effectively guard everyone he is matched up with. He has broken up passes, made a few blocks, and is second in the NBA in steals per game right now. Who would’ve guessed that Kyrie Irving would be playing defense at a rate that could put him in the running for an All-Defensive Team?
This is a change Celtics fans have wanted for so long as now Boston is ranked 1st in the league in overall defense. Boston are holding opponents to no more than 95 points a game. The rebounding has been much better as a whole as well. This is all a result of the energy Kyrie Irving is bringing.
Most importantly, Kyrie is being a true leader. When he is playing well, the rest of the team is playing well, when he isn’t, neither is the team. This is a sign of a leader. His energy controls the game. This was on display when the Celtics played against the heavily favored Oklahoma City Thunder, with Westbrook, George, and Anthony.
The first half Irving only scored 3 points and missed most of the famous mid-range shots and layups he rarely misses. The team failed to play well and were the victims of an 18-point deficit at halftime. By the end of the third quarter that lead was cut to just 4 points. Kyrie scored 22 points in the second half and rallied the rest of the players to get stops defensively and have effective plays on the offensive side that led to a comeback win and the 7th straight victory.
The Boston Celtics have been underrated, but it appears that is all about to change as Kyrie Irving is proving everyone wrong. Be on the lookout for him and his Celtics as the season goes on.