Kyrie Irving

Celtics Notes: Irving, Horford, Hayward, Rozier

No matter how it affects the Celtics‘ playoff seeding, Kyrie Irving plans to take at least a game or two off before the regular season ends, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Irving said at today’s shootaround that he is focused on being fully healthy for the postseason, which begins three weeks from Saturday.

“I’m definitely taking some games off before the playoffs,” he told reporters. “Makes no sense, the emphasis on these regular games, when you’re gearing up for some battles coming in the playoffs.”

Coach Brad Stevens has talked about resting Al Horford, who has pain in his left knee, and agrees that health heading into the postseason should be the team’s priority.

“I think this is the bottom line: If we choose to rest Al in a game, or Kyrie in a game, then we have other guys who should be able to step up and play well, and they’re approaching that as a great opportunity for those other guys, too,” Stevens said.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Gordon Hayward is making progress in the concussion protocol and could be ready to play by this weekend, Murphy adds in the same piece. Hayward, who was injured Saturday, worked on the treadmill yesterday and will be evaluated tomorrow. “Every indication is that he felt OK today,” Stevens said. “But he will go to the doctor in Boston (Thursday). If he’s cleared to go, he’ll go through the next steps and keep on going.”
  • During a recent radio interview, Terry Rozier discussed the problem of having too many players who feel like they can take over games, relays John Karalis of MassLive. Rozier admits that getting players to accept their roles has been an ongoing problem. “When you’re playing on a team you’re dealing with different types of personalities,” he said, “but now you’re dealing with so many different guys that feel like they the man, and now it’s like, how do you handle that?”
  • President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is looking on the bright side of a season that most observers consider disappointing, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Heavy favorites to win the East before the season began, the Celtics entered tonight in fifth place at 43-28. “There’s been a few games here and there when we’ve played really well,” Ainge said. “It’s like you take one step forward and take a step backward, and then you take two steps forward and take another step back. But I feel like there’s a lot of good things I see on our team.”

Kyrie: “The Way I’ve Handled Things Hasn’t Been Perfect”

Having assumed a leadership role in Boston after playing second fiddle to LeBron James for years in Cleveland, Kyrie Irving has made a handful of eyebrow-raising comments to the media this season. Over the last several months, Irving has called out his younger teammates, expressed the need for a 15-year veteran in the locker room, and walked back a preseason promise to re-sign with the Celtics.

Looking back on the season in a conversation with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Irving admitted that he hasn’t always taken the best approach in his attempts to set an example for his teammates and get the Celtics on the right track.

“The way I’ve handled things, it hasn’t been perfect,” Irving said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes that I take full responsibility for. I apologize. I haven’t done it perfectly. I haven’t said the right things all the time. I don’t want to sit on a place like I’m on a pedestal from anybody. I’m a normal human being that makes mistakes. For me, I think because of how fixated I was on trying to prove other people wrong, I got into a lot of habits that were bad, like reading stuff and reacting emotionally. That’s just not who I am.”

It has been an up-and-down season in Boston, and many of Irving’s most noteworthy comments have come after bad Celtics losses. However, with the club seemingly at a low point after losing for the fifth time in six games last Sunday, a cross-country flight to California provided an opportunity for the team to reset and bond, as Jay King of The Athletic details.

While it’s not clear if Irving offered a similar mea culpa to his teammates on that flight, King writes that the star point guard helped improve the mood surrounding the club by playing music, card games, and dice games during the trip to the Bay Area. Head coach Brad Stevens, Irving, and several other members of the club have pointed to that trip as a positive turning point for the Celtics, who have since won road games over the Warriors, Kings, and Lakers.

“It’s a long flight across the country, everybody’s getting their headphones on or whatever,” Al Horford said, per King. “And (Irving) just started talking, and then he was like, ‘Hey, let’s play cards.’ And we just got to talking. I just think that his energy in all that, that kind of brought us together as a group. And that carried over to that practice the next day in San Francisco, which I thought was a really good one, and then that shootaround before the game was really good as well, really focused. But it all started with the plane ride.”

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the recent good vibes surrounding the Celtics will continue all season, or that they’ll translate to postseason success. But for now, at least, the energy around the club seems more positive — even if Irving made it clear that some of his complaints about how the media manufactures drama still stand.

“I just want to make sure this locker room understands who I am and what I represent,” Irving told Haynes. “I’m trying to make sure that they set a great example for young players that are coming after them as well. Like I said, I haven’t said the right things and done all the right things, and I don’t ever want to compare myself to perfection. But I can tell that I’m definitely learning from the older players, the players that are my age and the younger players on how to deal with the evolution of just media. It’s a platform now, it’s an entire industry that bothers a lot of people, entertainers, athletes.

“… This is the responsibility that I have. I’m done complaining about it. I have feelings about it, but I’m not going keep badgering the media, keep badgering other people, keep badgering this or that. It’s about moving forward and keeping my sanctuary as safe as possible. As long as I go out there and handle my business, I don’t have anything else to worry about. As long as I go out there and do my thing and make sure my teammates are playing well and their spirits are right, I’m doing my job.”

Kyrie Irving Talks LeBron James, Embracing Role In Boston

To label Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving as a mercurial presence in Boston this season would be an understatement. The point guard has garnered huge attention due to a streaky Celtics team, an uncertain future in Boston, his public comments, and his impending free agency.

At times, Irving has expressed frustration with his team and its inconsistent performance. Other situations have called for Irving to answer – and in many cases – deflect questions about his plans this summer. Despite all of that, the Celtics remain a lock for the postseason with Irving, a player with NBA Finals experience.

In a recent interview with Joe Vardon of The Athletic (subscription required), Irving discussed his season in Boston, getting used to negativity and his former teammate LeBron James‘ adjustment to the Lakers. Here are a few highlights:

On LeBron James’ first season in Los Angeles…

“You’re coming to a team like that and you have a lot of the responsibility, and you come back in the middle of the regular season, it’s hard because now other teams are gearing up for the playoffs, that next level of play. Bron knows about it, (Rajon) Rondo knows about it, but Kuz (Kyle Kuzma) and Brandon Ingram, he’s trying to teach these guys well about what it takes to win consistently in this league.”

On the adjustment to being the superstar on a contending team…

“It’s a little maniacal at times and a bit repetitive because you get asked the same questions about the regular season and we all know that, all that goes out the window once you get to to the playoffs. The thing that matters the most is how connected you are as a team heading into the postseason. … The deal that I had to become aware of, that I was signing up for, was like once you become one of the most coveted guys in the league, you’re signing up for basically, like you’re going to be attacked for the rest of your career. You’re going to be praised. You’re going to be brought up, you’re going to be brought down because that’s just the nature of the business.”

On his confidence as a leader…

“My confidence runs deep regardless, but especially when it’s at the highest point of competition, it’s when I did my best. I haven’t had the best games in the Finals sometimes. I haven’t had the best games in the playoffs. I’ve definitely been through some ups and downs. But I think that experience and that carryover from taking (the championship), from the opportunity of being in Cleveland and then taking (the experience) to Boston gives me my confidence in my teammates now.”

Celtics Notes: Lineup, Irving, Ojeleye, Rozier

After snapping a four-game losing streak on Friday vs. Washington, the Celtics suffered another home loss on Sunday against the Rockets. The game once again left Boston’s players and coaches grasping for answers, with Kyrie Irving and head coach Brad Stevens both suggesting that the C’s simply have to “play better,” as Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com relays.

While there has been an assumption for much of the season that the Celtics will eventually figure things out and hit their stride, there are only 18 games left in their regular season schedule, and time is running out, writes Bontemps. Some league observers believe Boston needs to shake up its starting five, but Stevens isn’t sure it’s that simple.

“You know, obviously, we’ll look at everything,” Stevens said. “We’ve been looking at everything after every game. Every night when you go to bed, every minute when you wake up, you’re always thinking about that. There’s things that — that are helpful in that, and things that are not helpful. And if it’s the root of your issues, then I think the — then a small tweak can help. I’m not sure that that’s our root [problem].”

Here’s more from out of Boston:

  • Second-year forward Semi Ojeleye, who isn’t even a regular part of the rotation, made an effort to motivate his teammates on Sunday, yelling at them in a third-quarter huddle to “wake the f–k up,” as Jay King of The Athletic details. The Celtics were down by 28 points at the time. “Making or missing shots isn’t going to determine our wins or losses,” Ojeleye said after the game. “It’s really about effort right now. And I was just trying to tell guys to wake up. The look on everybody’s faces was like we already lost the game, and it was the start of the third quarter.”
  • Both King and Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer pointed to Marcus Morriscomments from last month about things not being “fun” this season in Boston, suggesting that the team’s demeanor on and off the court continues to line up with that sentiment. King writes that recent opponents have noticed the Celtics’ tension on the court, while O’Connor wonders if the club’s identity this season has become “discontent.”
  • Source around the team tell O’Connor that Irving’s persona has changed since around the start of February, and that he has become more “disengaged and detached from those around the team.” Of course, as O’Connor observes, February 1 was the day that Kyrie was asked again about his upcoming free agency and replied that he doesn’t “owe anybody s–t.”
  • League sources tell O’Connor that the Suns offered a protected first-round pick for Terry Rozier before the season, but Boston wanted an unprotected first-rounder.

Smart: Celtics “Just Not Together” During Losses

The Celtics lost their third straight game on Tuesday, falling in embarrassing fashion to the Raptors in Toronto. While the final score was 118-95, the game wasn’t even really that close — at one point, Boston trailed by 31 points.

As the Celtics struggle to determine why they’ve failed to deliver on lofty preseason expectations so far this season, veteran guard Marcus Smart offered one explanation, writes Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com. In Smart’s view, the C’s are “just not together” during their increasingly common slumps.

“What are the main ingredients to those collapses? Not being together,” Smart said. “And that’s it. We’re just not together. Plain and simple. That’s it. Because if we were together, that wouldn’t happen. We’re all talking and linking up, but like I said, it’s something we’re going through, and it’s something we’re going to have to continue to work at and figure it out.”

Meanwhile, head coach Brad Stevens shared his own thoughts on what’s causing the Celtics’ on-court struggles.

“We were taking a lot of shortcuts, and that hurt us,” Stevens said following Tuesday’s loss, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Asked about Smart’s and Stevens’ assessments of the Celtics’ slide, Kyrie Irving didn’t offer much to reporters on Tuesday night. Addressing Smart’s opinion that the C’s aren’t playing “together,” Irving replied, “That’s Marcus’ opinion. I respect it.” When a reporter asked whether Kyrie agreed that the Celtics were taking shortcuts and inquired about what the team might do to fix the issue, the All-Star point guard said, “I don’t know, it’s up to Brad.”

While Hoops Rumors typically doesn’t focus too much on game-to-game results, the ongoing dysfunction in Boston could potentially have a huge impact on the coming offseason. Irving – who was seen talking to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in the locker room after Tuesday’s game, per Himmelsbach – will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and no longer appears fully committed to his preseason vow that he’d re-sign with the Celtics.

If the Celtics don’t get things sorted out by the playoffs and are eliminated in the first or second round, that could help swing Kyrie’s decision. In turn, if Irving leaves, Boston would probably be far less inclined to go all-in for Anthony Davis on the trade market. In other words, the Celtics’ play over the next couple months will be worth watching closely, since it could significantly affect the NBA landscape going forward.

Irving On Viral Video With Durant: “My Life Is My Business”

A viral video of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant — both of whom are set for unrestricted free agency this summer — speaking privately in a hallway during NBA All-Star weekend generated a lot of attention.

Fans on social media speculated both Irving and Durant possibly discussing plans to join the Knicks this summer. New York cleared cap space by trading Kristaps Porzingis earlier this month, creating two max slots. However, Irving said he paid no attention to the social chatter and left the content of his conversation with the Warriors All-Star private.

“Is the internet real for you in your life?” Irving told reporters, including NBC Sports Boston’s A.Sherrod Blakely. “It’s my life, right? It’s two people talking, having a conversation. If it’s the real world, would it be anybody else’s business? It’s a video of someone assuming what we’re talking about, right? Making an opinion about it. So why would I care? Why does that have an impact on my life? Why are you asking me those type of questions? About cooling it off? For what? I don’t get it.”

Both Irving and Durant expressed frustration with the barrage of attention leading into free agency. Given their status as two of the league’s top names, the conversation does not figure to subside until they reach decisions at some point in the summer. As Irving tries to steer Boston in the right direction with the postseason approaching, he said that speculative comments about his future will not concern him.

“What I do with my life is my business. It’s none of yours, none of anybody’s business,” he said. “So it’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of free agency meeting? You get that? Do you get that? And I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all this. I have no connection to all that. Over a video? Every wants to hear athletes talk about (bleep) like this. A video though? To pour water on it? It makes no sense.”

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Green, Rozier, Rose

The Celtics were handed their second loss in a row on Saturday, dropping a 126-116 game to the Bulls at United Center. Boston failed to stop the avalanche caused by Zach LaVine (42 points) and Lauri Markkanen (35 points), bringing their regular-season road record to 14-15.

“It is what it is,” Kyrie Irving said, according to NBC Sports Boston. “Like I said, I don’t get frustrated with this type of stuff anymore. It’s just part of the regular season. In the playoffs where we can plan for a team and prepare for a team, I still don’t see anybody beating us in seven games.”

Irving played his part on Saturday, recording 37 points with 10 assists in 40 minutes of action. But the Celtics were dominated by the Bulls 49-32 on the glass, giving Chicago extra opportunities to score and pull away with an impressive home victory.

“It’s basketball, so we’ve got some figuring out to do,” Irving said, according to NBA.com. “Go back, watch film. Obviously, some effort plays where we really could’ve covered for one another. Just execution on both ends of the floor. Being able to give each other space, make basketball plays, read plays, just play the game at a high level. Obviously, these last two games, we haven’t done that at the level we’ve been capable of. We have to continue to do better.”

Boston holds the fifth-best record in the East at 37-23, currently trailing the No. 1 seed Bucks by 8.5 games. They have 22 more games to position themselves for the postseason.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division today:

  • Raptors guard Danny Green discussed a variety of subjects with HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy, including Toronto’s new additions of Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, the future of Kawhi Leonard, his post-career plans and more. Green is in his first season with the Raptors after spending the last eight years with San Antonio, which included an NBA championship in 2014.
  • The Celtics‘ up-and-down play has generated some internal competition between Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier, who work together to provide some of the most intimidating point guard play in the NBA. “I’ve been saying it since I joined and played with [Irving]…he’s like a big brother that I want everything that he got,” Rozier said, according to Chris Mannix of NBC Sports Boston. “It’s never hating on him or nothing like that, but it’s just I want everything you got. So, I’m going to challenge him every day and he’s going to challenge me.”
  • Former Knicks guard Derrick Rose showed the team he can still play in the Timberwolves’ 115-104 win in Madison Square Garden on Friday. Rose, who’s has a resurgent season with Minnesota, tallied 20 points and three steals off the bench against the Knicks. “It’s great, it’s always great playing here,” Rose said, as relayed by Zach Braziller of the New York Post. “The fans are great here, and I know it felt good just being back in the league and playing the way I normally play, playing with that aggression.”

Poll: Where Will Kyrie Irving Play In 2019/20?

A panel of ESPN’s NBA reporters and analysts were polled this week about the 2019/20 destinations for several key free agents, and the voting results on Kyrie Irving‘s home for next season were of particular interest.

It was less than five months ago that Irving vowed to re-sign with the Celtics in 2019, but in the wake of his more recent comments on free agency (“Ask me July 1”), ESPN’s panel isn’t overly confident that the star point guard will actually remain in Boston — the Celtics received about 53% of the vote, followed by the Knicks, Lakers, and Nets.

While Irving’s long-term NBA home will be a popular topic of discussion between now and July 1, it’s not clear that the 26-year-old himself even knows yet where he’ll play next season. After all, if the Celtics are bounced from the playoffs in the second round by a team like the Bucks or Raptors, Irving’s view on the franchise might be significantly different than if the C’s make a run to the NBA Finals and give the Warriors all they can handle.

If Irving sours on Boston, a move to New York could be appealing. The Nets are further ahead in their rebuild than the Knicks and will have a maximum-salary contract slot available. Of course, the Knicks will have two such slots, which would give Irving the opportunity to bring another star player along with him.

The Lakers have become an increasingly popular hypothetical destination for Irving, given the Lakers’ need for a second star and the efforts Irving and LeBron James have made to mend fences. Still, it’s hard to imagine the two All-Stars teaming up again after how things ended in Cleveland. L.A.’s other team, the Clippers, might make more sense as an Irving destination — they’re ahead of the rival Lakers in the standings this season and could potentially create a path to two max-salary slots.

Of course, there will be other teams with cap room available, but if Irving leaves Boston, those New York and Los Angeles teams look like his most probable suitors.

What do you think? Where will Irving be playing when the 2019/20 season begins? Will he stick with the Celtics, or have there been enough red flags in Boston this season that you expect him to jump ship and get a fresh start somewhere else?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Celtics Notes: A. Davis, Irving, Tatum

When he was interviewed in Charlotte this past weekend about his list of preferred destinations, Anthony Davis said that the Celtics are on that list: “I never said they weren’t on my list.”

However, Davis subsequently added that all 29 teams outside of New Orleans are on his list, which somewhat diminished the impact of him specifically including Boston. Now, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (video link) is reporting that the C’s may not really be on Davis’ short list.

“I’m still told his four-team list of the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, [and] Bucks still exists in that order,” Charania said. “… There are a couple other teams – undisclosed right now – that he would also consider. The Celtics, I’m told, are still not a long-term destination for him in his mind. Where the Celtics stand has not changed despite what Anthony Davis said over the weekend.”

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of Davis’ comments at All-Star Weekend – which were a little all over the place, as Sean Deveney of Sporting News outlines – and Charania’s latest report. The long-term appeal of the Celtics for Davis will likely hinge in large part on whether or not Kyrie Irving sticks around, so AD’s camp might be hedging its bets to prepare for either outcome.

In any case, Davis’ wish list may ultimately not matter a whole lot, as the Pelicans plan to negotiate with any team that wants to get involved in the offseason — not just the four teams Davis views as potential long-term homes.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • In a conversation with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (video link), Kyrie Irving spoke about the Celtics’ up-and-down season, his phone call to LeBron James, and whether his upcoming free agency is a distraction. He was also asked whether he agreed with Marcus Morris‘ contention that it hasn’t been a “fun” season in Boston. “It’s been a trying year for us,” Irving said. “We basically have a bunch of young men in our locker room that feel like they’re capable of doing a lot more than what they’re doing. And that’s okay. But there’s a maturity that you have to have, there’s a professionalism that you have to really showcase every single day, and that’s what the great ones do.”
  • A major player in those Davis trade rumors, Jayson Tatum told ESPN at All-Star weekend that he’d like to play for the Celtics for his entire NBA career. In order to achieve that goal, he may have to prove his value in the coming months, showing why Danny Ainge and the C’s shouldn’t include him in an offer for AD, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.
  • In a separate story for NBC Sports Boston, Forsberg makes the case that the 2018/19 Celtics are a legit contender worthy of fans’ complete attention — even if offseason speculation about Irving, Davis, and the team’s future seems more exciting at the moment.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Marks, Tatum, Irving

The Knicks need to keep on tanking to assure themselves a top five pick in the draft, Steve Popper of Newsday argues. The team with the worst record can’t fall any lower than the fifth pick under the new draft lottery rules, Popper notes, and the Suns currently hold that distinction after New York ended its 18-game losing streak. After the top five players, including Duke’s trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, there’s an apparent dropoff in talent. The team with the second-worst record has a 20% chance of falling to the No. 6 slot, Popper adds.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets have made so much progress over the last three seasons under GM Sean Marks that they’re in play for top-level free agents, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Brooklyn has turned into a playoff-caliber team under Marks’ guidance. “Things surrounding the team probably look a lot more attractive to the outside,” Marks told Lewis. “We’re a more attractive destination. The young guys we know are going to be Nets for the foreseeable future, we’re proud of their development and that’s a pretty good foundation. People have taken notice and said, ‘Hey, I [could] play with that group.”
  • Boston hasn’t played like champions most of the season but one of its young stars says they’ll end up with the Larry O’Brien trophy. Jayson Tatum declared to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (hat tip to Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston) that the Celtics are going all the way. “We’re gonna win the Finals this year,” Tatum said. “Feb. 16, Jayson Tatum says (the Celtics) are going to win the Finals this year.”
  • Kyrie Irving agreed to some extent with Marcus Morris‘ criticism shortly before the All-Star break that the Celtics weren’t playing hard enough or having enough fun, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald relays. Boston won its last two games before the break after Morris’ comments. “Well, I mean, there was some truth into it,” Irving said. “You know, we obviously understand that we have a lot of talent in our locker room, so it’s been a lot to manage. But we’ve come out pretty successful — obviously not as successful as we would like to be, but that’s just overall the attitude that you have to have in order to win in this league.”