There’s a point that seems to be getting missed by those who’ve responded to Kyrie Irving’s potential departure with a chorus of “good riddance” ... I had it a second ago, but it appears to have slipped my mind.
Oh, yeah: He’s really good at basketball.
I’m certainly not here to defend the his rather interesting concept of leadership and how it damaged what was already a tenuous balancing act on a roster with too many agendas.
And I can see, too, how it must have looked from a Celtic fan’s perspective to try to follow his statements from day to day. Hey, I had to listen to that stuff and transcribe it — and attempt to translate it. And I can tell you some of his teammates were left similarly incredulous by a number of his comments.
But the man can play, and anyone says otherwise is letting emotion overrule reason. It takes more than talent to win in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a talent league.
And that’s why the Celtics, after dealing with the mercurial Irving over the course of the year, are still trying to throw a hail Kyrie pass. In the face of evidence that he’s about to leave as a free agent, the club is holding on tight to its chip and a chair at the poker table, hoping the cards break right for them.
It’s easy to understand why. The Celtics are in the business of winning. All NBA teams are. (Well, most.) And the shortest distance between where the Celts are now and an 18th championship for the franchise would be to retain Irving and surround him with a more complementary roster.
And this wouldn’t mean role players, although the C’s could use a few people who are more willing to accept their job description. It could be another star that Irving respects enough to share the high-level workload, sort of the way Kyrie was talking about the pre-injury Gordon Hayward.
Absent the effects of injury and age, skill is a constant for those who possess gifts and work hard to maintain them (Irving most certainly does). If the skill is present and the results do not meet expectation, the first course of action is to consider changing the environment. Designing an offense or a roster to fit the best player or players isn’t pandering; it’s good business. And it’s done all over the corporate world.
But Fortune 500 companies execute most of these decisions behind closed boardroom doors, not before 19,000 people in an arena, with high definition cameras acting as conduits for scores of others. You don’t have to watch people get fired so a hotshot who’s been producing can get to work with their preferred staff.
So, again, I get those whose exasperation level red-lined with these Irving-led Celtics.
I, too, watched as he lowered his head (and his abundant basketball IQ) and drove into Milwaukee traffic, shooting 30.1 percent and taking the Celts out of what little flow they had left at that stage. I saw him average 1.6 fewer assists and commit an extra turnover from his regular season marks over that stretch.
But over this full season and in years past I also saw him make plays that maybe no one else in the NBA could. And I heard Brad Stevens acknowledge the luxury of having a player who could create a scoring opportunity when everything else had broken down around him.
In that regard, Irving’s failure to do so against the Bucks was beyond mind-boggling. I heard him speak confidently after the Game 2 loss about knowing how he’d messed up and understanding how to correct it.
When there was more of the same silliness in Game 3 back at the Garden, it was clear that he and the Celtics were broken individually and collectively in a way that wasn’t about to be fixed in time to stave off summer.
But to think the problems will be solved by the best player leaving — WITH NOTHING IN RETURN — is ludicrous.
It’d be throwing your 60-inch ultra HD television out a fifth-story window late in the third period of Bruins-Blues Game 7. You don’t have to watch the rest of that mess, but what are you going to do for a TV now?
And even if you could afford a replacement, Best Buy doesn’t stock Kyrie Irvings on its shelves.