NBA free agency is still about a month and a half away. But, it officially started for Kyrie Irving last night. The Celtics and Irving laid down and let the Bucks walk over them on their way to the East Finals. This was pretty much written in stone after game 4. The Bucks ripped the Celtics apart and all but sewed up the series. Last night was simply needed to get the clinching win for Milwaukee.
And man was Irving bad, on both ends of the floor, after game 1 of this series. He was a zero on defense. It didn’t look like he was even trying. As far as offense, he took a lot of shots, said he should take more, but missed most of them. He was not good when he needed to be his best. He reverted to how he played in Cleveland before LeBron came back.
I do put a good amount of blame on Irving, because he’s the star player and number one option, but he’s not alone. Gordon Hayward was an absolute zero in this series. He played scared. Al Horford is starting to show his age. Giannis bullies him. Terry Rozier didn’t get enough playing time. Jayson Tatum regressed all year. The only guy that looked engaged, and played well, was Jaylen Brown. He looked good.
We also need to re-evaluate Brad Stevens. He may not be the boy wonder some thought. This was, by far, his best roster, and they choked harder than ever. Stevens deserves as much blame as credit he got when the Celtics overachieved. He allowed all of this to happen. He also proved he cannot handle big stars. That was the biggest take away I got from his coaching this year.
But, back to their big time free agent. I know Horford is a free agent, and he’s very important to this team. But, he’s not Irving. Some team is going to go after Irving, and go after him hard. He is a wizard with the ball. He can create with the best of them. He is a solid passer. When engaged, he plays okay enough defense. But, the way he played in these last 4 games, or the whole year, and how he’s treated his teammates and the media, I’d be a little hesitant to back up the truck for him. He is such an enticing player, and he’s still relatively young. But his attitude, the stuff he says, the way he acts towards teammates, his willingness to leave when it doesn’t go his way, all of that makes me pause. All of that would make me think twice. Two years ago, after demanding his trade from Cleveland, when he landed in Boston, he seemed so happy. He seemed like he was going to be there for awhile. He was finally back to being “the guy”. Two years later, he’s already ready to leave. In October he wanted to stay, then a month later he said “I don’t owe Boston shit”. Look, I’m stoked when any team from Boston gets bounced early from the playoffs. But, he say two totally opposite things only a month apart, that’s childish. This is why I’d be so hesitant to sign him long term.
Say Irving and KD, who I will write about his injury tomorrow, but man is that a bummer, go to the Knicks. How quick until he’s upset that he’s second fiddle again? KD is a far superior player. I don’t think Irving would be too happy after one season. Let’s say he joins LeBron again in LA. How long until he trashes the youth on that team? Or, how upset would he be if he were the third option behind LeBron and Anthony Davis if they get him? If he signs with the Lakers, they would be disastrous. Say he goes to the Nets. How is that any different than his situation right now in Boston? He’d be done there in one season.
The only team that I think makes a bit of sense is Phoenix. The young core would buckle to his whims. He could help pick a coach. He would be the alpha, no disrespect to Devin Booker, but Irving is better. And he could kind of hide away there. He wouldn’t be all in the media for the first time in his career, which I think would be great for him. He could stay away from social media and simply focus on basketball. That is truly the only team I think he would stay and help.
We will have to wait to see until July 1, and I cannot wait. But, Irving did not help himself at all thus post season. If anything, he only hurt his stock and I’d think twice before offering him a max this offseason.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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