BOSTON – Kyrie Irving is on the opposite coast from Phoenix’s Devin Booker. They play for two franchises that are trending heavily in two completely opposite directions.
And yet as you listen to Irving talk about Booker following Boston’s 116-111 win, it is clear he feels a certain kinship with Booker.
For starters, both came into the NBA as teenagers and didn’t take much time to show that they not only belonged, but could dominate for long stretches.
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They also share the same face-of-the-franchise struggles to win games that come about for teenagers upon entering the league who are high draft picks.
On Saturday, Booker scored 38 points on an efficient 16-for-29 shooting night, with four rebounds and five assists.
His team lost.
Last season, Booker dropped 70 points on the Celtics and they lost, too, by double-digits even.
There is madness, anger and a wide range of emotions that Booker is dealing with as the losses mount, and Irving knows all too well how difficult that pill can be to swallow for a player who has shown other-worldly talent at an early stage of their career. .
He spent six seasons in Cleveland before being traded to Boston, but the first three years with the Cavs each ended with a losing season and no playoff berths. The fortunes of the Cavs did not turn around until LeBron James returned.
Still, that doesn’t diminish the tough times when losses steadily pile up regardless of how well the best player performs.
It creates an expectation and burden of sorts, whereby Booker is seen as the solution when the team wins, and the person to blame when they lose when in fact neither one of those outcomes occurs solely based upon an individual's play.
“Everyone is going to pinpoint whether it be your defense, whether it be the shots that you’re taking, whether it’s the pass that you’re not making, they’ll find something,” Irving said. “I feel like he’s doing an incredible job of staying the course.
Irving added, “He already has that mentality of being a killer. He already … is a great player in this league. Now it’s just getting pieces around him in order to be at a high level to showcase that. He can not only score, he can rebound, he can pass. You can see him; when he goes against the high-level teams, you can see that he raises his game to another level. That’s a telltale sign of a great player who can have that consistency for years. Obviously, you guys can see I’m a fan. I’ve been watching him for a while.”
So has Boston’s Jaylen Brown who spent time on Saturday defending Booker.
“He doesn’t have a conscious. He can shoot it with no remorse,” Brown said. “He can let it fly whenever he wants and he’s really good. He has a green light and that’s what makes it tough. He can shoot it whenever at whatever time and he’s actually really good. He’s a really talented scorer.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had similar comments about Booker.
“He’s a good player and the other thing is, I think he’s got a great opportunity as a young guy to be their go-to guy every single night,” Stevens said. “And he takes advantage of it; he’s a heck of a player.”