Celtics

Scout: Drew will be an everyday player

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Scout: Drew will be an everyday player

With the departure of Mike Aviles in October, it appearedthe shortstop job would be Jose Iglesias to lose. Now, it appears the job belongs to StephenDrew.The Red Sox signed Drew to a one-year, 9.5 million contract,first reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com Monday morning. The Sox have yetto officially announce the deal.In 2012, Drew appeared in a combined 79 games betweenArizona and Oakland, which acquired him in a trade Aug. 20. He hit .223, with a.309 on-base percentage, and .348 slugging percentage, all career lows. In 75 games at shortstop, he posted a .972fielding percentage, also a career low, off his .978 career average and .984career best in 2010. Drew had a career-worst 0-for-22 streak between theDiamondbacks and As.The 79 games were the fewest in his career for a fullseason, behind only 59 in 2006 when he made his big-league debut July 15. Drewdid not appear in a game last season until June 27, missing the first 73 gameswhile recovering from a broken ankle he suffered July 20, 2011, when he wasthrown out sliding into home plate against the Brewers.Drew, who turns 30 in March, was the Diamondbacksfirst-round (15th overall) pick in 2004 out of Florida State. Over seven major league seasons, he has posteda career .265 average, with a .328 OBP, and .433 SLG. His most productiveseason was arguably 2008, when hit .291 with 21 home runs, and 67 RBI in 152games, all career highs.He didnt have spectacular numbers in 2012, but hesgoing to do the job at shortstop, said one scout. Hes going to be an everyday, make-the-playtype of guy. Nothing sensational. I think the big question with him is his batgoing to come back.Another question: Is his ankle fully recovered?I think thats going to be somewhat lingering, said thescout. But he adjusted to having it not in the best of shape by positioning alittle better. The range that he had,that may come back. But he became a smarter player. I think a lot of players,when they get hurt they dont know how to deal with it. But hes always been areal baseball player.Drew is a left-handed hitter, giving the Sox some morebalance to a lineup that was becoming predominantly right-handed.I think with the wall there, he can go the other way, hecan take the ball the other way, said the scout. To a left-handed hitter that wall, that canmake guys, if they know how to go the other way with a pitch, that can add20-30 points to their normal average. Andyou dont have to be a power guy to play wall ball. I think hell do fine.He can catch the ball. He can throw it across the infield.Hes a left-handed hitter whos had an average offensive production-typecareer, and he can take the ball the other way.So, I think thats a good bet that hes going to have a good year.Drew is the younger brother of J.D. Drew, who played rightfield for the Sox for five seasons before retiring after the 2011 season. Bothare represented by Scott Boras. J.D.Drew at times drew the ire of Sox fans for what was perceived as lack ofintensity or urgency.As far as the media, Stephen is kind of a quiet, reservedguy, very much like J.D, said the scout, who followed Stephen Drew closelyearly in his career. Its been a few years, but he seemed to be more outgoingthan J.D. I think hes going to know howto handle things. Hes a pro.The addition of Drew seems to signal the Sox dont thinkIglesias is ready for the big leagues. In 25 games with the Sox in 2012, Iglesias hit just.118, going 8-for-68, with just two extra-base hits -- a home run and two doubles -- two RBI, and fiveruns scored. He struck out 16 times withjust four walks. The defense ofIglesias, who turns 23 on Jan. 5, has never been in doubt since the Sox signedthe Cuban defector in 2009. It is his offense that continues to be doubted.Iglesias cant hit. I hope the Sox dont think thats asecret, said the scout. Sometimes its treated that way in the industry, buthe cant hit. Hes really, really a great defender. But you cant put a bat inhis hands and he cant steal first base.Hes got tools but he doesnt have a toolbox.

Since joining Celtics, Irving has grown into complete player

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Since joining Celtics, Irving has grown into complete player

BOSTON – For most of this NBA season, the narrative surrounding the Celtics has centered around the maturity of their young players.

Well, there's a much bigger tale of growth on this team. But we're not talking about rookie Jayson Tatum or second-year wing Jaylen Brown.

We're talking about Kyrie Irving, whose desire for growth fueled his decision to want out of Cleveland this past offseason.

And that growth has in turn sparked the Celtics to what has been an unprecedented run of success.

"He's doing things that we never saw when he was in Cleveland," one league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. "He always had great talent, but could he lead a really good team? I think we got our answer now."

The Celtics (16-2) boast the best record in the NBA, which is amazing when you consider Gordon Hayward broke his ankle less than five minutes into the season opener. Not to mention they lost their first two games.

Literally all they've done since then is win.

Boston's 16 straight victories is an NBA record after losing the first two games of the season. The winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest in franchise history.

And while the pieces to Boston's success vary, the man whose growth has been at the epicenter of the Celtics' emergence as a title contender has been Irving.

You can count Mike Brown, Irving's former coach in Cleveland, among those impressed with the growth in Irving on all levels.

"To see Kyrie taking ownership of not only little things offensively, but even on the other end of the floor, leadership and all that other stuff ... I'm happy for him, I'm excited for him," Brown, now an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, told NBC Sports Boston. 

While his numbers have taken a slight dip here in Boston, Irving seems to be better in tune with what he needs to do to positively impact the play of his teammates and the team as a whole.

In Boston's 110-102 overtime win at Dallas on Monday, Irving had 47 points, the most he's scored as a Celtic.

His scoring binge included 10 points in overtime. 

And when talking about his monster scoring night, Irving provides a clue as to how his approach to the game has changed over the years in terms of scoring.

Irving described his breakout scoring night as something that "was called upon," adding: "I don't think I needed to score over 20 or 25 in particular games. So I think if you would have asked me that question probably a few years ago, I would probably tell you that I would definitely be trying to get 40."

Earlier this season, Irving talked about developing some bad habits early in his career because his primary goal, like most high draft picks, was to get buckets. That frequently led to the ball sticking in his hands too long, or him having to force up shots and not getting his teammates involved as much as he should have.

While some chalked it up to him being a selfish player, Brown saw it differently.

"A lot of it was his youth, which is more than understandable," said Brown, who coached Irving in Cleveland during the 2013-14 season. "When he first came into the league, he had played 11 games in college. Before that with high school and AAU, for a guy that talented, it was pretty easy for him. He could go out and get 40 and win and not have to focus on anything else."

Brown recalls one of the early challenges with Irving was getting him to get his teammates involved more consistently.

"One of the things I used to always hit him with, he can score and finish in a crowd like no other, especially at his size," Brown recalled. "He draws a lot of attention. I always used to tell him, whether it's the strong-side or the weak-side, guys in the corners are wide open when you dribble-penetrate because you are such a dangerous finisher."

There would be film study to illustrate this point. It would show just how easily Irving would get to various spots on the floor by breaking his defender down or splitting an upcoming double team. But it would also show that when he made his moves in traffic, far too often his head would be down, which is why he wasn't finding teammates open.

Brown pointed this out as an area Irving needed to get better at if he were going to continue ascending up the point-guard stratosphere in the NBA.

"And you know, he got a little better at it," Brown said. 

Today?

"I tell you right now, he's a double-edged sword," Brown said. "Now, not only can he finish in traffic, now he's finding guys in the strong-corner. He's finding guys in the weak corner. And he's finding guys that are in the slots above the corner on the wing. To see him make that pass with such ease and precision right now, at least for me it's a joy. It's a joy for me because it's something I knew he could do. As a young man in high school and AAU, he's probably thinking, score, score, score. So that's not something he developed growing up, at least he didn't show to me. Now to see him do it, it's beautiful."

It certainly has been for the Celtics, who are off to their best start under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens. Stevens has found a way to blend his system, which is heavily predicated on ball movement offensively and the ability to switch frequently on defense, with Irving's immense individual talent. So far at least, has been a good fit for all involved.

"Kyrie is trying to do his role to the best of his ability," Stevens said. "Obviously, his role garners a lot of attention because he scores the ball and he has those moments where he mesmerizes everybody with his ability to score the ball and handle the ball and stuff. He's trying to do all the little things. It's a brand new system. There's going to continue to be an adjustment period for him. But he's done a good job."

Listening to Irving talk following the win over Dallas, it's clear there's a considerable amount of thought on his part given to how he'll attack defenses even though we're talking about split-second, on-the-fly decisions.

"It just happens," Irving said when asked about his best scoring night as a Celtic. "Just the flow of the game, understanding where spacing is, where the shot is going to come from, when it's time to put the foot on the gas pedal, being aggressive and take advantage of certain things I was seeing out there. But my teammates did a great job of continuing to pressure the basketball."

And he continues to provide both strong play and leadership, which have moved the needle closer to him achieving what he was seeking when he asked the Cavs to trade him during the offseason.

"This was literally a decision that I wanted to make solely based on my happiness and pushing my career forward," he said earlier this season.

Watching him inside the Celtics locker room and on the floor, it's clear that he's having a good time out there.

And his career going forward? 

Irving's impact on winning has positioned him to where a strong case can be made for him being a top-5 league MVP candidate.

Following the Dallas win, Irving was serenaded by fans chanting, "M-V-P! M-V-P'" which certainly brought a smile to his face and was somewhat unexpected considering Boston was on the road.

"It's pretty awesome," Irving said of the chants. "But we got a long way to go."

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