Kyrie Irving. Buckets.
It’s hard to imagine one without the other, in an NBA game.
While Irving reserves all rights to unleash the offensive firepower that has made him a perennial all-star most of his NBA career, he’s here to tell you that he will be the last one trippin’ over nights like Saturday when he tallied an atypical stat line of just three points scored.
It was only the fifth time in Irving’s career in which he has scored three points or less in an NBA game.
Of course, Irving would love to score more points.
It’s something the 26-year-old has proven himself to be really good at, for a long time.
But this Celtics team … it’s different.
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And the role Irving has to play in order for the Celtics to be their best, requires him to adapt his game at times in a way that may not be all that pleasing to Kyrie Irving fantasy league owners out there.
It is indeed an adjustment, one that Irving admits is very much a work in progress on his part.
“The clear realization is this is not what I’m used to,” Irving said after Boston’s 109-89 win at Detroit. “Going from being a high PPG (points per game) scorer, being stat-dominated and coming to this type of environment where the best thing for us is to care about the team. It’s not going to be everyone’s night every single night, but I know that when it gets down the stretch, when I’m needed I’ll be ready. So, it’s a learning experience for me.”
Irving embracing the idea that sometimes less scoring is more beneficial to the team’s overall success, and speaks to his own personal growth as a player.
As the leader of this team, it's also yet another way in which Irving is showing the kind of leadership that he has never really had a chance to exhibit, particularly with a team that has the kind of depth and talent of this Celtics squad.
And as we saw in Saturday’s blowout win, Irving knows how to impact the game in ways besides scoring, as he tallied five assists along with seven rebounds.
“This is one of the most talented if not the most talented team I’ve ever played with,” Irving said. “It’s just getting those guys open shots and making the right play.”
And it is that latter point raised by Irving -- making the right play -- which has to be at the heart of his decision-making as it relates to this team.
“It’s easy to go back and be selfish and care about the outside world and what they want you to do,” Irving said. “It’s even harder to learn on a day-to-day basis of how to be a better teammate, a better player. These guys look to me for emotional relief. If I’m out there being distressed, we’re all going to be distressed so for me I try to be cool as much as possible.”
And sometimes cool means getting others involved, playing the role of decoy knowing there are others who can step up like Daniel Theis (17 points, eight rebounds), Marcus Morris (18 points, eight rebounds) or Irving’s backup Terry Rozier (14 points, seven rebounds).
“Everyone is used to me scoring this-amount of points or doing this at a certain standard and so am I,” Irving said. “The important thing is us winning games and getting to the (NBA) Finals. So, that’s where it is.”
Welcome to Kyrie Irving’s New Basketball World Order where the days of him being a night-in, night-out high scorer may be in the past. Instead of focusing on scoring a ton of points, Irving seems locked into making just one point every night – to win even if it means scoring less.
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