Celtics

Kyrie Irving actually did Celtics a huge favor by not re-signing in Boston

Kyrie Irving actually did Celtics a huge favor by not re-signing in Boston

BOSTON — Just hearing the name Kyrie Irving around these parts has a way of making the most level-headed Green Teamer get all red in the face with anger.

That’s not surprising when you consider the circumstances that led to his departure. 

We have heard a kazillion reasons/explanations/justifications from folks on why he left, but it all comes back to one thing … he didn’t want to be here anymore. 

Period. 

And while losing a player with his skill level is a tough blow, Irving actually did the Celtics and their fans a huge, huge favor in bolting this summer. 

As we’ve seen in recent weeks, several players on this roster from last season have blossomed into being more than just high-end role players, which on many nights was the role they were expected to play alongside Irving. 

That improvement that we’ve seen in so many of the Celtics players wasn’t going to happen if Irving had re-signed. 

In fact, there’s a very good chance at least one of Boston’s promising young wings — Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown — would have been traded, knowing that their growth wasn’t going to mesh well with Irving’s game — and for that matter, the team’s chances at great success. 

We’ve already seen that trailer and the movie play out last season, which ended with the Celtics among the NBA’s biggest underachievers. 

A repeat of that below-the-radar dysfunction was not an option heading into this season. 

So, when Irving made it clear he wasn’t coming back, there wasn’t a huge effort on the Celtics' part to try and convince him to change his mind.

They had been around Irving long enough to know that he was leaning towards bolting well before July came, and there was nothing they could do or say that was going to change his mind or at least get him to reconsider signing a long-term deal to stay in Boston.  

Because as much as they respected him as a player and believed in his talents, they had seen enough to know that the combination of Irving’s game and the team’s bevy of talented-but-thirsty-for-more youngsters wasn’t going to work. 

It would require a level of change and accountability for all involved — Irving included — to get past the issues that torpedoed this team’s chances at being the last team standing in the East while competing for an NBA title last season. 

So, as we gear up for what could have been Irving’s first shot at facing his old team when Boston hosts Brooklyn on Wednesday, that’s not going to happen with the Nets having already ruled him out due to a shoulder injury which sidelined him for Brooklyn’s past six games. 

No one questions the validity of the injury, but conspiracy theorists are having a field day with it.

It doesn’t matter. 

Because as much as fans are longing for the opportunity to boo him incessantly upon his return to the TD Garden, fans need to enjoy the fact that Boston brought in a more than capable replacement in Kemba Walker, that the team is winning way more than most anticipated this early in the season, and that players are steadily improving while showing the potential to grow into even more prominent roles both on the team and in the NBA. None of those things would have come about had Irving wanted to stay. 

So as upsetting as his departure was for many, Irving did all Celtics fans a huge solid in leaving on his terms. 

Get ready for Celtics-Nets Wednesday night with Celtics Pregame Live at 6 p.m., then check in with Halftime Live and wrap it up after the game with Celtics Postgame Live, all on NBC Sports Boston or stream them here through the MyTeams App.

Marcus Smart, Celtics fire back at Jazz fans who booed Gordon Hayward

Marcus Smart, Celtics fire back at Jazz fans who booed Gordon Hayward

Utah Jazz fans are still salty over Gordon Hayward's 2017 departure.

And Hayward's Boston Celtics teammates aren't above rubbing salt in their wounds.

Jazz fans heartily booed Hayward on Wednesday night in his second trip back to Vivint Smart Home Arena since leaving Utah to sign with the Celtics in 2017.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

But Boston got the last laugh in a 114-103 victory, and after the game, several C's players said those boos motivated them to win on Hayward's behalf.

"It was huge. Gordon has worked his tail off,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart told reporters, as aired on NBC Sports Boston. “It always feels good to come back where you started and to hear that crowd booing and to come out and win."

"They can't say anything."

Added Jayson Tatum, who led all scorers with 33 points, "I’m happy we got this win for G."

Celtics big man Enes Kanter, who was drafted by the Jazz and spent three-plus seasons as Hayward's teammate from 2011 to 2015, had a bit more to say for Utah fans heckling his teammate.

"One thing about Gordon, before he’s a good basketball player, he’s a really good teammate," Kanter said. "So it’s just a little silly that he gets all the boos still. I don’t think it’s hate anymore. It’s just, they’re just enjoying it."

Hayward was the Jazz's franchise player before signing a maximum contract with Boston, so he'll likely still hear boos every time he returns to Utah.

The 29-year-old had a relatively quiet homecoming --12 points on 4-of-12 shooting -- and didn't speak to reporters after the game, but his Celtics teammates did the talking for him, both on and off the court.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Rockets-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Jazz Takeaways: Tatum gets his again, but C's spread it around

Celtics-Jazz Takeaways: Tatum gets his again, but C's spread it around

Kemba Walker missing games this season has drawn more attention to his Boston Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum. 

When that happens, it puts a greater premium on those around Tatum to elevate their play and make teams pay for focusing on the All-Star. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Tatum, who had 33 points in the C's 114-103 win over Utah, is on the kind of scoring binge that has set him apart not just from his teammates, but from most of the top players in the NBA. 

His play set the tone for Boston’s strong start against Utah, but the Jazz got back into the game and made it a back-and-forth tussle for most the final three quarters. 

The Celtics began to separate themselves in the fourth, getting solid contributions from bench players at both ends of the floor to pull away for another win - their 11th in their past 13. 

Here are a few takeaways from a solid win that closes a strong 3-1 trip west:

WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR C'S? A LOT

Jaylen Brown was one of the most outspoken Celtics when it came to talking about the need for players to do a better job of supporting Tatum when he has it going offensively. 

Brown was more than up to the challenge, finishing with 20 points, including 10 points in a third quarter that ended with the Celtics clinging to a three-point lead. 

The Celtics have the kind of roster where the offensive pecking order will fluctuate from game-to-game. Still, Brown has consistently shown he's the kind of player who makes the most of an increased opportunity and Wednesday was no exception. 

Indeed, it has worked out well for Boston this season and will need to continue to be part of who they are going forward. 

PLAYING (MARCUS) SMART DOWN THE STRETCH

Marcus Smart makes shots in the fourth quarter. Marcus Smart makes shots in the fourth quarter. It’s worth repeating because, for some reason, Celtics opponents consistently leave him wide open. 

And to Smart’s credit, he continues to make the opposition pay when it matters most. 

Smart had 17 points, nine in the fourth quarter. He also led the Celtics with nine assists.

Knocking down shots in the fourth is something that Smart does consistently. Now, those shots are coming with even less resistance because of the added attention being paid to Tatum. 

INSIDE JOB BY BOSTON

Much is made of Boston’s lack of bigs, and yet they continue to do what teams with size do: generate points in the paint. 

Boston won the paint battle against Utah, outscoring the Jazz 56-46 in the paint in addition to out-rebounding them, 44-41. 

The Celtics have consistently mixed up their inside scoring coming from drives and post-ups, a good mix that has kept defenses off balance and in many instances, incapable of slowing them down. 

Having multiple guys who can finish at the rim while creating their own shot, poses a great challenge to most defenses. 

And maybe most important, it has given the Celtics exactly what they are seeking every night: a win. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Rockets-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.