Celtics

Kyrie Irving called LeBron James to apologize, ask about leading a young team

Kyrie Irving called LeBron James to apologize, ask about leading a young team

Kyrie Irving admitted he called former teammate LeBron James on Saturday seeking guidance for how to best motivate his younger teammates towards a championship goal.

Irving essentially admitted that he sometimes lost sight of the bigger picture as James’ understudy in Cleveland but now needs help in trying to motivate Boston’s young core towards a championship goal.

The call came on the heels of Irving’s public criticism of Boston’s younger players following a frustrating loss in Orlando on Saturday.

"I’ll tell you one thing, obviously, this was a big deal for me, because I had to call Bron and tell him, I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything to be at my threshold,” said Irving. "I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people. Bron was one of those guys that came to Cleveland and tried to show us what it’s like to win a championship. And it was hard for him and sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world.

"Like I said, only few are meant for it or chosen for it and I feel like the best person to call was him, because he’s been in this situation. He’s been there with me, where I’ve been the young guy, being a 22-year-old kid that wanted everything, wanted everything right now. Coming off an All-Star year starting and this heck of a presence coming back and now I gotta adjust my game to this guy. You take it personal but, at the end of the day, he wants what’s best. And he has a legacy he wants to leave, and he has a window he wants to capture. So, I think what that brought me back to was like, alright, how do I get the best out of this group to the success they had last year and then helping them realize what it takes to win a championship.”

Pressed on the details of their conversation, Irving hesitated to reveal much. But by even acknowledging the call, Irving showed how much he desires to get the Celtics on track.

"Obviously our conversation is private but I gave you a great synopsis of what the conversation was like,” said Irving. "It was just a lot of responsibility that I had to take as a young player being in those shoes and then understanding where our young guys are. And how much responsibility I have to help teach them things and help them do the little things to win a championship.”

Irving was asked if he recognized why Boston’s younger players might have bristled at his public criticism.

"I’ve been on a team where things have been said publicly and it’s not the best way to get the most out of the group,” said Irving. "And you do everything as a leader of the team to get the most out of the group, and sometimes it may not be received as well as you would like. And you just have to live with that. You’ve got to live with everyone says what you should do, what you shouldn’t do. Being in this position is something new for me. So I take it with a grain of salt and I just enjoy all of this. 

Later he added: "Now I’m in this position, I asked for this and I want this. I want the responsibility. And I take it on full force. But it’s also good to reach out for help and really take responsibility for what you’ve done in your career. It takes a real man to go back, call somebody and be like, ‘Hey, man, I was young. I made some mistakes, I wasn’t seeing the big picture like you were. I didn’t have the end of the season in mind. I just wanted to get my stats and make All-Star games,’ which in his career means like this much at that point. So it was just good. And it gave me a peace of mind to go about what I’ve gotta go do. Obviously I’m going to be competing against him the best and everybody else in the league. But it was good.”

Irving made one thing clear: He won't be as friendly with LeBron when the Lakers come to town:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Good news for Celtics: Kemba Walker 'ready to go' after 'needed' break

Good news for Celtics: Kemba Walker 'ready to go' after 'needed' break

Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kemba Walker admitted he “wasn’t really happy” with the way he was playing before the 2019-20 NBA season paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, but said after a “needed” break that allowed him to rest a bothersome knee, he’s eager to get back on the court with his teammates for the Orlando restart.

Walker declared himself, “ready to go,” after using the downtime to heal a knee that hindered him over the final six weeks of play.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

“[The break was] super important for me. I really, really needed to get that break,” said Walker. "It definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee. It was a very unfortunate time but it was in my best interests for sure. So I’m pretty comfortable with the way the schedule is and I’m just going to keep on taking care of myself. That’s really all I can do, so I’m just going to stay on top of things and take it day by day.”

Walker earned his All-Star nod by averaging 22 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc through the end of January. A sore knee first forced him to sit out on January 18 but sidelined him for two longer stretches — and nine total games — in February. Walker averaged just 16.8 points while shooting 31.7 percent overall and 31.3 percent beyond the 3-point arc in his final eight games before the season paused.

Some of Walker’s struggles were masked by Jayson Tatum’s ascension. But the Celtics know they need a healthy Walker to reach their loftiest goals in Orlando.

"I’m definitely ready to try and expand my game to higher levels so we can just be a better team,” said Walker. "Especially the way I ended the season, I wasn’t really happy with the way I was playing. So I’m excited.”

Walker admitted he’s still trying to get back into game shape. But the downtime allowed him to really examine how he can best help the Celtics.

“I’m a lot more comfortable, especially realizing the change and everything that went down during the season, the ups and downs,” said Walker. "I’m definitely more comfortable with my teammates. We’ve been talking all quarantine. I got a chance to watch a lot of games over the quarantine, so, yeah, I think I’m more comfortable. I’m ready to go.

"We're pretty excited. I know everyone is just excited to see each other. From Day 1, honestly, with this team, our vibe and our chemistry was already there for a very long time. That first day anybody had seen anyone, it was like we were with each other yesterday, you know? It's that kind of team we have. We're just so close and we're just looking forward to going out there and just handling our business.”

Walker said he’s not particularly concerned about the recent COVID spike in Florida and believes the NBA will do everything to ensure player safety. As for worries about being stuck inside the bubble for a particularly lengthy stretch if the Celtics embark on a long playoff run, Walker dismissed that while noting, “All I do is stay in the house anyways, so there's nothing wrong with me staying in a [hotel] room.”

Added Walker: "I'm actually looking forward to it just because I'm ready to play basketball.”

2020 NBA restart: No Celtics have opted out of Orlando, Brad Stevens says

2020 NBA restart: No Celtics have opted out of Orlando, Brad Stevens says

The Boston Celtics plan on being fully operational in Orlando later this month.

None of Brad Stevens' players have informed him they won't play in the NBA's restarted 2019-20 season, the Celtics head coach confirmed Wednesday in a video conference with reporters.

Stevens also confirmed no Celtics players or staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 since the NBA began testing in early June.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

Players still can opt out of the NBA "bubble" at any point before or during the eight-game "seeding" round, which for Boston begins July 31 with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. But July 1 was the NBA's imposed deadline for players to opt out to allow teams to sign replacement players, and it appears that deadline will pass with the Celtics' roster intact.

Several players from the other 21 bubble teams have decided not to play, including Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans, Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley and Brooklyn Nets big man DeAndre Jordan.

Many players have concerns about their personal health and the health of their families as they travel to Florida, which has seen a spike in positive COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks.

Yet those concerns aren't driving away any Celtics players, many of whom have been working out in Boston during the NBA's hiatus and appear on board with the league's restart plan.