Celtics

Kyrie tells ESPN his move to Boston 'trying at times, but well worth it'

Kyrie tells ESPN his move to Boston 'trying at times, but well worth it'

Kyrie Irving opened up - a little bit - in an ESPN interview with Rachel Nichols in which he reflected on his move to Boston and his upcoming movie, "Uncle Drew". 

Irving was asked how he would assess the changes in his career since leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers after requesting a trade this summer that led to the deal with the Celtics.

"Been a lot of newness, honestly," Irving said. "It's an adjustment in itself. Being with a totally different group of guys, trying to bridge that gap with our group and trying to be my best self with our group. It's been awesome. Trying at times, but well worth it."

With the Celtics in the thick of the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference, Irving said he's pleased with how it has worked out. 

"It was a big chance," Irving said, then jokingly added, "Babe Ruth said it, he swings big, may not miss big, may hit a home run, who knows?

"I'm glad I took a chance on what I wanted to do within my career."

The conversation quickly shifted to Irving's feature-length acting debut in the movie "Uncle Drew" which comes to theaters this summer. Irving said he's always had an interest in acting and has had his teammates poke fun at him when he listed his favorite music as songs from the musical "Rent".

Still, the ultimate goal is raising another championship banner in Boston and raising the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

"It's something I think about every day," Irving said. "I think about it every day."

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What to like, not like about the Celtics' loss to the Utah Jazz

What to like, not like about the Celtics' loss to the Utah Jazz

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were in catch-up mode during most of their Saturday night home loss to the Utah Jazz. It was a game that dropped Boston to 9-7 overall and raised some serious concerns about where this team is now and more important, its direction going forward.

“We have to build a tougher team mindset than we have,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after Saturday’s loss. “I mean, we just don’t have that mindset yet that we need.”

While no one is panicking, there is a clear and undeniable heightened level of concern within the locker room.

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But with most defeats, there are a few silver linings to latch on to as well as areas in clear need of fixing.

So, about last night …

WHAT WE LIKED

BOARD IT UP: Rebounding continues to be a choose-your-own-adventure proposition for the Boston Celtics, showing signs of being dominant one night and dormant the next. Saturday night was one of the Celtics’ better nights when it came to rebounding the ball, winning the rebounding battle 51-45. It wasn’t like a late-game surge when the game was out of reach, either. Boston was either tied or led in rebounding after each quarter except the first. To do that against a Utah team that has been among the best rebounding clubs this season is a definite positive.

YABA, DABBA DO!: Guerschon Yabusele didn’t get on the floor until the game was out of reach, but Celtics fans – and the coaching staff – certainly had to like what they saw. In nine minutes, he had nine points and a couple rebounds as well as two steals. It was the kind of performance that, if we see Yabusele on the court more consistently in the coming days, we’ll come back to as being the jumping off point for his emergence as a contributor this season.

KYRIE IRVING: He didn’t torch the Utah Jazz like he did the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, scoring 20 points against the Jazz compared to 43 against the Raptors. But what Irving did that stood out was his shooting. He got his 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting, giving him a season-best three consecutive games in which he shot 50 percent or better from the field.

WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE

COSTLY FREE THROWS: There’s a pretty long laundry list of things that did not go Boston’s way in Saturday’s loss, most of which the Celtics had control over. Of all those things, nothing stood out more than their struggles at the free throw line. For the game, Boston wound up shooting a season-low 55 percent from the line. That number would have been a lot worst if not for head coach Brad Stevens emptying the bench as the game seemingly got away from them in the latter stages of the third quarter and all of the fourth, which is when Boston’s reserves knocked down their free throws, which raised Boston’s free throw percentage to the above-.500 threshold.

LIVE AND DIE BY THE 3-BALL: Three-point shooting continues to be a feast or famine proposition for the Celtics this season. The Celtics connected on a season-low 15.2 percent (5-for-33) of their 3-pointers against the Jazz. Boston’s struggles weren’t just a starter or reserve-based issue, evident by Boston’s first unit connecting on just three of its 16 three-pointers taken, and the second unit (2-for-17) proving to be even worse.

IRVING ISLAND: For far too many stretches of play Saturday night, Irving looked very much like a man on an island surrounded by an ocean full of sharks donning Jazz jerseys. He scored 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting. And it’s not like Irving was not being a willing passer. He had a team-best 64 touches against the Jazz, passing the ball 45 times but only tallying just three assists in large part because teammates were missing open to lightly contested shots.

WHAT'S NEXT

Boston hits the road to face a 7-8 Charlotte team on Monday that has lost three of its last four games. The most recent loss was an overtime defeat to Philadelphia in which Kemba Walker scored a career-high 60 points. As we’ve seen repeatedly this season, opposing team’s best scorers have seemingly had a field day knocking down shots against the Celtics. And like Boston, the Hornets will also look to make their mark from long range as they come into Monday's game averaging 12.2 made 3’s per game which ranks 5th in the NBA.

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Brad Stevens sends message by emptying bench against Jazz

Brad Stevens sends message by emptying bench against Jazz

BOSTON — Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens sent a message to his bipolar team Saturday night, deploying a group of third-stringers in place of some starters over the final nine minutes of a lifeless loss to the visiting Utah Jazz. 

Coming off a high-energy overtime win over the Toronto Raptors, the Celtics came out flat against Utah, dug themselves a familiar double-digit hole, and refused to put in the sort of energy necessary to make things interesting.


So a frustrated Stevens elected to surround Kyrie Irving with the players deepest on his bench, inserting the trio of Guerschon Yabusele, Daniel Theis, and Brad Wanamaker, in place of Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward with the Celtics trailing by 19 with just under nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

What’s more, Jayson Tatum did not play over the final 16 minutes and, despite Stevens’ ragtag lineup making a brief charge, the Jazz easily salted away a 98-86 triumph at TD Garden.

“[Stevens] wasn’t happy, obviously,” said Horford. "I’ll probably just keep [his postgame message to the team] for the locker room. We know what we need to do.”

As best we can parse from the postgame comments of Stevens, Irving, and Horford, Boston lacked the discipline and effort that the coach desired, and Stevens wasn’t going to let his team use its overtime game the night before as an excuse against a Utah team that was playing the second night of a road back-to-back. 

Stevens acknowledged that his team had to build a tougher mindset, especially when shots are not falling. The Celtics shot a dismal 38.5 percent overall, 15.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, and an impossibly low 55 percent at the free-throw line. 

Stevens sidestepped a question about whether he was sending a message with his substitutions (“I’m just trying to put in the guys that I think will give us the best chance of cutting the lead down,” said Stevens) but admitted it probably wasn't easy for the starters to digest the move.

"It’s hard, but those [third-string] guys watch all the time. So they deserve the right to compete,” said Stevens. "And we didn’t have any legs, and we had just given up three dunks, and it is what it is. If we’re frustrated about that, it’s fine by me. 

"At the end of the day, I wanted to see those other guys play, because I knew that they would bring great intensity to the game.”

Horford admitted he wanted to be in the game, especially after the third-stringers knocked the lead down to 13 with a quick run. Horford also agreed with the notion that Boston simply is’t playing tough enough.

“[Toughness is] something that always needs to be there. It’s the Celtic way, the way that you want to play and the things that you want to do and set the tone,” said Horford. "Right now, we’re picking our spots for when we want to be and do that.”

After the Celtics’ locker room had cleared out, Irving took his place in front of the cameras and offered a state of the union in which he seemed to suggest that Boston needs more consistency and dependability from its youngest players.

"Coach just wants us to go play hard for him, and he deserves that,” said Irving. "So I don’t blame him for saying we’re lacking toughness, at that point of just willing yourself to be in the right spots, and stay disciplined and be smart enough to follow the game plan.”

Irving opened his seven-minute chat with reporters by referencing how the team settled for a long 3-point attempt after generating a favorable switch for Tatum on their first possession. Irving suggested that players were out of position despite walking through much of their strategy just hours before Saturday’s tip-off.

The trio of Jaylen Brown (1-of-9 shooting, 3 points), Tatum (5 of 11, 10 points), and Terry Rozier (2 of 9, 4 points) have all struggled to positively — and consistently — impact Boston’s play.

"I think guys have gotten better. I think that guys want to take advantage of their talent,” Irving said when asked about Boston’s impatient offense. "I think last year, the young guys that are in the locker room now, some of the guys that are playing, they were a little bit younger. They weren’t expected to do as much and I think that the amount of pressure that we put on them to perform every single night is something that they have to get used to, like being part of a great team like this. 

"If you’re not playing to the standard then, as a team, we just don’t all click. I think once we get that, and we find that consistency, we’ll be good.”


Stevens resisted making changes to his lineup this week despite coming off a disappointing 1-4 road trip. His team responded with a lopsided win over a lottery-bound Bulls team, but then leaned hard on Irving during Friday’s win over the Raptors.

The Jazz game was going to be tough given the energy expended Friday but Stevens couldn’t allow uneven play to linger now nearing the quarter pole of the 2018-19 season.

Now it’s on his players to show they received that message, and plan to make sure they never get stuck on the bench unless games are decidedly in Boston’s favor.

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