Celtics

Marcus Smart defends Kyrie Irving: To blame him is 'bulls---'

Marcus Smart defends Kyrie Irving: To blame him is 'bulls---'

BOSTON — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart adamantly refuted the suggestion that Kyrie Irving’s leadership struggles were a primary culprit in the team’s inability to reach expectations this season.

Speaking the day after Boston’s season ended with a five-game loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in an Eastern Conference semifinal series, Smart bristled when asked about those that have suggested Irving’s leadership killed Boston's locker room.

“Bulls---. That’s bulls---,” said Smart. "Not one of us on this team knows what Kyrie’s been through. Probably a few amount of people in this world knows what Kyrie goes through. It was hard for him as well. 

"He was forced into a situation where it was business over the friendships, where he had to come into a situation knowing that this is a group of guys that had something going before I come here. 'How will I fit in?' He didn’t want to disrupt that. And that says a lot. This is Kyrie Irving we’re talking about. And he’s talking about coming in and disrupting us.”

The Celtics surged to the cusp of the NBA Finals a year ago while both Irving and Gordon Hayward were lost to season-ending injuries. Boston entered the 2018-19 season with grand expectations in pairing those two with the young core that got a taste of playoff success, but the combination never worked.

Smart still applauded the way Irving tried to integrate himself without disrupting what this team had built before he arrived.

"We took him in with full arms and we tried to understand it,” said Smart. "Like I said, we never really understood. We’re not in his shoes. So that’s just a bulls--- statement to say his leadership killed us. There’s four other guys out there, there’s 12, 13 other guys on the team, coaches and everything. So to blame it on one guy is bulls---.”

Irving is expected to opt out of the final year of his deal this summer. While he expressed a desire to return to Boston before the start of the 2018-19 season, he later hedged and told reporters to ask him July 1 about his future.

Smart said he hasn’t talked to Irving about his future and supports whatever decision he makes.

"I think if he wants to talk about it, he will. That’s his decision,” said Smart. "It’s not for me to ask. That’s not really my business. I love Kyrie as a brother. I talk to Kyrie. I wish nothing for the best. If he decides to stay, if he decides to go, I wish nothing but the best for Kyrie. That’s my brother but I have not talked to him about it and I don’t plan to. That’s his decision.”

Smart repeatedly said he wishes this Celtics group could get a do-over and believes things would have played out differently. When a reporter asked about bringing back a similar core, Smart sounded open to the idea.

"Of course. Anybody would be a fool not to say yeah,” said Smart. "That’d be like the Warriors saying they don’t want their team. We definitely wish we could start over right now from the beginning and do things differently, but I definitely want another crack at it. If that’s in the plan for us then it will. But at this point you just control what you can control.”

The Celtics could experience another overhaul depending on the summer plays out and Smart said he’ll try to ignore the noise and focus on his own development.

"I can’t really focus on the changes that are going to come, if any come,” said Smart. "I can just focus on what’s put in front of me and do the best that I can do being the longest-tenured Celtic and being the player and person I am to try to help this team make a run at it. That’s all I can do. That’s all I can control.

"For me, this summer is really just honing my game even more. This is probably, by far, the best year I’ve had in my five years, especially on the offensive end. Each year I plan on getting better on both ends of the court. I’m one of the best two-way players to do it. I’m constantly working. It’s going to take time, it’s not going to be easy, but if I want to do it, it’s just going to happen. So for me just honing my game on every skill and just trying to reach up and increase on that ladder for my talent.”

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.

Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Any time the Boston Celtics play in Los Angeles, there are bound to be celebrities in the crowd. The Celtics and the Lakers have arguably the greatest rivalry in NBA history, after all, so watching them square off is a must-see event when both teams are good.

But on Sunday afternoon, there was one famous person in the crowd that caught the attention of Celtics rookie Grant Williams. That would be Celtics legend and 11-time NBA champion, Bill Russell.

Russell appeared at the game to watch the Celtics in action, but also wore a jersey to honor the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. And evidently, Williams took some time to talk to Russell at halftime.

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.

After the contest, Williams communicated what his message to the NBA great was.

“I just wanted to thank him for everything he’s done for the game,” Williams said per Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com. “I said I was thankful, because he was so impactful. He was a dude who was one of the best players in the game, a historic Boston legend, and honestly it was just good to see him in person for the first time. You see all the celebrities in LA and all this stuff, but I was more focused on Bill Russell than anybody else. Denzel was there, all those other guys, but Bill was special.”

And Williams also communicated that getting a chance to play in a Celtics-Lakers rivalry game in front of one of the best players of all-time was "really cool".

“It was really cool, especially a game of that magnitude and intensity,” Williams said. “Lakers vs. Celtics, something that one of the biggest rivalries in sports and playing against LeBron, it was fun. It was a competitive environment. Hopefully he enjoyed it.”

It's really nice to see that Williams truly appreciates NBA history and one of the greatest Celtics of all-time. He will surely remember this moment for a long time.

During his rookie season, Williams is averaging 3.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assist per game while playing 15.5 minutes off the bench. The 2019 first-round pick could play a key role as a small-ball center for the squad as they gear up for a playoff run.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

Jayson Tatum is starting to emerge as one of the NBA's young superstars. And his performance on Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers only fueled the hype surrounding him over the course of the past month.

The Boston Celtics forward had one of the best outings of his career on Sunday. He tied a career-high with 41 points and did everything he could to help keep the Celtics alive against the Lakers. They couldn't ultimately pull off the win, but losing by just two without Kemba Walker's services was certainly impressive.

Tatum did a lot to power the C's and keep them in the game. And some of his most notable peers took notice of his performance.

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.

After Tatum's excellent outing, Lakers forward LeBron James posted to Instagram to congratulate and encourage Tatum. Here's a look at James' post.

That's a decent gesture from James, and it's one that Tatum won't soon forget. And neither will he forget the seemingly emotional embrace the two shared after the tightly contested contest ground to an end.

It's also worth noting that Tatum did play as part of Team LeBron at NBA All-Star weekend. So, they likely connected there and it sure seems that James, who drafted Tatum in the All-Star captains' fantasy draft, admires the young star's game.

Over his past 10 games since returning from a groin injury, Tatum has averaged 28.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game for the Celtics. If he keeps producing at that clip, it'll be great news for the team's hopes of being a playoff contender.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.