Tommy Point: Kyrie Irving credits Tommy Heinsohn with assist

Tommy Point: Kyrie Irving credits Tommy Heinsohn with assist

BOSTON — Fresh off his best performance of the 2018-19 season, Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving offered praise to a rather unlikely target for helping him get on track: Tommy Heinsohn.

Irving said he took it as a challenge when Heinsohn twice suggested during NBC Sports Boston broadcasts that he felt Irving came into the season out of shape, contributing to his uneven start to the new year.

Irving put up a season-high 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting as the Celtics held off the Detroit Pistons 108-105 on Tuesday night at TD Garden. Irving entered Tuesday’s game shooting 39.1 percent from the field and 24.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc but looked far more like his old self.

Playfully asked in an on-court interview with NBC Sports Boston about whether his new haircut had contributed to his offensive outburst, Irving instead referenced Heinsohn’s recent critiques.

It was hard to tell if Irving had been angered by Heinsohn’s analysis based on his on-court comments but, in the locker room following the game, he expounded.

“It's always great when someone challenges you like that. Especially with the respect level that I have for past Celtics legends,” said Irving. "And for him to really kinda pinpoint as me being one of the leaders on this team, the main [focal] point of this team, I had to be in better shape as well as challenge myself on both ends of the floor. I think he made it very clear to me. 

"I caught wind of it, probably like a week ago. And it was bothering me because it was the most honest thing that anyone had said about the way I was playing because I literally had to try to match a level that I had playing at last year, but also become better. So how do you do that? I had to really put an emphasis on my body and how I’m taking care of my mind. 

"That was one of the realest things that I could have heard. As a competitor, if that doesn't irk you, itch inside you, of you wanting to be better, especially when a guy -- Tommy Heinsohn, you can’t do any wrong in his eyes if you’re a Celtic. You can’t do any wrong. And I appreciate that. And it was the truth.”

Despite spending the summer rehabbing from the two knee procedures that ended his 2017-18 season in March, Irving seemingly arrived to camp in top shape, looking lean and strong in the small glimpses reporters saw at the start of camp. 

But with Irving struggling to find his offensive rhythm, Heinsohn twice wondered on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame shows whether Irving was out of shape.

"Personally, I think he's a little out of shape. To me, it looks like he's a little overweight, and to me — his timing, his quickness — he's maybe an instant slower than he's been,” Heinsohn said after Boston’s win in New York on October. 20. "With one darting move last year, he was able to get by three people. I don't think he's got quite that quickness back yet, but he's going to come along.”

A week later, Heinsohn doubled down on his assertion.

"He is recovering from an injury. To me, he looks like he's 5 pounds overweight, but I haven't seen him on the scale,” Heinsohn said after Boston’s win in Detroit on Saturday. Later he added, "He's just a half-a-step slow.”

Irving said those comments only encouraged him to improve his conditioning.

"I had to get in better shape and I had to become more dedicated to what I had been doing but more emphasis,” said Irving. "So I took that  -- I was on the bike the next morning, Versaclimb, I was doing everything possible to make sure I could prepare my body for what’s to come for the rest of the season. It’s a long season, just wanted to get prepared. But I shouted him out because that was the truth, I needed it.”

Irving essentially gave Tommy a Tommy Point.

Irving was asked if he planned to try to play in all 82 games this season but admitted he’ll likely miss an upcoming game against the Utah Jazz in order to attend a memorial service for his grandfather. But he admitted that trying to play in as many games as possible is a goal of his.

And he’s clearly getting himself in the sort of shape that will allow him to stay on the court this season. 

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NBA Rumors: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant won't play for Nets when season resumes

NBA Rumors: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant won't play for Nets when season resumes

Since the NBA's suspended season has given Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant months to recover from their respective injuries, some believed they could return and make the Brooklyn Nets title contenders.

That theory was put to rest on Friday.

Durant confirmed to ESPN's Marc J. Spears he will not be returning to play when the NBA season resumes in Orlando, Fla. next month. As for Irving, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski says the former Boston Celtics guard suggested on Friday's NBPA conference call it's possible he could join the team... as an inactive player.

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Durant missed the entire 2019-20 campaign after rupturing his Achilles tendon in last year's NBA Finals. Irving underwent surgery in March to repair an impingement in his right shoulder that ended his first season with the Nets after only 20 games.

Brooklyn currently holds the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 30-34 record on the season.

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck offers thoughts on NBA's 22-team return plan

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck offers thoughts on NBA's 22-team return plan

On Thursday, the NBA announced a 22-team plan to resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Fla.

The plan passed by an overwhelming 29-1 vote among teams, with the Portland Trail Blazers as the only organization to vote against it. Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, obviously, was one of the many in favor of the plan and discussed why Friday on Felger & Mazz.

"The point that seemed the most fair is not to give a team that was lagging farther behind in the East, and that was for example [the Charlotte Hornets] who are seven games back," Grousbeck said. "In the history of the NBA, no one has ever come from seven games back at this point in the season. And so, it's more fair to say no, we can only take so many teams because of safety.

"We don't want to have 500 more people with all 30 teams. We'd just have more of a chance of getting shut down because of the virus. So there was a line to be drawn, and we all decided 29-1 that this was the most fair line."

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With safety as the No. 1 concern going forward, it's a no-brainer to limit the teams heading down to Walt Disney World to only the ones that can fight for a playoff spot.

Grousbeck also suggested that the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks could be the C's first opponent when the league returns to action. The Celtics were preparing for a matchup in Milwaukee when the season was suspended in mid-March.

"I think our first game is going to be Milwaukee, which that would be interesting," Grousbeck said. "Because that's what the schedule looks like just from the current schedule. We don't have the new schedule yet. But we'll probably start right off with Milwaukee."

The C's currently have the No. 3 seed in the East as they prepare to return to the court.

You can hear the rest of what Grousbeck had to say in the video above.