LeBron James

Kyrie Irving on time with LeBron: Took knowledge...moved on

Kyrie Irving on time with LeBron: Took knowledge...moved on

BOSTON — Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving has typically shied away from talking about his time with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But he offered a rare glimpse Tuesday into how he viewed his role alongside James.

Spinning off of chatter about the development of Boston’s young tandem of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, Irving was asked about being “the man” in Cleveland after being the No. 1 overall pick in 2011. Irving quickly clarified that he wasn’t the face of the franchise, even before James returned, and saw himself as just a “great piece,” especially considering he was only 19 years old at the time he was drafted.

Pressed on the topic, a reporter asked what it was like, then, being James’ lieutenant.

“Lieutenant?” Irving asked. "I didn’t really see it as that. I saw it as a point in my career where I could grow. I took as much knowledge as I could and moved on with my career. From that point I learned a lot about myself and how much of a competitor I am.”

Now, Irving is trying to use his experiences to help Tatum and Brown as they attempt to make the leap to star players in the NBA.

"The biggest thing when I see the young guys we have here is how young I was. The experience component,” said Irving. "I had to learn a lot about the game of basketball. Like being with LeBron, being with Mike Miller, being around veterans that is when I went from being one of the youngest to being one of the oldest. 

"Whether it was lieutenant, sergeant, or whatever you want to call it with LeBron, being around him with basketball knowledge and all of the other veterans was something we needed. I was my fourth year in, just signed a $90 million contract, and, for the most part, I had just been taught roll out the ball and go play. That was the first time I had watched film, get ready for the playoffs, learn how to be competed against. I had become the hunted, and that was the biggest change. Our effort has to surpass other teams -- talent and effort.”

Now, as the clear-cut leader of this Boston team, it will be Irving’s ability to bring along Tatum and Brown that might ultimately define whether the Celtics are able to emerge as a true title contender this season.

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What are some key intangibles to the Celtics having a great season?

What are some key intangibles to the Celtics having a great season?

BOSTON – Winning in the NBA is about more than just having better players or an awesome coach. There are factors that come into play, like scheduling, unexpected injuries by an opponent, or even a leaky roof.

All those factors fall under the category of intangibles, which for most of the top teams, aids them in their quest towards success.

The Celtics have a roster that on paper ranks among the NBA’s best. Still, for them to sustain the kind of success they're pursuing all season, they’ll need some other things to work out. 

So, what are some of those intangibles?

COACHING CONTINUITY

Former Celtics player, assistant coach and fan favorite Walter McCarty left the team last season to become head coach of his hometown’s college team, the University of Evansville. The rest of the coaching crew remains intact this season. Having that familiarity on the sidelines is a bigger deal than most people might think. Head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t have to worry about egos or how folks will mesh together among his staff. They’ve been around each other long enough to know how to work well, and effectively, with one another. Team harmony among coaching staff can only help foster a similar culture inside the locker room.

STABLE FRONT OFFICE

This too is one of the more overlooked aspects of the Celtics success, a franchise that on the basketball side of things has been run by Danny Ainge since 2003. His right-hand man, Mike Zarren, has done an exceptional job of maintaining the team’s salary cap flexibility and remains one of the more highly regarded NBA execs out there. The stability of those positions takes away some of the uncertainty that agents and players might have about the franchise and, more specifically, how they will be treated if they become Celtics.

NEW PRACTICE FACILITY

The team’s new facility in Brighton, The Auerbach Center, won’t win them a single game. But there’s something about having a building that’s yours and yours alone, which is different than what they had in Waltham, Mass, in where their practice court was inside the Boston Sports Club. It breeds a greater sense of pride and ownership, two character traits you can’t have enough of in the NBA.  

NO LEBRON JAMES

They will still see him twice a year, but that’s so much better than four times a year plus the playoffs. Of course, Boston will still have to show up and handle their business against the teams in the East, and the NBA for that matter. But to know that their journey towards competing for an NBA title won’t have to involve dealing with James – his Cleveland team have eliminated Boston in the postseason three of the past four years – is a good thing for Green Teamers.

FAN BASE

Win or lose, blowout win or beatdown loss, Celtics fans support this team in a way that has no end in sight. Crowds don’t take shots (on the court ones, at least). They don’t grab rebounds, either. But they can motivate and inspire players in ways that no amount of X’s and O’s can top. We have seen this team tap into that energy from time to time. And while it appears on paper they won’t need to as much this year, knowing that their fans have that to offer is reassuring to a team that so many fans – not just their own, either – expect to make a deep postseason journey that takes them back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012.

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Mannix: LeBron, Lakers will fall short of postseason

Mannix: LeBron, Lakers will fall short of postseason

After reaching the NBA Finals in eight straight seasons while shouldering an unprecedented workload, the idea of LeBron James missing the playoffs entirely sounds blasphemous.

Chris Mannix, however, thinks, with their current roster, the new-look Lakers will fall short of the postseason for the sixth straight season.

“It’s the island of misfit toys out there...and LeBron James,” said Mannix.

The Lakers finished the 2017-18 NBA season 35-47, 12 games behind the eighth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves.

“You have to assume it’s 48 wins to get into the playoffs in the Western Conference,” Mannix added. “I don’t see that team making up that difference.”

James wasn’t the only addition Los Angeles made, however, bringing in veterans Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, and resigning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

If the Lakers do miss the playoffs, it will be James’ first missed postseason since the 2004-05 season, when his Cleveland Cavaliers fell short despite the 20-year-old James averaging over 27 points per game.