NBA

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

The 2019 NBA offseason has ensured that Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker will always be connected. When Irving spurned the Celtics after two seasons with the team to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, Walker joined the C's and took over as their starting point guard.

The two players are similarly great scorers. They can pass the ball well and set up teammates, too. And while Irving is regarded by many as the better player in terms of skill set, there are some intangible things that Walker brings to the floor and Irving doesn't: leadership and chemistry.

And Irving and Walker's recent postgame comments after losses demonstrate that.

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On the latest episode of The Celtics Talk Podcast, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely were discussing the recent postgame interviews that the two did after rough outings and bad losses for their respective squads.

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Irving was far more focused on improving the team around him as opposed to his own poor performance. And as Blakely pointed out, it speaks to one of Irving's weaknesses as a leader.

Kyrie has yet to figure out how to make those around him better so that he can be a better winner. He is a great player. He's one of the best players in the NBA. There's absolutely no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

But he has yet to figure out how to elevate the players around him or carry himself with a level of humility that will ingratiate himself to his teammates who may not be as good as he is, but want to be great players nonetheless.

And Blakely also had one epic mic-drop moment about the former Celtic on NBC Sports Boston's "Boston Sports Tonight."

This completely juxtaposes Blakely's thoughts on Walker, who focused more on his poor performance and how he needs to play better for the sake of the team.

Kemba, flip-side of that, he didn't play great against Detroit. Was he the worst player? In the conversation, but he didn't play bad enough to where he was clear and undeniably the worst player on the floor.

And yet all he talked about in postgame was how he's got to be better. He's got to do a better job leading. It was me, me, me for the team, team, team. And that's something that you never hear from Kyrie.

Both Blakely and Draper acknowledged that they don't always like comparing the two to each other. But in this circumstance where their postgame pressers from similar games were polar opposites, they thought it had to be done.

It just about sums up why many Boston fans were happy to see Irving walk in the offseason. And Walker's positive attitude and ability to generate team chemistry has certainly been a breath of fresh air for the Celtics faithful.

For more on the Celtics game against the Bucks, their recent skid, expectations moving forward, and potential All-Stars from the team, check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, which drops weekly as part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

These Kyrie Irving comments will make Celtics fans grateful for Kemba Walker

These Kyrie Irving comments will make Celtics fans grateful for Kemba Walker

Celtics fans have watched Boston lose five of its last seven games and play frustratingly inconsistent basketball.

But at least they don't have to put up with Kyrie Irving.

The Brooklyn guard told reporters Wednesday night the Nets have "glaring" roster needs to address, suggesting some of the "pieces" they currently have aren't up to snuff.

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After taking some heat for those comments, Irving felt the need to defend his leadership style Friday.

Here's how that went:

A few highlights from Irving's rambling response, which had a similar tone and feel to some of his more tense moments with the Boston media:

"I always say it's an entertainment league. Very drama-filled, and everything always regurgitates on all these media platforms, which is part of our society."

"I can't really do anything about it, except really be a pillar in our locker room, be very communicative, and when I'm out there with the guys, just impact winning." 

"It's not like I'm an ass---- yelling at everybody in the freaking locker room all the time."

"My name -- which was given to me by my grandfather, very grateful -- but it's in a lot of people's mouths all the time. It is what it is. I've earned that respect in terms of how great I am as a player."

"I'm going to continue to demand greatness out of myself and demand greatness out of my teammates, and we go from there. If it's harsh as a leader or it's too much for anybody, you're not in our locker room—stay the f--- out."

Contrast that to what the Celtics' new point guard, Kemba Walker, said after Wednesday's disappointing loss to the Detroit Pistons:

"It starts with me. I have to be better for my teammates. I have to be better as one of the leaders on the team."

Irving clearly is trying to be Brooklyn's leader with Kevin Durant out for the season due to injury. But leadership doesn't usually entail telling the media your current roster isn't good enough, then complaining when you face criticism for those comments.

In the interest of being "very communicative," Irving said he apologized to his teammates for his recent remarks.

But the 27-year-old hasn't been much of an on-court leader, either: While he's averaging 27.2 points, 6.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game, the Nets are 5-9 in the 14 games he's played this season and 13-13 without him.

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Celtics Mailbag: Readers have no shortage of ideas to get C's back on track

Celtics Mailbag: Readers have no shortage of ideas to get C's back on track

We don’t need a long preamble here. You know the nitty gritty.

The Boston Celtics have lost five of their last seven, including a pair of games against top Eastern Conference rivals Milwaukee and Philadelphia. After feasting on bad teams early in the season, Boston has started playing down to inferior opponents and enduring unsightly losses to Washington, San Antonio and Detroit. The confidence they inspired at the start of the year has eroded.

We asked our readers what’s on their mind and, well, there was a lot. (No, really: just scroll through the responses here). So, let’s dive into this week’s letters, which include an awful lot of thoughts on how Boston should move forward:

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Schedule's sucked, we've sucked, don't overreact. — @LeoDAndreB

This is sort of what Celtics players are clinging to at the moment. As Marcus Smart said after Thursday’s loss, "It’s the NBA. You can’t get discouraged off [rough patches]. We’ve played two back-to-back nights and stuff like that. You can’t let that discourage you. That’s part of it. We’re at the 40-game mark. It happens.” 

The schedule kicking into overdrive certainly hasn’t helped Boston’s cause and yet the level of competition — outside of those back-to-backs involving the 76ers and Bucks — has been so poor that the Celtics’ inability to continue dominating those matchups is at least a bit troublesome.

What’s more concerning is the eye test. The Celtics aren’t flying around like they once did on defense and teams have shot lights out against them lately. Boston’s offense can look great for stretches and then grind to absolute halt when Kemba Walker isn’t on the court. The schedule isn’t relenting until mid-February and the Celtics must grind through it.

What’s happened to Hayward? Even when he scores it lacks the aggression he showed the beginning of the season. — @cheeroo

Maybe Boston's most polarizing player right now, Hayward is under the microscope after some roller coaster play since coming back from the foot injury on Christmas. He’s a microcosm of the Celtics: Spectacular at times and really fighting himself at others. Hayward labored through 1-of-10 shooting in Milwaukee on Thursday night and couldn’t fully aid Boston’s comeback attempt.

Hayward hasn’t suggested that any of his struggles are injury-related and was the first to admit Thursday that he needs to be better. Fans like to point to his maximum-salary contract when fretting this inconsistent stretch and many want to move him to alleviate the wing logjam. 

We’re not at that point. We think the Celtics are still at their best when all of their wings are contributing and making each other better. Each of them has slumped a bit lately and Boston’s margin for error simply isn’t great enough to overcome that, especially given the injuries they’ve endured.

Upgrade the coach.  Get a real NBA coach! — @iamaceltic33

The Brad Stevens slander in the mailbag the past couple weeks is wild. He’s not absolved from blame but I think he, as much as anyone, would like to have all of his horses for a change so he can actually pin down the best rotations.

I'm sure everyone will be super rational with their trade proposals 🤣🤣 — @JRat316

(Takes deep breath) Let’s find out … 

Trade for Giannis, LeBron, and Harden — @NickSpada

(Sigh)

Get some shooters for the bench. — @ShawtyReed

Faithful Mailbag readers know we’ve been beating this drum for a while now. For all the laments about Boston’s need for size, we’ve long felt that Boston’s biggest issue is shooting and it’s a more obtainable skill based on the in-season assets you have available to upgrade.

Here’s the crux of the issue: Boston ranks 19th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (35.2). Take away Kemba Walker’s shooting and it plummets closer to 25th.

More condemning: Celtics reserves are shooting a meager 30.4 percent beyond the arc this season. It simply feels like Boston needs another bench piece who can consistently knock down shots and loosen things up for everybody else. Boston bench is averaging only 28.7 points per game and, given the talent of the starters, that’s not a huge issue. But you can clearly feel the offense grind to a halt when reserve units are on the floor.

The one name we keep throwing out — and who just happens to be in town on Saturday — is Suns forward Dario Saric. His playing time with Phoenix has been in flux in Phoenix recently and he hasn’t shot the ball particularly well this season, but he was solid for Philadelphia in the playoffs a couple years ago, would give you a little extra size (6-foot-10) as a backup 4.

Most importantly: He’s making reasonable money ($3.5 million) and seems like the type of player Boston might be able to pluck if it were willing to sacrifice draft assets.

Semi + Poirier + Boston 1st for Luke Kennard? — @piggypanda123

Not sure what Detroit’s motivation would be to move Kennard -- who's been sidelined by a knee injury since late December -- when he’s on a favorable rookie deal and playing well. But he’s certainly the sort of low-money sharpshooter the Celtics should covet. 

Would it be easy to just sign Jamal Crawford? If no, why not? — @JLK7299

While beggars can’t be choosers, I’d say the best fit for the Celtics is someone who might be content to simply space the floor and knock down open shots. While adding a veteran presence wouldn’t be the worst thing on a rookie-filled team, I’m not sure Crawford’s high-volume approach best accentuates Boston’s other bench talent. 

Get a scorer off the bench so they don’t have to run Semi out there anymore. — @MarcR33

In defense of Semi’s, um, defense, he was Boston’s best defender against Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday night. While the whole "Giannis Stopper" nickname has always been a little bit over the top, he’s stout enough to make Antetokounmpo work: The Greek Freak went 2-of-6 against Ojeleye and 9-of-16 against everyone else (including 3-of-4 against Marcus Smart).

Ojeleye did get whistled for two shooting fouls and Antetokounmpo still finished with eight points against him but it was a nice effort on a night Boston was without Jaylen Brown. This isn’t to suggest that Ojeleye needs to be a consistent bench presence but he’s a nice luxury, especially given Boston’s size woes. When he knocks down open 3-point looks, he’s a helpful player.

This team desperately needs some veterans coming off the bench. — @dalappas

Found Kyrie’s burner! Just kidding. But this is part of the trickle-down effect of injuries: Inexperienced players are being put into spots they might not be ready for and, with inconsistent minutes, the results haven’t been great.

They miss Terry Rozier.  This was a much bigger loss than I thought it would be, now that none of the rookies has proven able to contribute meaningful offense. — @tom_steely

The takes are spicy this week. I’m not sure the Celtics miss 2018-19 Rozier but, certainly, the sort of boost he was capable of providing off the bench is missed.

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Can't wait for the deadline to pass so most of the stupid trade scenario ideas go away. — @Paullyt5

Found my burner account every time someone pitches an Andre Drummond trade.

Would trading Hayward make the Celtics, and specifically Danny Ainge, look bad to potential free agents? Or has he given (Hayward) enough of a chance at this point? — @DatHennessy

We had a long talk with Ryan Bernardoni (@dangercart) on the Celtics Talk podcast this week (see above) about Hayward’s somewhat murky future and why the Celtics have to at least be willing to listen to trade possibilities.

Let’s be clear here: We don’t think the Celtics should — or will — trade Hayward but you have to at least consider options if you’re uncertain about his future here. While optics are part of the equation, Ainge has rarely let emotions or what others think dictate his decisions.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.