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Kyrie Irving: ‘I’m an actual genius when it comes to this game’

Indiana Pacers v Boston Celtics - Game Two

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 17: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the third quarter of Game Two of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs against the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden on April 17, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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Even a month after Kyrie Irving admitted he erred in leading Boston, Marcus Morris said the Celtics still weren’t together.

But they’ve seemed far more cohesive in the playoffs. They swept the Pacers and have split the first two games against the Bucks. Irving – who promised Boston would be fine in the postseason “because I’m here” – has delivered. Though he struggled in Game 2 against Milwaukee, Irving has readied his teammates for this moment, as Jackie MacMullan of ESPN detailed. Of course, they’ll have to prove it as they face adversity, but it has been a nice start so far.

I recommend reading MacMullan’s full story about Irving and the Celtics’ chemistry, but I want to focus here on one quote.

Irving, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

“I’ve been playing basketball a lot longer than some of these people analyzing the game,” Irving says. “I’m an actual genius when it comes to this game.

“If you ask me about basketball, I will talk all day. If you ask me about spacing at the 3:33 mark of the second quarter, I will gladly explain it. I’ll tell you what plays worked, about adjustments we make. But when it comes to personal things, or comparing myself to my NBA brothers, like, ‘Do you think you are better than this guy?’ I’m out.”

Irving is a genius on the basketball court. He is a savant as a ball-handler and scorer. He creates and coverts opportunities for himself off the dribble that are literally jaw-dropping.

But I’m not convinced he’s a genius NBA basketball player with everything that entails. For all his ability to read and react on the court, he’s merely adequate at setting up teammates. His leadership is a work in progress. He’s sometimes moody in ways that harm team morale. Those things matter, too.

I also can’t overlook the LeBron James factor. Irving has long seemed envious of the respect LeBron gets for his intelligence. We all gushed over LeBron’s memory of games. Irving wants you to know he can do that, too.