BOSTON — Kyrie Irving has seen and accomplished quite a bit in his seven-plus years in the NBA, but the star point guard will be the first one to tell you he’s still learning.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Irving as the Boston Celtics’ leader. It certainly got pretty bumpy last Saturday after an ugly loss to the Orlando Magic, which prompted a tongue lashing from Irving directed at the Celtics’ young players. Irving since has expressed regret for his strong public remarks, and thanks to a follow-up phone call with an old friend, it became all the more clear why his criticisms should’ve been handled differently.
Following the Celtics’ win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday at TD Garden, Irving revealed he had a phone conversation with LeBron James after the loss to the Magic. Considering the history the two have, Irving felt there was no one better to call for advice on this particular issue than the Los Angeles Lakers star.
“I’ll tell you one thing, and obviously this is something that was a big deal for me because I had to call ‘Bron and tell him I apologize for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips,” Irving said. “I wanted everything to be at my threshold. I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader and I wanted to be all that. The responsibilities of being the best player in the world and leading a team is something that’s not meant for many people. And ‘Bron was one of those guys that came to Cleveland and really tried to show us what it’s like to win a championship. It was hard for him. Sometimes getting the most out of the group, it’s not the easiest thing in the world. Like I said, only a few are meant for it or chosen for it. I feel like the best person to call was him because he’s been in that situation.
“He’s been there with me where I’ve been the young guy, being the 22-year-old kid who wanted everything. Wanted everything right now. You know, coming off an All-Star year starting and then this technical presence comes back and now I have to adjust my game to this guy. You take it personal, but at the end of the day he just wants what’s best. He has a legacy he wants to leave and he has a window he wants to capture. So what I think that brought me back to was like ‘Alright, how do I get the best out of this group off the success they had last year and then helping them win a championship?'”
Calling James probably wasn’t the easiest thing to do for Irving, who didn’t have the most gracious of exits from the Cleveland Cavaliers two summers ago. Because not only was Irving seeking advice, he was owning up to past faults.
“Having that moment to be able to call a guy like that where we’ve been through so much and we won a championship together,” Irving said. “We’re one of 31, 32 teams to ever do something like that. And it took a lot to think that our road could have been easier. Now I’m in this position, I asked for this and I want this. I want the responsibility and I take it on full force. But it’s also good to reach out for help and really take responsibility for what you’ve done in your career. It takes a real man to go back and call somebody and be like, ‘Hey man, I was young. I made some mistakes. I wasn’t seeing the big picture like you were, I didn’t have the end of the season in mind. I just wanted to get my stats and make All-Star games.’ In his career, it means like this much at that point. So it was good, and it gave me a peace of mind to go about what I gotta go do and obviously I’m gonna be competing against him and everybody else in the league, but it was good.”
While his remarks are telling enough, Irving made a point to note that he and James are on good terms. But when the Lakers visit TD Garden on Feb. 7, it’s going to be business as usual.
“Obviously when they come here I’m gonna try to kick his ass. He knows that.”