Danny Ainge left no doubt where he stands on the somewhat trivial “are the Boston Celtics better without Kyrie Irving?” debate.
Ainge gave an impassioned defense of his star point guard Thursday during an interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich.”
When pressed about the increasingly popular theory that maybe the Celtics are a better team without Irving, Ainge put his foot down.
“It’s insane,” Ainge stated. “In Toronto, Kyrie plays the whole first quarter and we score 32 points and we have a lead, and we go in and he’s out of the game and (Toronto) goes on a 21-2 run and we can’t score a basket. And so I don’t understand how that has anything to do with Kyrie, and then the game before in Chicago, we’re ahead 33-30 at the end of the first quarter. … I don’t know what any of that has to do with Kyrie.”
Irving’s off-court tendency to say some head-scratching things might rub some teammates the wrong way, but Ainge insisted it should be on everyone else around him to get on the right track.
“I think that’s insane,” Ainge quipped. “I’ve been in this league a long time. You don’t always get to play — not everybody might be the guy you want to play with, but that doesn’t even make any sense. First of all, guys like playing with Kyrie. Second of all, they believe and trust in him. And third is you still have to play hard, you still have to do your job, and that’s on them. But you’ve gotta do your job. You’ve gotta make your shots on occasion. You’ve gotta get stops of your guys no matter who you’re playing against. For somebody to say the 21-2 run in Toronto had anything to do with Kyrie is ridiculous. He’s sitting on the bench.”
Still, it’s a little weird Boston has lost its last six games with Irving in the lineup while picking up three wins in the three recent games he’s been inactive. But as Ainge also pointed out, the Celtics wouldn’t have had a prayer of winning Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers — ultimately, their fourth straight loss — if it weren’t for 31 points on 14 of 24 shooting from Irving.
Irving is the Celtics’ best player and has publicly stated his desire to be a leader. It’s only natural for him to take the heat when things aren’t going well — fair or unfair.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images