BOSTON — Kyrie Irving has been noticeably testy with the media of late, and it’s not hard to understand why.
Prior to Friday’s game against the New York Knicks, amid the ongoing Anthony Davis hysteria, Irving was put through the gamut. The Boston Celtics guard was asked whether he still plans to re-sign, what he thinks of the Davis rumors — yada yada yada. All of those questions were fair, as Irving currently finds himself at the center of the biggest story in the NBA.
And Irving, as he usually does, said a lot.
But fans might not be receiving Irving’s comments in their entirety. Because, for one reason or another, Irving’s words are being clipped and repackaged to fit a narrative that generates buzz and triggers fans.
So, let’s go back to Friday.
On whether Irving’s plan to re-sign has changed
The quote you were given: “Ask me July 1.”
The context: “Well, at the end of the day, I’m going to do what I feel is best for my career. And that’s just where it stands. My focus this season is winning a championship with the Boston Celtics. Obviously, we had goals coming into this season, and the primary goal is to win a championship. So that’s where my focus is. … Ask me July 1.”
There’s no denying these remarks represent a shift from Irving’s pre-season commitment to re-sign with Boston. Furthermore, Irving simply could’ve said, “I don’t want to talk about free agency” or, better yet, “I love the Celtics, don’t believe everything you read.” Instead, he fueled speculation that he’s considering bolting in the summer. This is another example of Irving’s transparency and propensity to talk too much coming back to bite him.
But if you watch Irving speak, and read his comments in their entirety, it’s clear he’s frustrated and venting after being asked the very questions he tried to prevent with his pre-season promise. It’s not a stretch to interpret the “Ask me July 1” quote as Irving saying, “Leave me the hell alone.”
On his current feelings toward Boston
The quote you were given: “What excited me a lot about the beginning of the season was the opportunity to come into this season really just doing what we planned on doing, set a goal and go after it, and then see what happens at the end of the season.”
The context: “I still have confidence in Boston and what they can promise for the future and what we have in terms of our pieces. That’s what excited me a lot about the beginning of the season was the opportunity to come into this season really just doing what we planned on doing, set a goal and go after it, and then see what happens at the end of the season. That was the plan before and that’s still the plan now. Obviously, Boston is still at the head of that race. That’s just where it stands.”
The initial quote makes it seem like Irving is disappointed beyond return of how the season has gone for the Celtics. The context, of course, offers a far different picture.
On why he promised to re-sign in the first place
The quote you were given: “I don’t owe anybody s–t.”
The context: “I think it was just the excitement, feeling emotionally invested coming off an injury last season trying to prove something, trying to be very much of a team-oriented player, which I am naturally. But at the end of the day, I spent the last eight years trying to do what everybody else wanted me to do in terms of making my decisions and trying to validate through the media, through other personnel, managers, anybody in this business. And I don’t owe anybody s–t.”
Could this be Irving saying he doesn’t owe the Celtics or their fans anything? Perhaps. But really, this is just Irving being Irving: An independent, occasionally temperamental guy who’s wired differently than most.
Again, there’s no denying Irving seems less sold on Boston than he was four months ago. But words matter, and the ones being fed to fans are missing key ingredients.
If we want to understand a guy as complex as Irving, we need the full picture, not just bits and pieces.