By PATRICK GILROY
Prior to the start of the 2017-18 NBA season the one question that continued to surround the new look Boston Celtics was one of identity.
The one constant since Brad Stevens arrived in Boston, from his 2013-14, 25-win team through last year’s 53-win club, has been his team’s identity. Regardless of the talent on the roster opponents knew that every night the Celtics would put in maximum effort, squeezing every last drop of ability from each player on their roster.
This season however things were different. Stevens entered the 2017-18 season with a combination of legitimate top tier talent, promising youngsters and incredibly high expectations. Would a proven winner and perennial All-Star like Kyrie Irving really want to grind each and every night? Would he really want the responsibility that comes with expectations in Boston? Finally, would he really want to put in the kind of effort, the kind of work expected from a perfectionist like Stevens?
Following the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward any question as to who the Celtics No. 1 would be was over. Publicly, Irving told any media member with a microphone that he was eager to get out from under the shadow of Lebron James. While no one questioned Kyrie’s talent, most questioned his ability to be a true No. 1 on a winning team. Through his first 11 games in Boston, Irving has led the Celtics to nine consecutive wins, the best record in the NBA at 9-2. He leads the NBA in steals, is fifth overall in NBA defensive rating, is averaging 21 points and six assists per game, and has done the seemingly impossible, making Celtics fans forget about Isiah Thomas.
Sure, it’s early. But if the Celtics record were reversed at 2-9 the hot takes would be flying, from “Average Al” being overpaid to Kyrie needing Lebron. Nothing would be off-limits.
It’s clear through their first 10 pecent of the season that thus far Stevens has managed to get the best out of his All-Star point guard on both ends of the floor. For Kyrie, it’s becoming more evident with each passing game that he is a legitimate No. 1 option and can be the leader of a contenders’ Big 3.
What’s also becoming evident is that Kyrie Irving is thriving under the structure that a Stevens led team provides telling the media following the Celtics comeback win in OKC that he has been “unbelievably craving an intellectual mind like Stevens.” Kyrie then followed that comment up after the C’s win Sunday night in Orlando with “It’s just such a great feeling getting an opportunity to play for a competent franchise.”
Taking a look forward the Celtics should be favored in 12 of their next 13 games. While 11 games is too small of a sample size to form a true identity, if nothing else it has been an encouraging start. If Kyrie and the Celtics are able to continue playing at this kind of level, Irving could soon add NBA MVP to his already impressive resume.
Full article @ Gilroy: Celtics, Kyrie Irving have discovered their identities
Source: GreenStreet Blog