In the game of basketball, winning in your fantasy league is a little different than winning the NBA championship. There are a lot of guys who can fill up a stat sheet and make you (and themselves) look good, but the bottom line involves how well somebody can play with others.
After all, it’s a TEAM game.
Watching what Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge were trying to accomplish in Boston, I was a little surprised that the Celtics would have reached out to acquire Kyrie Irving. It was understandable that Isaiah Thomas, one of the people who went to Cleveland in exchange, brought his own set of problems with him (like taking way too many shots), but Irving does some of the same.
Game 5 is do-or-die for the Celtics, and they are big underdogs to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA playoff betting odds as they are posted at BetAnySports:
Milwaukee Bucks -9 (-105)
Boston Celtics +9 (-105)
Over 218 points (-107)
Under 218 points (-103)
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It was my impression that Stevens was looking to promote an atmosphere that was similar to some of the Celtics’ title-winning teams of the past, and from that perspective, Irving just didn’t seem to fit in. If you are going after the “ensemble” approach, having one player who needs the ball too much, takes too many shots, and perhaps most importantly, has an attitude problem, isn’t someone who’s a great candidate to lead you to the promised land.
Yes, it is true that unlike his teammates, Irving has won an NBA championship, but that was with LeBron James, and even with his stellar numbers, he wasn’t going to do it otherwise. This dynamic is completely different.
Stevens has admitted that at the beginning of the season, he was really worried about dividing up the minutes, considering that the Celts jelled so well in last year’s playoffs and were now bringing back All-Stars Irving and Gordon Hayward back from injury. Hayward’s had to overcome some psychological obstacles in making his way back, and he’s settled into a reserve role.
But such a thing was going to be harder for Irving, who came to Boston fully expecting to be “the man.” He’s grumbled a lot behind the scenes, and this issue of him becoming a free agent has been a source of friction.
Lately it’s just been a major distraction, with speculation every day about where he’s going to land.
Do you really think it’s any coincidence that without Irving, the Celtics out-performed everyone’s expectations in the playoffs last year? Of course it shouldn’t be. Without him, they came much closer to Stevens’ ideal of a team.
With an ensemble, it’s tough to have a guy dominating the ball. And maybe, just maybe, this whole thing just isn’t working with Irving.
He has taken 24% of his team’s shots. That’s a higher percentage than presumptive MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken for the Bucks. And his Usage figure is a bloated 31.5%, which is just below the multi-talented Giannis.
The big problem is that Irving is shooting just 37% from the field, and though he has taken more three-pointers than anyone on the Boston roster, against a team that is all too willing to allow that shot, he’s made just 24%. So he’s failing.
And if you want to be real honest about it, Irving is a defensive liability – maybe not as much as Thomas before him, but he’s exploitable.
If Boston does not manage to come back from its 3-1 deficit against Milwaukee, the Irving story moves to another chapter, where he makes a decision as to where he is going to take his statistics next.
And the word is that Celtics don’t care all that much, as long as it’s not back to Beantown.
Remember, this is a fan base conditioned to believe that winning is what really matters.
Winning the NBA title, that is; not the fantasy league.
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