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Anderson: Focusing on what Kyrie said about LeBron is you missing the point

Ty Anderson
September 19, 2017 - 5:09 am

If you saw Kyrie Irving appear on ESPN’s “First Take” and walked away from it fixated on what he said about former teammate LeBron James and their relationship before and after Irving’s trade to Boston, you weren’t really paying attention to what he said.

When watching the 25-year-old’s Irving at times strange showing on ESPN, it was obvious that he could not care less about what the public thinks about his relationship with James. Or what he thinks about James, for that matter. It truly didn’t seem to matter, and despite relentless pestering from Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman, Irving found a way to spend all of eight words talking about James and how it possibly relates to what he's doing now (spoiler: it doesn't).

Irving instead talked about the opportunity he now has with the Celtics, his need for happiness as a professional, and the room for his game to grow outside of the one-on-one system he obviously felt trapped in, as well as the person he felt stunned as from a development standpoint while riding shotgun with LeBron in Cleveland.

“It’s just there comes a time when you mature as an individual. It’s time to make that decision. And there is no looking back from that standpoint. There is no time to figure out how to save someone’s feelings, when ultimately you have to be selfish in figuring out what you want to do,” Irving admitted. “And it wasn’t about me not wanting to win [in Cleveland]. It wasn’t anything about that. I want to be extremely, extremely happy in perfecting my craft. And that was the only intent that I have in all of this.

“I’m ecstatic,” Irving said of his new opportunity with the Celtics. “I’m just looking forward to playing my position. I’m looking forward to becoming something that I’ve always envisioned myself being, and that’s being a complete point guard on a great team. I want to be able to come off pick-and-rolls and be able to dissect the defense. This is not a knock on anybody that I was playing with, but my role was completely different.”

Irving later added that he ‘absolutely’ believes that he can win without James.

That is what the Celtics needed to hear and see, too, especially if Irving will indeed prove himself capable of being able to ignore the noise and become the star architect of the Celtic team that finally dethrones James for the East’s crown next spring.

His comments also spoke to the reason why the Celtics, despite being an enemy to Irving’s Cavaliers during his time there, were always high on his list. And with apologies for bursting your bubbles, Stephen and Max, it wasn’t just to stick it to LeBron either.

Irving is a basketball-obsessed lunatic that devotes almost all of his time to the game. The 6-foot-3 guard leaves this impression on literally everybody he comes in contact with, and it’s no secret why that would make the Celtics an appealing destination for him. In Boston, Irving will play the most important position for one of the league’s most innovative coaches in Brad Stevens (Irving also considered the Spurs a destination because of his respect for Gregg Popovich), and in a city where it’s winning basketball and not merely Basketball Presented By The LeBron Free Agency Saga Part II.

“[I’ll be] actually playing point guard, which is very, very much exciting,” Irving, who probably salivated at the thought of the impact he could make in Boston given what he had witnessed Isaiah Thomas do under Stevens, continued of his move to the Celtics. “Getting that thing on the break and allowing Gordon [Hayward] to have the space around him as well, and allowing Al Horford to make plays as a big, and having an offense that’s not necessarily dictated just on me isolating. So I’m excited about that.”

That, if anything, was Irving’s true jab against LBJ, who basically served as a 6-foot-8 point guard upon his return to Cleveland, with the ball constantly going through him.

Listen, It’s obvious that bitter NBA rivalries bring us the best this league offers in 2017. I’m not talking about your typical Celtics-Cavaliers or Warriors-Spur feud, either. I’m talking ex-teammates and personal rivalries that take on a boxing-like feel.

It made the showdowns between Kevin Durant and ex-teammate Russell Westbrook must-watch TV a year ago, why the black suit feud between the Celtics and Wizards made an otherwise meaningless January game entertaining, and why we should probably feel the need to pay extra attention any time a L.A. Clipper employee gets close to Blake Griffin. Kanye West even rapped about how he was going to drive 90 miles like Matt Barnes “just to whoop an ass.” (That was based on a true story, too, as Barnes actually drove over 90 miles just for the chance to beat up then-Knicks coach and former teammate Derek Fisher for dating Barnes’ ex-wife. Barnes reportedly punched Fisher in the mouth and was suspended for two games for the incident.)

In a league short on physical contact -- hockey has hits and basically anything you wanna do come playoff time, baseball has beanballs, and football is actually just 60 minutes of violence -- you can get a lot of mileage out of players showing the slightest hint of hatred towards one another.

Probably more than Barnes’ 90-plus miles, actually.

But it’s also enough to drive you beyond the point of reality.

That’s where guys like Stephen A. and nonsensical LeBron vs. Kyrie clickbait headlines can thrive, sure.

But fortunately for the Celtics, it’s not where Irving, who described himself as 'very woke,' will spend his time.

“I don’t have an ego. I have a presence and aura about me that’s very reality-based,” Irving (fittingly) said. “It didn’t come in the form of living in this false world and not being able to tell the truth to somebody and look ’em in the eye [and say], ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to be on my own. I’m ready to try out a new situation and be in an environment where I felt like I could be happy.’”

 

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