Kyrie Irving has had team success before — he has a championship ring and has been to the Finals three consecutive years.
However, he did all that in the shadow of LeBron James. He pushed his way out the door and to Boston to be the face of the franchise guy, to have his team.
But a funny thing happened on the way to being the man — he started to focus more on team success. Irving said it was a learning process this season, as reported by Chris Fosberg of ESPN.
Irving, who arrived in Boston with pressure to prove himself while removed from the shadow of LeBron James, said he has taken a step back this season and has put a greater importance on his team.
“I can’t necessarily pinpoint a specific point, but, for me, this season has been a learning experience to be able to do that,” he said. “The expectations that were brought forth on this season, that were brought forth on myself, expectations that I had, if I didn’t have that patience, then I probably would have lost it. And I can’t lose it.
“And I refuse to. I’m just too strong internally and mentally to do that. And then the talent on the court will do itself, as long as I put the work in every single day. So there are a lot of aspects of the game of basketball that are considered and are not considered, they are individually kind of figured out at that time, and I’m just on my journey. That being said, it just took some time to figure it out.”
Irving still had to learn what LeBron already had.
How Irving would mesh with Brad Steven’s more egalitarian system in Boston was the question of the trade — could Irving adapt to the more isolation ways of the Celtics? He has, faster than most of us expected, and with that the Celtics are on top of the East and Irving is mentioned in MVP discussions.
Irving’s numbers didn’t take a leap this season, but his game took a key step forward.