Kyrie Irving stumbled while lead the Celtics in the regular season. He declared Boston would be fine in the playoffs “because I’m here.” He called himself a basketball genius. As the Celtics’ season was slipping away due in part to his inefficiency, he said his real problem was not shooting enough.
“Everyone respects his talent,” one Celtics player told me earlier this season, “but he’s hard to play with. It’s all about him.”
Irving isn’t the first star player who’s difficult to play with. He won’t be the last.
Also keep in mind, this is only one teammate. Irving surely had better relationships with some teammates than others. But that even one teammate felt strongly enough to badmouth Irving like this says something.
The big question: Will Irving change? He has been a challenging teammate for a long time, and his petulance took a toll on the Celtics. At times, they fed off his moodiness and selfishness.
None of this necessarily makes Irving a bad person. It just makes him harder to win with.
But his playing ability will afford him more opportunities, in Boston or elsewhere. Teams will, wisely, continue to bet on his talent and hope he comes around as a teammate – or plays so well, it doesn’t matter. That’s the luxury of being a star.