BOSTON (CBS) — Marcus Smart wants to make one thing clear: Kyrie Irving did not destroy the Boston Celtics.
Many would disagree with Smart, but that’s how he felt on Thursday, and he didn’t hold back when relaying that info to the world. Asked if Irving’s leadership — or lack thereof — led to the demise of the 2018-19 Boston Celtics, Smart wasn’t having any of it.
“That’s bull****,” the Celtics guard said Thursday, less than 24 hours after Boston’s season came to an unceremonious end at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Once a favorite to win 60+ games and battle the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, the Celtics were anything but throughout the 2018-19 season. To put it nicely, they were a mess; a group of talented players who showed no desire to play with each other, hoping to coast off their collected talent.
Irving wanted to take over a leader of the team in his second season in Boston, but was never able to figure out how to do it the right way. Instead, he called out young teammates any chance he got, and the regular season was filled with more closed-door meetings than signature victories.
Now that it’s all over following an embarrassing five-game ousting by the Bucks, Irving is receiving the brunt of the blame. He had his worst stretch ever in Boston’s four losses to Milwaukee, and didn’t do himself any favors with his postgame comments. His time in Boston appears to be over, and not many seem to be too upset about that.
Marcus Smart is here to tell everyone they’re wrong.
“It was hard for him as well. He was forced into a situation where it was business over the friendships. He had to come into a situation knowing this is a group of guys that had something going before he came here. He didn’t want to disrupt that, and that says a lot,” Smart said Thursday as the Celtics packed up their things at the Auerbach Center in Brighton. “This is Kyrie Irving we’re talking about, and he’s talking about coming in and disrupting us. We took him arms full, and we tried to understand it. But we never really understood because we were not in his shoes.
“That’s just a bull**** statement to say his leadership killed us,” Smart echoed. “There are four other guys out there, 12-13 other guys on the team and coaches and everything. To blame it all on one guy is bull****.”
Irving is expected to opt out of the final year of his deal and become a free agent this summer. Time will tell if he’s back with the Celtics, but it’s clear that he has a fan in Marcus Smart.
“That’s his decision. Not for me to ask. Not really my business,” Smart said. “I love Kyrie as a brother. I talk to Kyrie. I wish nothing for the best if he decides to stay. If he decides to go, I wish nothing but the best for Kyrie. It’s my brother. But I have not talked to him and I do not plan to. It’s his decision.”