BOSTON (CBS) — Some of the Celtics’ dirty laundry is coming out. And boy does it stink.
We knew that Kryie Irving’s relationship with the team wasn’t great. But we’re learning that his relationship with Boston’s younger players was even worse than imagined, with Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix saying it basically didn’t exist. It sounds like Irving didn’t have time for Boston’s young trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier — unless he was yelling at them.
“You can write a whole book on what went wrong because the season was basically a disaster from start to finish,” Mannix recently told Fox Sports Radio. “[Irving’s] relationship with the young players on the roster was awful. Jaylen Brown, he was probably the worst with. I don’t think it was great with Jayson Tatum, and it was awful with Terry Rozier because Terry was supplanted at a position he thought he did enough to win. That created a pretty nasty atmosphere. Kyrie’s leadership skills were lacking, and he failed at it.”
It’s no surprise that Irving and Brown didn’t get along. Brown is an extremely smart kid and challenges himself intellectually. Irving likes to think of himself as an intellectual and challenges anyone who doesn’t agree with him — or just anyone randomly, as he did with head coach Brad Stevens. One can only imagine the rifts between Brown and Irving that had nothing to do with basketball.
And it’s pretty easy to connect the dots with a recent Instagram post from Brown, where the guard professed he “would rather walk than ride with bad company.” Deep.
Irving’s bad company wasn’t just for young players, either. Mannix also said Irving did not see eye to eye with Stevens, a fairly unique situation since Stevens took over the Celtics.
“He was the first player to be coached by Brad Stevens who didn’t really enjoy being coached by Brad Stevens and that relationship wasn’t solid,” said Mannix.
This is in line with what NBA insider Jeff Goodman told NBC Sports Boston earlier this week about Irving and Tatum, when he reported that Irving essentially treated Boston’s young star the same way LeBron James treated him in Cleveland: Like a “little brother.” That approach, according to Goodman, held Tatum back in his sophomore season.
“I just think that [Tatum] was held back by Kyrie,” said Goodman. “I really do. I feel like Kyrie treated Tatum like LeBron treated Kyrie to some extent. You’re my little brother. This is where you’re going to be. We’re not gonna let you spread your wings too much. We’ll let you spread them, but you’re still a piece here. If Tatum were allowed — and he will be this year — we’re going to see. This kid is going to be a perennial All-Star in this league.”
It all paints a pretty terrible picture for the 2018-19 Celtics, and it’s easy to see why they underachieved so much in the disappointing campaign. It wouldn’t be fair to put all the blame on Irving; that young trio probably had a pretty high opinion of themselves after getting the Irving and Gordon Hayward-less Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and probably didn’t take too kindly to any tutelage Irving offered up. But at the same time, Irving is the guy who wanted to be the leader of the team, and when he has such an ornery approach to such a large portion of the roster, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Now it appears that Irving will be taking his game and attitude to Brooklyn. Good luck to all those young players on the Nets roster.