Shortly after committing to the Boston Celtics last season, point guard Kyrie Irving experienced a life-altering moment that changed how he approached his career in the present and in the future.
Irving, who signed a four-year, $142 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets this offseason, spoke about losing his grandfather and what it meant for his basketball path at the Nets’ first day of training camp Friday.
Death of grandfather pushes basketball to the side
Irving went long on why he changed his commitment to Boston, via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. He said he was excited for the future and felt comfortable, but two weeks after he said he wanted to re-sign his grandfather died on Oct. 23.
“Things just got really, really rocky for me,” he said.
Kyrie Irving explains in-depth what went wrong last year after announcing that he planned on staying in Boston pic.twitter.com/e3ybU2Y9be— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) September 27, 2019
“After he passed, basketball was the last thing on my mind. A lot of basketball and the joy I had from it was sucked away from me. There was a facial expression that I carried around with me throughout the year. Didn’t allow anyone to get close to me in that instance, and it really bothered me.”
He said he didn’t get counseling or therapy to deal with the death, which he should have, and it resulted in “uncharacteristic” responses. He said it became clear throughout the year that his home life took higher precedence than the Celtics organization.
Irving’s answer alluded to his inability to lead the team in the correct ways and the need to take a closer look at what he wanted for the next step of his career.
Irving: ‘I failed’ Celtics teammates
Irving took his share of the blame for the Celtics failings. They entered the year as favorites for the Eastern Conference title but finished fourth in the conference and lost in the semifinals.
“I failed those guys in a sense that I didn’t give them everything I could have during that season, especially with the amount of pieces that we had. My relationship with them personally were great, but in terms of me being a leader in that environment and bringing everyone together, I failed.”
Irving, a six-time All-Star and 2015-16 NBA champion, led the team with 23.8 points per game, but was constantly criticized for poor leadership.
Irving, currently day-to-day with a facial fracture, told media that though the players wanted to be great, they weren’t trying to be great as a team and it doomed the Celtics.
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