After the Celtics saw Gordon Hayward go down in the opening minutes of the first game of the season, it looked very dismal that the Celtics would compete for the first spot in the Eastern Conference with the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Yes, the Celtics will still make the playoffs this season without Hayward, but they’ll be a middle pack team in the East standings,” said many sports analysts. After the Hayward injury in Cleveland, I don’t think anyone in their right minds would have thought the Boston Celtics would be 24-7, first in the East, three months into the NBA season.
How have the Celtics been so successful losing their new superstar that was supposed to be “their missing piece”? Easy, Kyrie Irving. Although a lot of the hype this early summer had been all about acquiring the shooter in which the Celtics needed bad, in Hayward, it can not be forgotten that Kyrie Irving can straight-up ball. He might have been number 2 to Lebron James, but who wouldn’t be?
Just a few of Irving’s accolades to look at:
-2011-2012 Rookie of the Year
-4x Allstar (’14 MVP)
-2014 “All NBA”
Could he be successful without LeBron James? Throughout the first three months of the NBA season, the answer to this is YES. Although he has missed a few games this season with a facial injury, he is doing legit everything to put his team in a successful place, and giving the Celtics a chance to win every single night he steps on the floor. Kyrie Irving is shooting the ball great this year to start the season. He is averaging 24.3 points and shooting 49.4 %, which is about 5 percent above his career average.
This might be seen as average statistics for an NBA All-Star, but he is putting up these numbers and winning games with a whole new team and cast of players. Within the starting lineup for the Celtics is Jayson Tatum (age 19) and Jaylen Brown (age 21). Irving is really making space for these two, allowing them to get open shots.
We all know Irving has incredible ball handling skills. He is using these skills to give his players space, by opening up the court by his handles and being double teamed throughout games. A great example of this was this past Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets. In this game, Irving had 7 assists. The special thing about this is 5 of these assists were to Celtics big man Aaron Baynes. What NBA Allstar is looking to pass the ball to Aaron Baynes that many times throughout a game? He is really getting his team involved especially the many young guys on the team.
Irving seems to be a mentor on this Boston Celtics team, being one of the older guys at only 25. He is always high-fiving his teammates, coaching and showing a lot of emotion during games. Head Coach Brad Steven’s has noticed the leader Irving has become on this “New Look” Boston Celtics Team.
Video from ESPN
It sure will be fun to witness a series between the Celtics and Cavaliers, if they match up in the upcoming playoffs this March. It is evident that Kyrie wants to prove that he does not only win championships in LeBron’s shadow.