Kyrie Irving flaunts new hair style, then shows up big against Pistons
There are certain truths when it comes to the Boston Celtics: The banners will always hang prominently from the
Garden rafters, the opponent will always be seeing green, and Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn will always espouse the virtues of the hometown team.
Well, hold on a minute.
Heinsohn, the team’s television analyst who is affectionately known in Boston for being an unabashed homer,
departed from this usual stance on an Oct. 20 broadcast when he questioned the conditioning of point guard and
franchise player Kyrie Irving. Then, after a win Saturday against the Pistons in Detroit, Heinsohn doubled down, declaring,
“[Irving] looks like he’s five pounds overweight, but I haven’t seen him on a scale.”
Irving responded Tuesday night with his most electric performance of the young season, submitting a season-high 31
points in a home win against the Pistons in which he shot 10-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-7 from the 3-point line.
He added five rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes and single-handedly accounted for a scintillating
run in the third quarter that turned the tide.
Afterward, in a brief on-court interview with NBC Sports Boston reporter Abby Chin, Irving declared, “I
want to give a shout out to my man, Tommy Heinsohn.”
He then abruptly turned and strode off the parquet. Was he being sarcastic? Facetious? Genuinely grateful?
Who could be sure? After all, is the world round, or not?
Irving was far more expansive in a postgame locker room interview in which he conceded Heinsohn was right:
He needed to be in better shape.
“I caught wind of [his comments] probably like a week ago and it was bothering me, because it was the most honest
thing anyone had said about the way I was playing,” Irving said. “I literally had to try to match a level I had been playing
at last year but also become better, so how you do that is, I had to really put an emphasis on my body and how I was taking
care of my mind. [Heinsohn’s comment] was one of the realest things I could have heard. As a competitor, if that doesn’t itch
inside you of wanting to be better, especially from a guy like Tommy Heinsohn, who, you can’t do any wrong in his eyes if
you’re a Celtic. … I appreciate that.
“It was the truth. I had to get in better shape, I had to become more dedicated to what I was doing. I was on the bike the
next morning doing everything possible to prepare my body.”
Pressure on yourself
Irving is coming off back-to-back knee surgeries that prematurely ended his inaugural season in Boston. Throughout the first six
games, he was shooting 24.1 percent from beyond the arc — 39 percent overall — and appeared to be pressing. Coach Brad Stevens
cautioned in preseason with would take time for both Irving and Gordon Hayward, who was coming off a serious injury, to regain their footing, and that has been true.
Yet Irving explained some of that struggle has been defining his role on a talent-laden team that he declared in preseason could beat Golden State in a seven-game series. His charge, he said, was “managing the way you start off a season.”
“You try not to put too much pressure on yourself,” Irving said. “I think my focus became not so much on myself, but how do I become a better leader for this team as well as the other leaders we have? If that meant sacrificing a game or two to really emphasize moving the basketball and getting these guys going, then so be it.”
Irving said that even when he wasn’t shooting the ball particularly well, opponents were still guarding him as though he was the guy who hit the biggest shot in Cleveland basketball history to clinch the 2016 NBA championship.
“Some of the film I was watching, some of the shots that I wasn’t taking or even collapsing the defense, they were still there,” he said. “The respect was still there. It wasn’t like anybody was going under my screens or anything like that.”
Staking Boston to a 10-point advantage
Although Irving is a five-time All-Star, he spent his last three seasons in Cleveland in the daunting shadow of LeBron James. Now that he’s the lead dog on this Celtics team, he wants to make sure he manages it properly.
“[That means] not getting uneven,” he said. “Not attempting to be excessively of a playmaker or a lot of a shooter, simply endeavoring to locate the cheerful parity of how to fit in with such a one of a kind and extraordinary group. It is anything but a simple errand for anybody.”
But Irving made it look simple in the last minutes of the second from last quarter, when he bored a 3 from the highest point of the circle, at that point descended and nailed a 26-footer from the correct side of the floor, at that point included a 30-foot trey over the outstretched arms of Blake Griffin to send the fanatic group (and, probably Heinsohn) into a free for all. He outscored Detroit 12-5 all alone to finish off that second from last quarter, staking Boston to a 10-point advantage and lolling in reestablished serenades of “MVP.”
He did as such brandishing recently shorn locks that, he uncovered a while later, aren’t so high upkeep as the long lost afro he wore the initial couple of long stretches of this season.
“It was simply time,” he said. “I had an extraordinary kept running with it. It was an extraordinary afro. I’m glad I did it. Time to return to what I’m utilized to.”
Irving thumps down shots
That sounds great to his mentor, who, when gotten some information about Irving’s breakout execution, simply stated, “Theory of probability.”
It sounds great to his partners, especially Aron Baynes, who comprehends that when Irving thumps down shots, “he turns into an objective for the barrier, five [pairs of] eyes on him each time he has the ball,” which implies another person is open.
You can make certain it sounds great to Heinsohn as well. He may have removed a pound of substance from Irving, yet now that he knows he drains Celtic green, arrange has been reestablished.