Kyrie Irving is back in action for the Boston Celtics. But he hasn’t yet been the Kyrie of years past. Fans have been waiting to see the Kyrie that helped LeBron to the NBA finals. It’s been a slow start for Irving after being injured last season. But it seems that he’s finally found his step.
Tommy is known for giving out “Tommy Points,” his personal reward for hard work. He always thinks the officiating is horrible. And most importantly, he is unabashedly on the side of the Celtics, no matter what. But he changed his tune recently in regards to Irving. Tommy said a week and a half ago that perhaps Kyrie was not in good enough shape to be the franchise player he is touted to be. And then more recently he said that maybe Kyrie was five pounds overweight.
Who knows if it was the haircut, Tommy’s comments, or if Kyrie has just finally hit his stride after being injured last season. But something was different on Tuesday night.
Kyrie had by far his best game of the season against the Pistons. In a home victory, Irving scored 31 points, shot 10 of 16 from the field, and was four of seven from behind the arc. He also contributed five assists and five rebounds. All in all, Kyrie ended the game with a great stat sheet. He also was the man behind a Celtics run in the third quarter that propelled them to victory in the fourth.
After the game, Kyrie was asked his performance. He didn’t say all that much. He main remark was that he wanted to give a shout-out to Tommy Heinsohn. When Kyrie made the comment, it was hard to know if it was pointed or more in good fun. Later, in a postgame press conference, Kyrie expanded on what he meant.
Irving had been struggling to get back to the shape he was in before his injury last season. He said that he heard the comments made by Tommy about a week before the game against the Pistons and they really got to him. Every Celtic knows that Tommy is behind each and every one of them 100%. So if he says something negative, then perhaps he has a point.
Kyrie took this point to heart and started working more on his cardio and on Tuesday started playing with a tenacity that he hadn’t shown in earlier games. According to Kyrie, Tommy’s comments were the kick he needed to get things going in the right direction.
Kyrie’s New Role
Kyrie’s struggle to get back into things this season has been twofold. Number one, of course, is getting his body in shape after having two knee surgeries. The second challenge for Irving is less tangible and perhaps even more challenging. The Celtics have immense talent this year and Kyrie has to come into a team that made and excellent playoff run last year without him.
It’s hard to know how to fit into a team like the Celtics, with so much young talent. As an older player, Kyrie looks to be a leader, someone who can distribute the ball and demonstrate court presence, but also someone who can score. Perhaps it has merely taken him a few games to figure out how to play his new role to the fullest of his potential. But was Tuesday night a fluke, or can Kyrie keep up this kind of performance? The Celtics need him to play well if they are going to have a shot at the finals. Kyrie seems to be heating up, but is he the leader that Boston needs?