Celtics

Brad Stevens, Kyrie Irving open up about their evolving relationship ahead of crucial trip

(Greg Cooper/USA Today Sports)

OAKLAND -- The entire Celtics team knows this season has not gone to plan. Yet, with 18 games remaining in the regular season, ahead of the team's biggest road trip of the year, there is an acceptance that everything is not lost just yet.

"Well first of all, in the big picture, I’d say there’s probably a lot of teams that would trade places with us in this season," Brad Stevens said ahead of a showdown with the Warriors on Tuesday night. "We’re still in a position where we’re going to end up having a chance to control playing in the playoffs and those types of things. At that point whatever happens happens. But the bottom line is this team would never be, or never could be, the best version of itself — maximize itself — until it really comes together.

"Those sometimes can happen in small doses, but we just need to do it consistently. These are the types of trips where you hope you can start back towards that. I don’t think this team had any chance of going to where it ultimately wanted to go without facing some adversity. We have not necessarily found ourselves by any means, but I do think if we do, we’ll count that as a good part of the path, though not a very fun one for everyone, that’s for sure."

Things have certainly been bad for Boston lately when compared to expectations, but Stevens is understandably trying to strike an optimistic tone in regards to the team's ultimate outlook. The Celtics will have a chance to right the ship in April no matter what, a luxury that a team like the Lakers won't have in all likelihood. LeBron James and company fell to the Clippers on Monday night to drop five games out of the final West playoff spot. Those squads didn't have similar expectations but the C's still have a chance to change the narrative, a luxury the Lakers won't at this point.

It's not an ideal situation but in a season full of turmoil, it's evident that the team is trying to turn the page and focus on the main positive that there is still time to right the ship. It was clearly the focus of a discussion Stevens had with Kyrie Irving after the ugly loss to the Rockets.

"I think Kyrie has obviously had an incredible year," Stevens said. "He’s a six-time All-Star, he was an All-Star again, and he was a no-brainer All-Star. I also think he has shouldered a heavy, heavy load, and there’s a lot that comes with that, and there’s a lot of stress that comes with that. And I think he would be the first to tell you that this year hasn’t gone exactly how he hoped, but this year is not over. It’s one of those things - we talked for a long time after the Houston game, and you could tell that was something that had really hit him in that moment, that there’s a lot of year left, and these will either be a part of the story that stays consistent and you’ll be able to write the story now, or these will be blips on the radar and you’ll be like, “Huh. Turned into something really good.”

Stevens later tried to downplay the meaningfulness of the specific discussion, acknowledging that it is something he does with all of his players. However, Irving opened up a bit about their relationship at Monday's practice after being asked about the head coach.