Kyrie Irving has had his sights set on the playoffs for months now, a not-so-surprising mentality for a veteran who has already worked his way through three trips to the NBA Finals in Cleveland. After being a part of the most disappointing regular season of the Brad Stevens era, that page can now be officially turned. All of those struggles won’t matter if the Celtics play up to their expectations in the postseason, a scenario that Irving is excited for one year after having to watch a deep playoff run from the sidelines.
“It's been a long time trying to get back to this point,” he said. "It's been a year in my career where I've learned a lot about my body. Over the last year, getting two knee surgeries and a nose surgery. Really setting goals for myself and I just have a genuine love for the game and just want to be back to this point, playing at the highest level.
“Stats go out the window, everything else in terms of what has happened and transpired throughout the regular season goes out the window. It's just like everything is about the true essence of basketball. Nothing else about the drama or extracurricular stuff. I'm excited to be focused on the game and actually talk about basketball instead of sensationalism. I'm just happy about that.”
Before moving forward, Irving was given an opportunity at practice Wednesday to reflect upon the grind of the underwhelming Celtics 82-game regular season. On paper, Irving had the best season of his career on a number of fronts, setting personal highs in rebounds, assists, field goal percentage and steals. Behind the scenes though, there’s no question that Irving made life difficult for the franchise and his teammates on several occasions. Whether it was showing up his teammates on the floor (Orlando), calling his future into question or dividing in the locker room (calling out ‘the young guys’), Irving fell short on several occasions of being the leader he talked about wanting to be.
While he failed to address those specific missteps today, there was no denying he was issuing a bit of a mea culpa when asked about the season. In a refreshing change of pace, he pointed the finger at himself instead of others.
“A lot of bullshit, a lot of ups and downs that could have been handled better from a professional standpoint, personal,” Irving said. “And I’m talking about me personally. I’m not talking about our team. And it’s just—I had a lot of questions, a lot of things that weren’t being answered straight up about what it takes to be a great professional in this league. I think the frame of that is just outdated in terms of what you have to be every single day.