Kyrie Irving has received the brunt of the blame for the Celtics' underwhelming 49-win season and dismal exit from the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the last few months. Irving was at the forefront of that poor play in the postseason with 36 percent shooting from the field against the Bucks and dismal defense for the final four games of the series. However, in his first public comments since Irving announced his departure to the Brooklyn Nets, Marcus Smart continued to defend his former starting backcourt mate in an appearance on ESPN's The Jump Monday.
“Let me make this be clear: We, not just me, the world, even Kyrie knows that he didn’t play up to the standard that he wanted to, but there’s four other guys out there with him, there’s a coach out there, we’re all supposed to be one team,” Smart said. “So you can’t put the blame on just one guy, because there’s things that everybody could have done better to not just help Kyrie, but help each other. And when you’re going in, especially when you’re trying to build that camaraderie, and you start singling guys out, it makes it really hard. And we’ve seen it inside the locker room and things like that, with guys calling guys out and it just wasn’t working for us. So for me, I just wanted to let people know that yes, we understand that Kyrie wasn’t up to Kyrie’s standard, but there’s four other guys, there’s a whole roster full of coaches, everybody participated.”
Smart, in effect, admitted what a lot of Celtics fans saw from the start of the year: A team that never fully meshed together. When asked about Cedric Maxwell's comments about the team being dysfunctional all year long, Smart couldn't help but agree with the assessment.
"Let's call a spade a spade, right? It's true," Smart replied. "We were dysfunctional, you know. It takes a lot for guys, especially athletes, to own up to that and say, 'Yeah, things didn't go quite the way we wanted,' but we've gotta look ourselves in the mirror, 'What did I do, what could I have done to help?' Like I said, we all took part in it, we all could have done something better to help that team."
Smart will have at least seven new teammates next season but holds no ill will toward his former teammates on their way out the door, a list that includes Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes.
“Off the court, we actually hung out with each other," Smart said. "Things got on the court, it was just everybody was put in a situation trying to help the team any way they knew how. We got guys scoring the ball, that’s what they do. They don’t know anything else, that’s what they do, that’s how they made their name. And you’re asking guys to take a step back and not be themselves, and that was hard for a lot of guys. It’s hard for guys to look at themselves in the mirror and sacrifice something, and that’s just what it was for us. Everybody was trying so hard to help the team, but they didn’t know what exactly to do.”