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L-R: Celtics president of basketball ops Danny Ainge, Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (Ethan Miller/Adam Glanzman, Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Kyrie Irving had issues with pretty much everyone and everything during his time in Boston. But his infamous change of heart in February apparently comes right from the top of the Celtics organization.

According to a sprawling new report on NBA free agency by Ric Bucher at Bleacher Report, a “tiff” with Celtics president of basketball ops Danny Ainge played a role in Irving’s shift in attitude about his future in Boston. The conflict concerned “how Irving was attempting to lead the club” – which, based on several reports from throughout the season, was not very well.

From Bucher:

“Irving abruptly went from a preseason pledge to stay with the Boston Celtics to bluntly stating he didn’t ‘owe anybody s**t’ when asked again about his intentions in February. No specific reason has been given for his change of heart, although a source close to Irving points to a tiff with team president Danny Ainge about how Irving was attempting to lead the club. Irving also, at one point, pretended to sincerely argue the earth was flat. It’s not exactly the kind of track record that engenders confidence when you’re about to make him your highest-paid player and team leader.”

Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics looks on during the third quarter at TD Garden on April 17, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics looks on during the third quarter at TD Garden on April 17, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“Good People”

Bucher makes it sound like Irving “pretended to sincerely argue the earth was flat” as part of his issues with Ainge. That would be so ridiculous and yet would be so believable. But Bucher likely meant to just mention Irving’s flat-earth nonsense as part of his complicated personality, which ostensibly ate through the Celtics’ locker room culture like a termite. A loud, pretentious, insufferable termite.

Ainge spoke about the Celtics’ newest draft additions in a press conference on Monday, and this comment drew questions of whether he was taking a shot at Irving:

“I think it just makes life more enjoyable when everybody is humble, hard-working, and will play any role they have to to help the team succeed. You do have to have a certain amount of talent to win in our league, as we all know. But good people make coming to work more fun.”

I think Ainge deserves some benefit of the doubt that he’s simply trying to sell this year’s draft picks – Indiana guard Romeo Langford, Tennessee forward Grant Williams, Purdue guard Carsen Edwards, and LSU guard Tremont Waters – as likable players who will make his and Boston’s whole Celtics experience more enjoyable. That doesn’t necessarily mean he was saying Irving didn’t do that. But it’s easy to connect those dots.

It should have been apparent right from Nov. 14, when Irving said publicly that the Celtics could use a “15-year vet” in the locker room, that the enigmatic (to put it kindly) guard had questions about how Ainge built his team. It’s not much of a surprise at this point that Irving had as much of a problem with Ainge as he did with anyone else.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.