By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Celtics leader turned Nets franchise talent Kyrie Irving’s problems with the Celtics last season started at the top, and with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.
“He soured on Danny,” MacMullan said during her appearance on The Michael Holley Podcast. “I don’t know why. But I was hearing by December he’s frustrated with Danny. I don’t know what it is, I still don’t know the answer. Kyrie has never told me. It started there, and then he starts second-guessing the coach — passive-aggressively. I don’t think he disliked Brad Stevens at all, I just think he lost faith in him. And I think he lost faith in everybody there.”
Just two months after announcing to a packed TD Garden that he planned on re-signing with the Celtics, Irving soured on the team’s architect, and slowly soured on his head coach. It’s just the latest anecdote detailing (or attempting to explain, which is no easy feat when talking about No. 11) Irving’s sudden fallout with the Celtics in just his second season with Boston.
The December timeline would check out, too.
Irving’s first warning of trouble in Boston came when he mentioned the need for an experienced veteran when the C’s were struggling in November. Understanding the power of stars in the NBA, that could have been read as Irving subtly telling Ainge he wanted the Celtics to add to the roster. That addition, of course, did not come (unless you count Greg Monroe’s 10-day contract in March, which you shouldn’t), and the Celtics finished the first two months of the year at 12-10. And it was in December that Irving talked to the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie about his upcoming free agency, saying, “New York might be fun next year.”
Then, of course, there was the infamous video of Irving and Kevin Durant talking about “two max slots.”
It’s also easy to believe in Irving’s multi-month falling out with the Celtics when you looked at the way Irving conducted himself at the podium (as well as his on-court body language) when things began go south in the team’s second-round showdown with the Bucks, with Irving appearing to mentally check out upon the realization that the Celts were not the better team.
Ainge, for what it’s worth, did not see the writing on the wall with Irving until March or April.
“I think I had a pretty good idea [Irving was leaving] in March or April,” Ainge said earlier this month. “Not for sure, not certain. But I was obviously thinking about moving in a different direction at that point. Thinking of the different options.”
The Celtics, by the way, found their different option with the signing of Kemba Walker to a max contract.