For the second consecutive season, the Boston Celtics didn’t live up to expectations. While they certainly had a great year, they didn’t get to where they ultimately wanted to go: the NBA Finals. Overall, though, Jayson Tatum had an excellent season for Boston and played great all year long. However, he made a pretty questionable decision before losing to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. He got leadership advice — from Kyrie Irving.
Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Finals
Despite how crazy a season 2019-20 was, the Boston Celtics had an excellent year. They went 48-24 and finished No. 3 in the Eastern Conference.
Jayson Tatum had the best season of his young career too. He ultimately earned an All-Star selection, as he went from averaging 15.7 points per game and six rebounds in 2018-19 to 23.4 points per game and seven rebounds in 2019-20.
The Celtics also had some stars around him. They had Kemba Walker (20.4 points per game), Jaylen Brown (20.3 points per game), Gordon Hayward (17.5 points per game), and Marcus Smart (12.9 points per game).
That core ended up leading them on a nice run in the playoffs too. After they defeated the Philadephia 76ers in four games in the First Round, the Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in seven games. However, once they reached the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston lost to the Miami Heat in six games, failing to reach the NBA Finals.
The loss marked the third time in four seasons that the Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Finals.
He got advice from Kyrie Irving while in the bubble
Kyrie Irving spent two seasons with the Boston Celtics. However, those two seasons, specifically the one in 2018-19, were huge disappointments. Irving is now on the Brooklyn Nets, but Tatum reportedly got leadership advice from Irving while in the bubble.
“The 22-year-old has been trying to take on more of a leadership role, something he’s been getting advice [on] from — wait for it — yes, Kyrie Irving,” ESPN’s Rachel Nichols reported prior to the Celtics-Heat Game 6 broadcast, according to NBC Sports. “Kyrie has been calling Jayson occasionally through his time [in the] bubble to talk, offer advice.”
At first glance, this might be a great thing for Tatum to do. Irving won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, fans who follow the Celtics closely and remember how the Irving era went in Boston are probably not extremely happy about the thought of Tatum learning how to be a leader from Irving.
Kyrie Irving had questionable leadership skills while in Boston
When the Celtics reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017-18, Irving did not play during the playoffs due to injury. So, when he returned the next season — expectations were extremely high. However, the season ended up being a nightmare that resulted in drama and the Celtics losing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
According to ESPN, Irving repeatedly spoke condescendingly to Tatum, Brown, and Terry Rozier publicly. He also had some questionable conversations with the media, where it appeared he was subtly calling them out.
“I mean, we had nothing to lose last year,” Irving said to reporters after a loss to the Orlando Magic, according to ESPN. “We had nothing to lose and everybody could play free, and do whatever they wanted and nobody had any expectations.”
He went on to say: “We come into this season, expectations, and it’s real. Everyone from the coaching staff to the players, it’s very much real every single day, so that’s new. It’s tough. It’s hard.”
At one point in the season, Irving also admitted that he even apologized to LeBron James. His statement about the apology seemed like somewhat of a shot at his teammates, though.
“I had to call [LeBron] and tell him I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold,” Irving said, according to ESPN. “I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.”
Then, once he joined the Nets, Irving admitted that he failed as a leader in Boston. However, he later ending up publicly calling for more help on the Nets roster after a loss to the 76ers.
“I mean, it’s transparent. It’s out there. It’s glaring, in terms of the pieces that we need in order to be at that next level. I’m going to continue to reiterate it,” Irving said, according to Yahoo Sports.
That probably didn’t make his teammates too happy.
Kyrie Irving has shown some great leadership skills at times, especially when it comes to social justice issues. However, it is hard to understand why Tatum leaned on Irving for advice on how to lead a team.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference