On Celtics Media Day, Kyrie took the podium for his 2nd press conference as a member of the Boston Celtics. When asked about his new team, Kyrie made some surprising comments about what his expectations are for this season, “With that newness of learning individuals, and learning a system, and getting used to playing in a different environment, with a different vibe, and different energies and stuff like that, that takes a while. So, you just have to be very patient in your approach and I speak on that pretty often. So, it’s not trying to figure out one thing or a few things in 1 day or after 1 game. It’s gonna come in waves. These ups and downs are what we're about to face as a team and a collective group. It’s gonna be fairly interesting.” So, how long will it take for Kyrie to adjust to the Celtics system?
It’s interesting to think about Kyrie in particular and how long it will take him to adjust to the Celtics system. Not learn, but adjust. It’s one thing to learn the Celtics system, but it’s an entirely different thing to change your habits on the court to adjust to it. Just like breaking any habit, it will take time before Kyrie runs the offense the way Brad wants in run, a lot more time than you might think at first. Kyrie has bad habits that he has to break, habits that ESPN’s Zach Lowe wasn’t shy about bringing up in his article about Kyrie heading to Boston:
“[Irving] can hit pull-up 3s off the pick-and-roll, and Brad Stevens would encourage him to shoot more of them; he launched "just" 3.5 of those suckers per game last season, a hair below Mike Conley and Chris Paul. That number should be higher, even though Irving's accuracy on those shots -- the toughest shots in basketball -- has fluctuated wildly year-to-year.
Those shots draw double teams, and those double teams unlock everything else. If Irving trades in two or three [contested midrange jumpers] every night for 3s and kickout passes, he immediately becomes a different player.”
You can read Lowe’s full piece on the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving linked here.
It’s not a matter of if Kyrie can change is style of play, it’s if he will. Moreover, when he will. When Irving says “that takes a while”, he isn’t talking about a few weeks or a few months, he could be talking about a few years before he fully adjusts to the Celtics system. Learning to adjust your game when you’ve been playing a certain way your whole life isn’t easy. Just look at Isaiah Thomas’ progression. Isaiah wasn’t an All-NBA player when he first came to Boston. Each season he got a little better at adjusting to the Celtics style of play. He went from averaging 19 points in his first half season in Boston, to 22, to 29 in this past season. It appears even Al Horford had to take a small step back last season before he could take a step forward in the Celtics system. Learning to master the offense will take time for Irving and that’s what he was trying to get across on Media Day. It will not be as easy as flipping a switch.
Will Kyrie take 2 and ½ years to adjust? Probably not. I would hope not, but it will take longer than a month for the Celtics to be playing at the level they are capable of. I said in that Youth Movement article at the beginning of the month that you shouldn’t be surprised if you look up in December and the Celtics are struggling and when Kyrie says “You just have to be very patient” and “These ups and downs are what we’re about to face as a team” at media day, it sure looks like he’s trying to tell you the same thing.
Photo: (CLNS Media Network)