Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
In some ways Irving has been the same old guy — one of the NBA’s best shot makers, a man talented enough to earn M-V-P chants on the road, as he did in D.C. after knocking down a game-tying rainbow 3-pointer from the corner then another triple from miles behind the arc moments later. Irving has long been capable of jaw-dropping highlights. He has been one of the world’s most admired players for years, dating back to his time with the Cavaliers.
But some teammates have noticed a difference in Irving this season.
“He’s smiling more,” Marcus Smart said. “You can see that (and) more smiles means you’re happier, obviously. And that’s always a good thing to see.”
“He’s got clout,” Smart said. “He’s earned it. Everybody knows the type of player he is. He’s a championship-caliber guy, he’s been there, he knows what it takes to get there, he’s done it. To have somebody on your team like that is always a good thing.
Yesterday’s piece in The Athletic was one of a number of Kyrie-is-a-leader stories that appeared in local publications between yesterday afternoon and the wee hours of this morning (see “related links”).
All of Boston’s writers were prescient in hitting those deadlines because in addition to the new approach Kyrie is taking as a vocal leader, he sure as hell lead by example last night.
Irving’s demeanor, his positive attitude and his willingness to bring younger players along with him fly in the face of what people saw in Cleveland and in what they believed he might be as a leader and teammate here in Boston.
What hasn’t been a surprise is his play, but last night’s flurry of points on absurd shots in overtime still has the ability to make your jaw hit the ground.
When Paul Pierce screamed “that’s why I’m here” to Wizards’ fans in 2015, he was reminding fans just why they were so excited to bring in the veteran in the first place. Kyrie is a different kind of Celtic — not one to yell on the court, but one who lets his flair and flash do the bragging and boasting.
After he hit his second straight three, the one he took from another solar system, I texted my brother “that’s why we brought him here.” I forgot I was channeling Paul in the moment, but it was the truth. His text back was “and that’s why you pay him.” And he’s right, that is why you pay him.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s evolved as a leader and taken on a happier disposition as all of the Kyrie leader pieces shared yesterday.
But it’s his wizardry in the court that he showed while torturing the Wizards last night that make Kyrie who he is.
NBCSports Boston — Celtics players and coaches see Kyrie Irving evolving as a leader
On page 2, The Cs exhibited free throw perfection
The 25 makes without a miss ties the C’s fourth-best shooting performance from the line in team history.
April 12, 1990 — 35/35
March 18, 1990 — 33/33
January 5, 1973 — 26/26
Wednesday — 25/25
October 31, 1986 — 25/25
No surprise here, but Kyrie Irving led the way, going 10-for-10 at the line as part of his 38-point performance. The Marcuses (Smart, 7-for-7, Morris, 4-for-4) were also perfect, while both Daniel Theis and Terry Rozier made both of their freebies.
The NBA is weird, man. There were a few nights during the 10-10 start where the Cs were compounding poor play with awful free throw shooting. Last night, a game that at times had the feel of the clogged offense nightmares of October and most of November, the Cs buoyed themselves with a perfect night from the line.
Go figure. When it’s going right, it’s going right. But in addition to “water finding its weight” or whatever Brad Stevensism you want to use, a night like that from the line also infers that whatever was mentally blocking the Celtics early on, they seem to have gotten past.
The rest of the links:
NBCSports Boston — Stars, Studs and duds