Kyrie Irving “failed” his Celtics teammate as their leader last season, the All-Star point guard told reporters Friday afternoon.
Irving, who was introduced to the Brooklyn media along with new Nets teammate Kevin Durant, says his grandfather’s death “sucked” the joy he typically draws from the game of basketball from him.
Kyrie added that KD was “not ready to play” when he tore his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals this past summer, and vows to protect his good friend from returning to action too soon.
“A lot of the joy I had from basketball was sucked away from me,” Irving said at Media Day. “There was a facial expression I carried around with me throughout the year and I didn’t allow anyone to get close to me. It really bothered me. I didn’t take the necessary steps to get counseling or therapy. I had to acknowledge that fact.”
That distant and moody Irving was not the same guy who showed up to the dais for his press conference on Friday. Instead, he seemed reflective.
“A lot of those battles I thought I could battle through (in Boston’s) team environment, I wasn’t ready for,” Irving said. “And I failed those guys. I didn’t give them everything I could have during that season. In terms of me being a leader and bringing everyone together, I’ve failed.”
Durant went on to say that Irving is his best friend. The two of them expect to have a natural chemistry on the court. But Irving said firmly that he will never be pushing Durant to rush his rehab.
“We all know K was not ready to play,” Irving said of Durant’s return for the Warriors in the 2019 Finals. “We all know that, whether people want to admit it or not. He was out 31 days and we put him on a national stage in the Finals to end up selling a product that came before the person Kevin. Now, I’m here to protect that. And I’m going to be the protector all throughout the year and not allow people to infiltrate that circle.”