For all his accolades and success in the NBA, it’s perhaps easy to forget that Kyrie Irving is still just 26 years old. He appears to be maturing and learning from his mistakes.
In a surprising admission following the Boston Celtics’ win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, Irving said he called former teammate LeBron James to apologize for being a young player who didn’t quite understand what James was experiencing as a veteran leader. Irving said he’s beginning to understand what it takes to get the most from younger players after publicly calling out his teammates after a recent loss.
“It was a big deal for me because I had to call Bron and tell him I apologize for being that young player that wanted to have everything at his fingertips and I wanted everything to be at my threshold,” Irving said after piling up 27 points and a career-high 18 assists in Boston’s 117-108 win.
“I wanted to be the guy that led us to change. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that. And the responsibility of being the best player in the world and leading a team is something that’s not meant for many people. … Sometimes getting the most out of a group isn’t the easiest thing in the world.”
Irving’s admission came after he appeared visibly frustrated late in a loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday and publicly called out his teammates afterwards. Following the loss, Irving said the Celtics’ young players “don’t know what it takes to be a championship level team.”
After the Celtics lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, Jaylen Brown told reporters that finger-pointing was causing strife and adding to the team’s struggles. Brown didn’t mention Irving by name, but the message was clear. Irving said Wednesday that Brown was right.
“I did a poor job of setting an example for these young guys of what it’s like to get something out of your teammates,” Irving said. “I want to get the best out of them, but I can’t do it publicly like that. I got to empower them. J.B. was right. I got to do the right things and really not point fingers at individuals and really realize what we can do as a group.”
Boston’s win on Wednesday snapped a three-game slide. The Celtics, expected by most to be one of the best teams in the NBA, are now 26-18 and fifth in the Eastern Conference. Still, the Celtics have the third-best point differential and third-best net rating in the league.
Irving said he is hopeful after his conversation with James that he can be the leader the Celtics need.
“I feel like the best person to call was him because he’s been in that situation before,” Irving said. “He’s been there with me, where I’ve been the young guy, being the 22-year-old kid and wanting everything.
“I think what that brought me back to was, ‘How do I get the best out of this group?’ Then helping them realize what it takes to win a championship.”
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.