BOSTON — Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving has typically shied away from talking about his time with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But he offered a rare glimpse Tuesday into how he viewed his role alongside James.
Spinning off of chatter about the development of Boston’s young tandem of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, Irving was asked about being “the man” in Cleveland after being the No. 1 overall pick in 2011. Irving quickly clarified that he wasn’t the face of the franchise, even before James returned, and saw himself as just a “great piece,” especially considering he was only 19 years old at the time he was drafted.
Pressed on the topic, a reporter asked what it was like, then, being James’ lieutenant.
“Lieutenant?” Irving asked. “I didn’t really see it as that. I saw it as a point in my career where I could grow. I took as much knowledge as I could and moved on with my career. From that point I learned a lot about myself and how much of a competitor I am.”
Now, Irving is trying to use his experiences to help Tatum and Brown as they attempt to make the leap to star players in the NBA.
“The biggest thing when I see the young guys we have here is how young I was. The experience component,” said Irving. “I had to learn a lot about the game of basketball. Like being with LeBron, being with Mike Miller, being around veterans that is when I went from being one of the youngest to being one of the oldest.
“Whether it was lieutenant, sergeant, or whatever you want to call it with LeBron, being around him with basketball knowledge and all of the other veterans was something we needed. I was my fourth year in, just signed a $90 million contract, and, for the most part, I had just been taught roll out the ball and go play. That was the first time I had watched film, get ready for the playoffs, learn how to be competed against. I had become the hunted, and that was the biggest change. Our effort has to surpass other teams — talent and effort.”
Now, as the clear-cut leader of this Boston team, it will be Irving’s ability to bring along Tatum and Brown that might ultimately define whether the Celtics are able to emerge as a true title contender this season.
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