Tony Dejak/Associated Press
It’s been roughly 18 months since Kyrie Irving decided to move on from LeBron James and request a trade out of Cleveland, but now that his Boston Celtics are struggling, the 26-year-old point guard is beginning to empathize with his former teammate.
Irving revealed Wednesday that he recently called James to apologize for not fully understanding the four-time NBA MVP’s role as a leader while the two were teammates with the Cavs, per the Boston Globe’s Nicole Yang:
Nicole Yang @nicolecyang
Kyrie Irving says he called LeBron James after the Celtics’ loss to the Magic to apologize for “being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips.” Naturally, there were a lot of follow-up q’s and he told us all to relax. https://t.co/d4zeRKUbA5
After being selected No. 1 overall in 2011, Irving was the franchise player in Cleveland for three years before James decided to return home. The James-Irving duo led the Cavaliers to three consecutive NBA Finals from 2014-15 to 2016-17, delivering the franchise’s first championship in the process.
But in the summer of 2017, Irving decided he was ready to branch out and lead his own team.
The Celtics came within one game of the NBA Finals in Irving’s first season in Boston before James and the Cavs eliminated them in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, both Irving and Gordon Hayward were sidelined by injuries during that postseason run.
Adding two All-Star-caliber players like Irving and Hayward back into the mix figured to make the Celtics heavy favorites in the East now that James has moved West. Instead, Boston sits in fifth place in the East at 26-18.
Irving revealed last week, per ESPN.com’s Tim Bontemps, that the team held a meeting to clear the air amid a three-game losing streak last month. While that led to a 7-2 stretch, the Celtics have gone through some adversity lately.
Most notably, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris had to be separated during a timeout during a game last Thursday. Two days later, Irving was visibly frustrated by Hayward’s decision to pass him up for a last-second shot in a 105-103 loss to the Orlando Magic:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Kyrie was frustrated with Gordon Hayward and Celtics’ last shot 😬 https://t.co/sqnaW8amkq
That would only set the stage for some controversial postgame comments, which included him calling out his teammates, per ESPN.com:
“We had nothing to lose last year. Nobody had any expectations. … We come into this season with expectations, and it’s real. … That’s new, it’s tough and it’s hard.
“What we’re facing now is nothing compared to being on that stage, trying to get a gold trophy. It’s hard now. What do you think it’s going to be when we get to the Finals? We can’t be comfortable being a fifth [seed]. I’m not comfortable with it.”
After taking a few days to reflect, Irving made it clear that he handled the situation the wrong way.
“I should have kept it in house,” Irving admitted Wednesday, per Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.
“I’ve gotta empower them,” he added, per Jay King of The Athletic. “(Jaylen Brown) was right.”
Playing alongside James comes with immense pressure, as his teams are expected to make it to the Finals every year. Irving may not have always been on the same page as James when the two were teammates, but now that he is on his own, there appears to be a better understanding.