Boston Celtics: Hurricane Kyrie Irving blows into The Hub

BOSTON, MA - MAY 25: Kyrie Irving
BOSTON, MA - MAY 25: Kyrie Irving /

With the addition of All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics seem poised to contend for a championship now and into the next decade.

And while  Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder will be missed, this writer is looking forward to seeing Hurricane Kyrie blow into The Hub and lead the Boston Celtics.

I’ll admit it. I was shocked. Sure, when word came out that Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland, it was fun to speculate on trades that might bring him to the  Celtics. Most analysts cited the green as the team with the most appealing assets to facilitate a trade, but it seemed crazy that the teams that met in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals might consummate such a deal.

But here we are. Irving will don No.11 in green next season while former fan favorites Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder will sport Cleveland’s wine and gold.

Sound of fury

Yet, in spite of the stunning deal, the reaction among some NBA writers was that Danny Ainge’s handywork was full of sound and fury, but signified little, at least in the near term. That, as long as LeBron remains in Cleveland, the C’s will continue to play second fiddle to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference while only dreaming of challenging Golden State for a title, all while looking to Minnesota or Oklahoma City for what might have been.

I say hogwash.

Look, I loved watching the Tommy Heinsohn’s favorite Little Guy zip around the court and drain seemingly impossible shots. He’s King in the Fourth for a reason. And Jae, though built for a different sport with his linebacker physique and permanent scowl, is a valuable 3-and-D player with an improving shot and a similar chip on his shoulder.

They are blue-collar, lunchpail guys, overachievers perfect for a blue-collar, overachieving city. Cavaliers fans will love them. And I fully expect, in complementing LeBron, Love and Tristan Thompson with Thomas and Crowder, Cleveland will still be a very good team next season.

The explosiveness of Kyrie Irving

But I also remember how Kyrie annihilated the Celtics in Game 4 of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. Boston was playing without Thomas, but his presence, at least on defense, would have done nothing to stop Hurricane Kyrie. Coming off a surprising Celtics win, driven by Marcus Smart’s out-of-body experience in Game 3, Boston had built themselves a 10 point lead at the half. LeBron was in foul trouble, the Cavaliers were disorientated and there was a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, the Celtics could head home for Game 5 with the series knotted at two games apiece.

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And then Hurricane Kyrie blew in. He scored 21 of his game high 42 points in the third quarter, many as LeBron looked on from the Cavaliers bench. The Celtics backcourt, featuring two of the league’s best on-ball defenders in Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, was powerless to stop him. By the end of the quarter, the Celtics’ 10 point lead had become a seven point deficit and the game, series and season was basically over.

A bigger option

Remember, as good as Thomas was last season, Brad Stevens ran all kinds of screens and handoffs to give him clean looks. As good as Thomas was, there’s only so much a 5’9″ Little Guy can do when trapped by double-teams in the paint. And when he could kick it out, Crowder, Bradley and Kelly Olynyk weren’t consistent enough shooters to make defenses pay for collapsing on him.

Related Story: Boston Celtics lineup and rotation following the Irving trade

But, as demonstrated in Game 4, the 6’3″ Irving is one of the league’s best shot creators, as is the 6’8″ Hayward. Both are also excellent catch-and-shooters and rookie Jayson Tatum should excel in that respect as well.

Smart remains to lock down everyone from Steph Curry to Kristaps Porzingis, while Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown look the part of solid two-way contributors in the Crowder mold. And, of course, let’s not forget Horford. His numbers seldom jump off the page, but he does all the little things well and helps teams win.

Next: Boston Celtics: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and the path to banner 18

One final point: last season featured just two players in the NBA who posted a .400 3PT/.500 FG/.900 FT shooting line. One was (surprise!) Portland’s CJ McCollum. The other? Yup, Kyrie Irving. And he’s just 25 years old and getting better.

That should make Cleveland, Golden State and every other team very, very nervous. And I, for one, am a very happy Boston Celtics fan that the winds have changed and Hurricane Kyrie will be blowing up in our favor for 2017 and beyond.