Boston Celtics: Kyrie Irving is his name, defense is his game

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Kyrie Irving
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Kyrie Irving /

The Boston Celtics knew what they were getting offensively with the acquisition of Kyrie Irving, but his defense has been an added bonus.

The ball handling and scoring of Kyrie Irving has come as advertised.  But, the defense the Boston Celtics point guard has played so far this season is the surprise element of his game.

Steals, block shots, defensive rebounds you name it, the amount of commitment Irving has shown on the defensive side of the court has been phenomenal.  It is actually that defense, along with his offense, that has helped this team win five consecutive games.

Is it sustainable?  Typically, I would say no when it comes to NBA scorers like Irving, but on this team, under Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, the answer is yes.  Besides that, the defensive hustle of players like Marcus Smart, Aaron Baynes, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum makes playing defense contagious.

BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 24: Kyrie Irving
BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 24: Kyrie Irving /

Now, I’m not saying he will be defensive player of the year, but his defensive rotation and quick hands have been a pleasant surprise.  Take for instance Monday’s victory over the San Antonio Spurs.  Irving forces 3 steals with plays like this:

Steals king

More from Chowder and Champions

In fact, Kyrie Irving leads the team in steals right now with 2.4 thefts per game.  That doubles his average from all of last season.  While that defensive commitment has inspired young players like Terry Rozier to catch up to that steals average, Irving acknowledged that the young players on the team have sparked his overall team play.

"“Coming in and even just playing pickup with those guys in the beginning, they have a team-oriented – at all times – vibe and culture here, and I had to adjust my individual talents to the greater good of the group,” Irving said after Monday’s win, via CBS Boston.  “I feel like that has been going a lot better than even I expected because of the guys we have in this locker room.  They make it easier for me to adjust myself.”"

While the team has jelled much quicker than anyone expected, especially with the loss of Gordon Hayward, Irving knows there is more adjustment needed.  With the passing skills and scoring returning to All-Star level, if the defense continues to improve, Kyrie Irving may find himself described as a top 3 point guard in the NBA.

Next: The 5 faces of the Boston Celtics: The coach, the stars and the future

He already has the talent to be just that, but with the added commitment to defense in his repertoire, the four-time NBA All Star will be a nightly triple-double threat.