Grande: "Kyrie Conundrum" Is "Elephant In The Room"

Sean Grande believes Kyrie Irving is trying to be a leader; he just doesn't know how to do that

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
February 28, 2019 - 9:07 am

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The Boston Celtics (37-25) have not won a game since the All-Star break. They are 0-4 with losses to Milwaukee, Chicago, Toronto, and Portland and are in jeopardy of having to play a first-round series on the road – perhaps against the 76ers (39-22).

What is wrong with this team?

“The elephant in the room is the Kyrie conundrum,” Celtics play-by-play voice Sean Grande said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “The press conferences went from, ‘Okay, this is a different kind of dude and he says weird stuff,’ to, ‘Wait a minute, what did he just say?’ to a calamitous public-relations day in New York on Feb. 1, when he basically backtracked off his pronouncement that he was going to stay no matter what. Now, while Feb. 1 didn’t change what he’s ultimately going to do, it really was a destabilizing force to the franchise.”

The Celtics started the year 10-10. Then they got hot. Now they’ve cooled considerably, having lost six of eight overall.

“If you want to win the batting title, you can’t be hitting .250 in May,” Grande said. “Because even if you hit .360 the rest of the year, guess what? The batting title is gone. You’re not going to hit .350 for the year because you had such a bad start. The Celtics in the middle 34 games were as good as anybody in the league. I want to say they were 25-9, best scoring differential in the league. A lot of the body of work has been really good. But the eye test is, ‘What’s wrong with the team?’ A lot of things, but clearly the pieces are not in the right places right now.”

One key difference between the Celtics and, say, the Warriors: the Warriors have chiseled veterans – such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston – as role players. The Celtics don’t.

“Teams that win generally have veterans like that in those spots,” Grande said. “The Celtics are trying to do it with young guys on their first contract – all these young players who are not yet settled into their spot in the league. They’re still figuring out the game. Jayson Tatum is 20 years old. You’re still counting on a lot of young guys in a lot of very specific roles.”

Even so, one must wonder if Kyrie’s curious comments have hurt the Celtics on the court this season.

“That would be a tough case to prove in court,” Grande said. “That’s a lot of circumstantial evidence. I’ll say this about Kyrie: I think he is genuinely trying his best to be a leader. I think the kind way to say it would be he has not quite found his niche yet as a leader in how to lead. I think he is trying, earnestly, but I don’t think it’s clicked yet with this group. A leader without any followers is just a guy out there on a walk. I think he has to be that guy – he wants to be that guy – but I don’t think he’s found his voice yet with this particular group.”

He needs to find it fast because there’s a good chance Boston will have to win at least two playoff series on the road – perhaps against Milwaukee (47-14) and Toronto (45-17) – to reach the Finals.

“The only slim hope that they have of doing that is the fact that they have Kyrie,” Grande said. “That may be part of the reason they played themselves into this spot, but he’s the only way they can play themselves out.”