The Boston Celtics are reeling.
Picked by many as the league's top, and perhaps only, challenger to the Golden State Warriors' supremacy before the season, Boston has instead underwhelmed amid lingering questions of personnel fit and locker room chemistry.
The Celtics are 38-26, fifth in the Eastern Conference, and two and a half games back of the Philadelphia 76ers for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They've lost five of their last six games, but they are 6-0 without Kyrie Irving dating back to mid-January, lending further credence to the notion that Boston's best player might currently be doing more harm than good.
After a loss to the Houston Rockets on Sunday, coach Brad Stevens sat down with Irving to explain that there's still ample time for the Celtics' disappointing 2018-19 season to be salvaged. Not that the meeting between coach and franchise player is necessarily newsworthy all by itself, though:
On the talk: “I wouldn’t blow that out of proportion.”
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) March 5, 2019
Irving has come under greater scrutiny of late for walking back preseason comments about his plans to re-sign with Boston in free agency this summer. Those remarks came just days after the New York Knicks, a long-rumored potential destination for the West Orange, NJ native, created enough cap space to sign two max-level free agents.
The six-time All-Star hasn't just generated free-agency related headlines when talking to the media, though. On multiple occasions this season, Irving has called out Boston's young players for what he and fellow veteran Marcus Morris believe is a lack of understanding of what it takes to win at the highest level.
The Celtics face off against the Warriors at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night.