Kyrie Irving appears to have turned the corner on understanding how to lead his Boston Celtics. The former 2011 No. 1 NBA Draft selection talent was always evident. He's equipped with natural born scoring ability and has some of the fanciest dribbles in the league. However, he's never been in the position as de facto leader of a championship-caliber team until his trade to Boston from Cleveland.
This season has been a trying year for the Celtics. Irving has struggled initially to get his young squad to mesh well chemistry wise. But even as a five seed they are still prime contenders for an NBA title. Irving, ever understanding of the rigors of an NBA title run, knows that health is key for an NBA title to suffice. For Cleveland, he missed the 2015 NBA Finals with a knee injury and missed last year's playoffs with another knee injury.
To combat his health woes, Irving recently stated that he will sit some regular season games to prepare for the playoff grind.
“I'm definitely taking some games off before the playoffs,” Irving said. “It just makes no sense to put emphasis on these regular-season games when you know you're gearing up for some battles coming in the playoffs.”
In sports, there are two schools of thought. The first is the old-school, play-every-game-hurt-or-healthy approach. Most champion the Michael Jordan's and Kobe Bryant's are championed for playing through pain and for never once considering leaving their team's. To those who conceive this logic, it's work hard or else.
The second school is the work smart approach. Here, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard's load management issues are never a big deal. The production that matters most comes from the postseason. Stars linking up to play with systems or other stars that complement their playing style is considered wise. To those who conceive this logic, it's work smart or else.
Kyrie Irving fits the second school, and he's not wrong to approach preparing for the playoffs this way.
Irving has been battle tested with injuries over the course of his career. The 2015 NBA Finals will be remembered as a big “what if” had he stayed healthy. And Boston's playoff run without him last year has made others ponder if an NBA title could have been won had he played.
It appears that Irving is valuing his health now more than ever and wants to be healthy for a championship run. However, it won't come from grinding in the regular season stretch run. Irving understands the importance of rest and body maintenance. He doesn't want a repeat of 2015 and 2018, and taking games to rest will help remedy the health wounds that plagued him in the past.
But most importantly, Irving is playing the health end game. He wants to walk away from the NBA healthy and intact physically. While Kobe Bryant has five rings, he suffered a multitude of injuries throughout his NBA career to win them
Yes, he sacrificed his body for rings. But Tom Brady and LeBron James have spearheaded the movement of pushing athletes to take care of their bodies for the long haul. For Irving, this is no harm no foul. He wants to make sure that his body is available and at peak performance for years to come.
The Celtics currently have 10 games remaining on their regular season schedule. Hopefully, the Celtics comply with their star point guard and give him the rest and maintenance needed to get ready for the playoffs.