Kyrie Irving’s public acknowledgement that he called and apologized for the way he acted as a young player, a not-so-tacit way of saying that he’s playing with young players on the Celtics that remind him of himself, feels calculated. By bringing this up when there’s really no reason to, is Kyrie trying to stoke the fires that he could join LeBron James on the Lakers via free agency this summer?
LeBron, for any bluster that he might have signed with the Lakers for basketball reasons (as opposed to making it more convenient for him to oversee dozens of film and TV projects), is finding himself in a similar spot to what it was like in Cleveland — his teammates are helpless without him.
The Lakers are 4-7 since LeBron went down with a groin injury, including a home loss to the putrid Cavs. They have games against the Thunder, Rockets, and Warriors on-deck. Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball have not developed relative to requisite expectations.
There are also real questions over whether LeBron can attract another superstar to play alongside him. At this moment, I’d bet against any of Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, or Klay Thompson signing there this offseason. Klutch Sports client Anthony Davis would require a trade that beats what the Celtics or perhaps a team that wins the Zion Williamson lottery sweepstakes this summer could offer.
Given his exit from Cleveland, this would have felt like a complete non-starter before his public apology last night. But now the door is open just a sliver.
Last night’s victory over the Raptors notwithstanding, the Celtics have been meandering this season, after entering it with high expectations. Without Kyrie and Gordon Hayward, the team pushed LeBron’s Cavs to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. How does the team look worse with its two superstars? There just aren’t enough minutes for everyone, and the chemistry has faltered.
Obligatory note: As mortal as the Celtics have looked, they still had the best title odds in the East and second best in the NBA as of three days ago:
Nevertheless, if the Celtics continue to falter, this moment could be the beginning of the story of the rekindling of LeBron and Kyrie as teammates. Will there be whispers?