The Boston Celtics entered the 2018-19 season as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but it's been an inconsistent campaign at times for the team.
After winning back-to-back games without Kyrie Irving in the lineup as he deals with a sprained right knee, there's been talk that maybe the Celtics are more successful without Irving on the court. In an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston on Thursday, team president Danny Ainge was quick to dismiss that idea, and even said that it doesn't make any sense.
"It's completely illogical. It makes no sense," Ainge said. "If you just look at the data over the past two years our team has been so much better. It wasn't but a month ago that we were trying to figure out 'how in the world are we going to score without Kyrie on the court.' And everybody was struggling and going through their challenges. I mean now we're getting a lot of good play out of a lot of good guys. The last couple of nights Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, they're playing great basketball. And Jaylen Brown has really stepped up his game over the past couple of months even and really bought into his role off the bench. So I feel like we just all need to all play well, but Kyrie is by far our most efficient offensive player, without question. And our team, when Kyrie is on the court over the past two years, is by far more efficient with Kyrie playing than when he's not. So no, I think it's ridiculous to think."
The Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in a 112-109 decision earlier this week in a battle between two teams that could meet in the postseason. Boston followed it up with a 118-110 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday to give the team back-to-back wins.
Boston obviously had a great deal of success in last year's playoffs despite being without Irving and Gordon Hayward for the entire postseason. In fact, the Celtics took the Cleveland Cavaliers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals before ultimately being eliminated.
"Do other players like a bigger role when you have a guy that is your best scorer?" Ainge added. "Heck when I used to play with Bird, I never didn't want Larry Bird on my team, but I got very excited when Larry or Kevin [McHale] weren't going to play in a game that night because that meant more shots and more opportunities, and that was fun. But I knew that to win the big thing and to win it all, you can't be without those great players and that's how I feel about Kyrie."
Players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier really stepped up into larger roles throughout the team's postseason run last spring. When Irving isn't in the lineup, they obviously don't have to produce at such a high level. When Irving is healthy, there's more depth and that's never a bad thing for a team that has grand aspirations like the Celtics.