Celtics' Kyrie Irving further explains decision to call LeBron James; offers thoughts on Boston's 'trying' season

The Boston Celtics are 37-21 and currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. For most teams, that would be a strong season, but it's been a bit of a disappointment for this Celtics team, who many expected to run away with the East this year. 

There's no doubt they have plenty of talent, but incorporating the returns of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving from the team that went to the Eastern Conference finals last season, and figuring out roles and responsibilities has not been a smooth process. That's led to frustration and a number of interesting quotes from the likes of Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris at points in the season. 

Recently, Irving had even more to say during a sit-down interview with Rachel Nichols. What will get the most headlines is his further explanation of his decision to call LeBron James and apologize earlier this season. Irving told Nichols that doing so was a "step to go forward in my own life." Additionally, Irving spoke about the challenges the Celtics have faced this season, calling it a "trying" season. 

Irving's full quote about leadership and why he called LeBron to apologize:

That you don't have to try to be a leader. Because you naturally propel yourself to this position. You naturally start listening to outside advice, like 'Hey, how did you deal with this? How did you deal with that?' And at the end of the day, I've always had the tools, and now it's just about going out there and just doing it, and proving it and being myself. That's the best version of me.

I think that it takes a very strong individual to replay a lot of the experiences that you had, a lot of anger that you had built up, that where you didn't address the situation, you allowed it to fester and then it was just combustion. It came out and you realized like, 'hey, I didn't have to deal with that the same way I dealt with that. I didn't have to go about it the same way.' Now, mind you, I have no regrets in terms of any decision that I've made, going about my individual journey and what I want and foresee for my career. And yeah, apologizing, that was just a step to go forward in my own life.

This is pretty much along the lines of what he said back in January when he first revealed that he'd made a phone call to LeBron. When he was younger, he didn't quite understand what it took to lead a team, nor some of the lessons LeBron was trying to teach him. Now that he's in LeBron's shoes, however, he gets it; it's hard work and an extra challenge to not only perform on the floor but lift up the rest of the team -- especially when many of them are so young. 

Irving's full quote about the Celtics' "trying" season and figuring out roles:

You obviously have expectations to live up to individually, but as a team, it's a lot to figure out all in one year, brining in a lot more talent. We didn't fill in just pieces here and there, we filled in pieces with great players. A lot has changed since the beginning of the season, but overall, I just want to win. I'm gonna dedicate myself every single day. If I gotta bring everybody else up with me, that's just what I gotta do.

It's been a trying year for us, because we basically have a bunch of young men in our locker room that feel like they're capable of doing a lot more than what they're doing. And that's OK, but there's a maturity that you have to have, there's a professionalism that you have to showcase every single day, and that's what the great ones do. I initially didn't play the minutes I wanted to play. I'm 26 years old heading into my prime. Why do I have to wait for anybody? Terry Rozier, he played in the playoffs, he did extremely well -- coming back, that's a natural competition that me and him have. It just is what it is. No one wants to say it, but I will. It's part of their growth. When you have winning in mind, you gotta understand that. You gotta do what it takes, but you gotta understand your teammates.

This is definitely not on the level of the direct call-out that Irving made earlier in the season following a loss to the Orlando Magic, in which he said his young teammates "don't know what it takes to be a championship level team." He later apologized for doing so publicly but said he would continue to push his teammates, who will be back in action along with Kyrie on Thursday night when they face the Bucks (8 p.m. ET -- Watch on FuboTV with NBA League Pass add-on). 

Still, given his previous comments and the team's struggles, coupled with the pending free agency drama, there's a reasonable urge to nitpick everything Irving says. Why did he mention maturity and professionalism? Why did he mention Terry Rozier? Is he taking a passive-aggressive shot at some players? Why does he keep giving answers like this?

At the same time, falling down that rabbit hole can leave your head spinning in circles, especially when it comes to Irving's responses, which while thoughtful, can at times verge on rambling. In this case specifically, though, it seems like a pretty honest assessment of what's happening with the Celtics this season. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories