Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward were introduced to the Boston media together on Friday morning as the two new stars of the Celtics franchise. Hayward, acquired earlier this summer in free agency, was definitely not the focal point of the press conference, though. That honor belonged the newest acquisition, Irving, who received the vast majority of questions as he was speaking to the media for the first time since requesting a trade from Cleveland.
Irving spoke briefly about the reasons behind his request, and how it wasn’t totally about basketball. Rather, he discussed how this request was about a better chance for his personal growth on and off the court. While much of the press conference was kept to questions about the future, the elephant in the room was how his request impacted his relationship with his former Cavs teammates, most notably LeBron James.
Getting out from under James’ shadow was reportedly one of the reasons Irving wanted to leave Cleveland, something he pretty much acknowledged in his message to fans on Thursday when he said he wanted to “maximize his potential.” When asked at the very end of the Friday morning press conference about whether he’d spoken to James, Irving stated that the two hadn’t talked since his request, but then explained how he will be “eternally grateful” to James for everything he taught him in three years.
“No, I haven’t spoken to him,” Irving said. “My intent, like I said, was for my best intentions. To look back at the amount of ground we covered in our last three year span, to really realize how special that was and how much growth happened in that amount of time. I’d be sitting up here and telling y’all a lie if I said I didn’t tell you I learned so much from that guy. The perfection of the craft comes in a variety of forms and you watch and you watch and you ask a lot of the great players, ‘What does it take to be great?’ I’ve had the unique opportunities to play with one of the greats and it was awesome. At times it was all over just like it is with any other team, and when you look back you’re eternally grateful for the moments that you’ve had and you’ve shared, you’re able to get peace with that journey and start anew.
This was a very challenging decision at first, but after awhile when you understand and you have that confidence in yourself to understand the magnitude of what you can accomplish and potentially do with other great people. Now that I’m sitting here, it’s just being very appreciative of not only the Cleveland fans and all of Ohio, but for Bron incorporating me into that special team that we had in Cleveland. Three Finals in a row, all the shared memories. … The brotherhood exists even without all of this. And it will continue. So that’s exactly where it is and I’m very appreciative of it.”
Irving saying he hasn’t spoken to James means the reported secret Miami meeting involving the two never happened and illustrates the divide between the two stars that formed this summer. That said, Irving, who dodged a number of questions in the press conference, addressed this one head on and it was refreshing to hear him speak so positively about his experiences in Cleveland and how much he appreciates his time with James. Clearly Irving respects James, but felt it was his time to move on and become the focal point of a team. Although as this press conference indicates, he and Hayward will be 1a and 1b in Boston. Still, that still might feel better than being a clear second option.