Antoine Walker with Marc James: Kyrie Irving isn't a true Celtic

John Tomase
March 03, 2019 - 1:20 pm
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Antoine Walker made waves last week when he suggested that Celtics guard Kyrie Irving wasn't a leader. On Saturday, he took his criticisms a step further and suggested he wasn't a true Celtic.

Appearing on WEEI with Marc James, Walker expanded on his criticisms of Irving's leadership and noted that he never got the sense the All-Star guard particularly wanted to be here. Boston represented a means to an end -- escaping LeBron James' shadow in Cleveland -- in Irving's final two years before free agency.

"Immediately when you become a Celtic, you understand the tradition, you understand what the Celtics organization is all about, the fanbase, you get that when you come in," Walker said. "But to be a true Celtic, the want to be there has to be there, and the want to put another banner up. I think Kyrie got traded there. I don't necessarily believe the Celtics was one of his landing spots. I think he was OK with it because they have some young talent, and he was willing to see how it works. He knew he had two years before he could hit the free agent market, so I think he came in with the right attitude, but to be a true Celtic, you've got to want to be there."

Irving's desire to remain in Boston beyond this season has been an open question since he walked back a preseason promise to re-sign here. And with the Celtics struggling in the fifth seed of the Eastern Conference, the odds of Irving committing to a long-term stay feel increasingly remote.

"I know a lot of guys don't like to give away what they're doing in the summer and they like to just play it out, but he hasn't been definitive in the way to say, 'Hey look, I'm a Celtic, we're building something here, we're building a championship team,'" Walker said. "His comments in the media haven't been strong, and haven't been Celtic-like. When you're a Celtic, you believe that you can win here and get it done.

"I believe his goals are totally different. I believe he wants to win. I would start my franchise with him, I think he's one of the great players in the league. I think he's a closer. But a leader, being a leader and a true Celtics is not necessarily what Kyrie is. We know his leadership skills have struggled because he reached out to LeBron James about being a leader."

Walker looks to the Celtics scuffling in the standings and wonders how much traces to Irving's difficulties marshaling the troops.

"Being a leader is in a lot of different ways," he said. "One, you can lead by example on the court. The other part about being a leader is getting your teammates to buy in. That's one thing I can always say about LeBron James. For the most part, up to this year, we've seen LeBron James get his teammates to buy in to what they're trying to do, and that's win a championship. That's the ultimate goal. If you look around, you see the Celtics, Kyrie struggled to get these guys on the same page."

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