Danny Ainge on D&K: Kyrie Irving 'has a lot of amazing leadership characteristics'

Mike Cratty
February 28, 2019 - 2:08 pm
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The Celtics have hit another rut, losing their last four games and prompting more debate and questions about their season going forward. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined Dale & Keefe on Thursday to talk about what’s going on with the team.

One of the bigger talking points all season, and especially of late, has been Kyrie Irving and leadership. Irving has been in the news quite a bit this year not just for his All-Star-caliber play, but also for questions about his plans after the season and an array of quotes that have raised questions about whether he's happy in Boston and whether he and his teammates are on the same page.

Ainge was seen having a 1-on-1 conversation with Irving after Tuesday night's blowout loss in Toronto, leading to speculation about what was being discussed. Ainge downplayed the conversation when asked about it on Dale & Keefe.

"Kyrie is his own man, he’s gonna say what he wants, or not say what he doesn’t want," Ainge said. "I don’t ever doubt him with what to or what not to say, but our talk was strictly about basketball."

As far as Irving's leadership, Ainge said it doesn't just fall on one player, and that a team's best player doesn't necessarily have to be the leader.

"I don’t think that’s the case. I think your best player is a leader, but most teams have many more than one leader," Ainge said. "As a matter of fact I think most players are leaders. They’re either leading somebody astray or they’re leading you down a path of good."

Ainge continued by refuting Antoine Walker's recent comments that Irving isn't a leader.

"Kyrie has a lot of amazing leadership characteristics," Ainge said. "I don’t really know the perfect leader, but I think that that’s why I say it takes more than one. ... I think that Kyrie has an impact on the games, that’s leadership, impacting games the way that he does, taking games over, being mentally tough to make shots in the face of adversity is a form of leadership. Being able to influence people with his work ethic and his passion for the game."

Ainge also had a vote of confidence for coach Brad Stevens, who has also come under criticism for not being able to get the Celtics to play well consistently.

"No," Ainge said when asked if Stevens was one of the concerns with this team. "And that’s not to say that Brad can’t do some things better, because I don’t see what the things are that he needs to do better, but he does, and he feels like he needs to do better and you know we all have a role to play in this. ... He's the least, by far, of all the things I'm worried about as we prepare for the postseason."

Ultimately, Ainge acknowledged that this year's team has not been what he expected, but said he's still "hopeful that it can be."

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