Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart

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Marcus Smart explains why it worked between him and Kyrie Irving despite Celtics’ dysfunction

Nick Friar
July 29, 2019 - 4:59 pm
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The one player from the 2018-19 Celtics roster who was always ready to defend Kyrie Irving — and not talk around the issue — was Marcus Smart. From the start of 2018-19, it was clear the two worked well together, especially once Smart was moved into the starting lineup to play alongside Irving.

One of the driving forces behind their bond was the way Irving made himself available to Smart after his mother passed away last year. The now-Nets point guard helped his Celtics teammate through other things on the floor, but Smart put an emphasis on Irving’s approach to what the two discussed away from the game when explaining what type of teammate the All-NBA guard was on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Monday.

“For me personally, I can’t speak for other guys, but for me personally, Kyrie is a great teammate,” Smart said. “I’ve had sit-downs with Kyrie where things for me probably wasn’t going so well where he was pulling me to the side — and it wasn’t even about basketball. Everybody knows what I went through with my mom, losing her and everything. Kyrie, one of the first guys to text me, call me. When I got back to Boston, pulled me to the side and we’d sit down and we’d talk.

“As far as basketball, just helping me slow the game down and really recognize and understand the game even more. So as a teammate, I loved him for it. That leadership that he’s been trying to show people that he has, he had it ... he’s just misunderstood.”

But even Smart can admit the superstar didn’t live up to the hype last year. Though, as has been the case with Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge, Smart refuses to solely blame Irving for all of last year’s failures.

However, Smart did allude to the matter of teammates being singled out in the course of discussing Irving.

“You just can’t just put the blame on one guy because there’s things that everybody could have done better to not just help Kyrie, but help each other,” Irving said. “When you going in, especially when you’re trying to build that comradery, when you start singling those guys out, it makes it really hard. And we (saw) it ourselves inside the locker room with guys calling guys out and it just wasn’t working for us. So, for me, I just wanted to let people know that, yes, we understand Kyrie wasn’t up to Kyrie’s standards, but there’s four other guys and a whole roster full of coaches.”

When it comes down to it, Smart has no issue admitting the Celtics “were dysfunctional.” But like other players from last year’s roster have previously stated, the team got along off the floor. The second it came time to get to work, all the problems popped up again.

“Off the court, we actually hung out with each other,” Smart said. Things got on the court (and) it was just, everybody was put in a situation, trying to help the team the only way that they knew how. We had guys doing what they knew — we had guys scoring the ball. It’s what they do. They don’t know anything (else), it’s what they do. That’s how they made their name, and you’re asking guys to take a step back and not be themselves. And that was hard for a lot of guys. It’s hard for anybody to have to look themselves in the mirror and sacrifice something and that’s just what it was for us. Everybody was trying so hard to help the team but they didn’t know what exactly to do.”