The Celtics are entering perhaps the most important stretch of their season.
The playoffs are around the corner, and the team still struggles to put together quality performances on a consistent basis.
Yet, Kyrie Irving is still the talk of the town. His testy press conference following another bad loss to the Rockets can be interpreted a few different ways, but as has become the norm for Irving, it raised another series of questions in regards to his future in Boston.
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Former Celtic Antoine Walker said in February that he didn't believe Irving was a "true Celtic." Appearing on WEEI with Marc James on Saturday, he doubled down on that claim, citing Irving's unwillingness to be forward about his impending free agency as one of the signs that Irving isn't fully committed to the Celtic way.
"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 [Irving] 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."
Walker then reiterated his earlier claim that he doesn't believe Irving truly wants to be in Boston.
"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."
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Much has been made of Kyrie's leadership skills this season after he publicly called out his teammates in the media and admitted to calling LeBron James to ask for advice on leading a team. Walker believes these are signs that Kyrie isn't a leader in the mold of past Celtics that have led their teams to championships.
"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," said Walker. "We know his leadership skills have struggled because he reached out to LeBron James about being a leader.
Being a leader is in a lot of different ways. 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."
The Celtics have a difficult path ahead of them even without all the noise surrounding Irving and his potential departure. Time will only tell if the team can come together for a playoff run.
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