Kyrie is Definitely Leaving, Right?

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As much as I wish I did, I have zero league sources, so (obviously) everything I say has no factual backing to it in terms of legitimate claims; lots of "educated" guesses going on over here.

That being said, Kyrie Irving is leaving the Boston Celtics this summer. He has to be, right? Of all the impending big-name free agents, Kyrie seems to be the least content with his current situation, and the Celtics are clearly falling apart at the seams. Despite "The Podfather" Bill Simmons' claim that his hometown team would win 67 games (he wasn't the only one, though; myself and many others had them going to or winning The Finals), the Celtics find themselves as the fifth-seed (37-25) and in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Nobody on the team is playing up to championship standards, their body language looks as bad (if not worse) than the equally-disappointing Lakers', and most importantly, the team isn't united.

A big factor in Kyrie's decision will mount on how the Celtics perform in the playoffs. Just a few days ago he said Boston could beat anyone in a seven-game series, and yesterday he told reporters he's excited for the regular season to be over. This is the quote that stood out to me most: "I don’t think anybody in the Eastern Conference can really compete with us at a high level when we’re playing the way we’re supposed to be playing." (via SB Nation Celtics Blog) That could be said for a lot of teams, including the Lakers and even the Warriors, but it's been the narrative for the Celtics all season long. "Just wait for them to click, once they do they'll be unstoppable!" There are 20 games left in the Celtics' regular season; it sure doesn't look they're going to start playing like they should. They're in no danger to miss the playoffs thanks to the East being beyond top-heavy, but there's an imminent threat of a first-round exit. If the playoffs were to start tonight, the Celtics would be tipping off Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly, and it doesn't seem likely Boston would come out on top of that series. In the 2018 Playoffs, the Celtics had a pretty bad road record (something like 1-7 or 2-6/7, I don't know I couldn't find the exact stat) so they'd be at an instant disadvantage without home-court. I know Kyrie has won a championship and has come up big in crucial playoff moments, but I just don't think this team fucks with each other at all and that's going to hurt them so much come April.

Above are the stats of the players I would call the most vital to team success. The only Celtic that sticks out to me is Kyrie; based on PER, the rest of his teammates are average, including "star" Jayson Tatum. After last season's impressive playoff run led by Tatum, Terry Rozier, and Jaylen Brown (that ended in Game 7 of the ECF against LeBron's Cavs), everybody was riding high on the idea that this team would instantly make it to The Finals with Kyrie and Gordon Hayward coming back from injuries that forced them to miss the entirety of the postseason. If anything, adding those two made it worse. I think the three young guys who led the charge in the playoffs considered themselves ready to lead and take that next step, but Kyrie and Hayward were All-Stars and probably tried to make it known that it's still their team (even though Hayward and his max contract have become quite an albatross). There have been so many quotes over the last few weeks from players and head coach Brad Stevens about how nobody is on the same page and how everyone's playing for themselves, not the team. Mixed with below-average performances, all this on-and-off court drama has been detrimental to the team's success, and if they want any chance of beating Milwaukee, Toronto, or Philly, they need to iron out their issues now. (I just don't think it's possible that they do.)

When Kyrie requested a trade from Cleveland in July 2017, he did it with the intention of becoming the face of a franchise; he wanted to lead a team to championship glory. After almost two seasons at the helm, it doesn't seem like Kyrie is fit to be a prototypical leader. Too often his comments don't match with teammates, especially those about chemistry and solving on-court problems, and it feels like a bit of a John Wall-Wizards situation where there's a real sense that Kyrie's teammates don't really like him. In fact, they play worse with him. Over his last seven games played, Kyrie is averaging 23.6 points 6.3 assists on almost 49% shooting, but the Celtics are 1-6 over that stretch. In the three games Kyrie has missed since February 5, the Celtics are 3-0, and in the 11 total games he's sat out thus far, Boston is 9-2. I'm not saying Kyrie makes the Celtics worse, but he clearly doesn't make them much better. Their record without him kinda makes sense, though, I mean they were one game from The Finals without him (insert eye emoji).

Unless Boston somehow makes or wins The Finals, it seems like Kyrie is gone come July 1, and you know what? He's going to look incredible in purple and gold alongside LeBron. While I've convinced myself he's heading to LA, I don't actually have the slightest clue. New York keeps getting their name tossed in the hat, but why would any star in their right mind go to the absolute shit show that is the Knicks? Unless KD goes with him and they get Zion, there's really nothing appealing about it. I'd argue the Bulls are a more attractive destination for Kyrie, and I would welcome him with very open arms to the Madhouse.

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