“I never want to come from a place where I don’t want to sound like, or make it feel like, I don’t want to win a championship. Sometimes I may come off and say things, never to question my teammates like that in public ever again; I just want to win so bad,” Irving said on Monday at the Celtics shootaround.
After Boston’s loss on Saturday, Irving said his team’s lack of experience was a factor in Boston falling short of preseason expectations.
Irving on Saturday suggested his team — which features several key contributors who lack championship experience — was feeling the burden of expectations this season.
“It came from a place where I asked for a trade and I’m coming here and I believe in this organization and I want these young guys to be successful,” Irving, who won a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, said on Monday of his post-game critique. “In order to that, we all got to be on the same page and have that mindset that, a championship or nothing. And sometimes that can get the best of me at times.”
With Irving and Gordon Hayward sidelined with injuries, Boston reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Younger Celtics like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Smart played key roles in the team’s run last season.
Boston coach Brad Stevens agreed that the increased expectations may be affecting the group. Although he noted that, internally, last year’s team expected to compete for a conference title despite the injuries to Irving and Hayward.
“It takes a lot of teams a long time to get there, some teams never get there,” Stevens said. “We’ll see if this team does from a [consistency] basis. But we’ve shown that we have a chance, so that’s good.”
Irving said it’s the responsibility of the entire organization to help the younger players deal with the burden of title expectations.
“But I’m leading this thing,” said Irving, who is likely to opt out of the final year of his contract in 2019-20 and become a free agent this summer. “I’m going to take most of it.”