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Burke: Is Kyrie Irving a good fit for Celtics, Boston?

Kyrie Irving has had a rough first week as a member of the Celtics
Burke, Kyrie Irving, Celtics, Boston
Kyrie Irving is just three games into his Celtics career. Getty Images

A big part of what makes Kyrie Irving so good is that he’s got a definite edge to him.

He’s the only guy in the past 14 years to stand up to LeBron and tell him to go screw. When he asked for a trade out of Cleveland, he was basically telling LeBron, “I’m not sticking around here to put up with a year of your ‘will I stay or will I go?’ drama. I’m not sticking around here to put up with more of your passive aggressive B.S.. I want my own team and I want to go toe-to-toe with the alleged ‘King.’”

Kyrie got his first shot at LeBron last Tuesday night, but the Celtics lost, 102-99. The Gordon Hayward injury altered the tone of the game dramatically, but Kyrie and the Celtics put up a good fight – even taking the lead at one point in the fourth quarter. Kyrie scored 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting in that one.

In Kyrie’s second game as a Celtic, he put up eight more shots than he put up the previous night and scored just 17 points on 7-of-25 shooting against Milwaukee. He was asked after the game about his ugly shooting night and he responded by saying, “gotta get ’em up,” in reference to his 25 shot attempts. That got a collective eye-roll from most Celtics fans.

On Friday night in Philly – a 102-92 Celtics win – Kyrie put up 17 shots from the floor, making seven. He finished with 21 points. Good night, not great.

Kyrie is averaging 20.0 points per game, good for 27th in the NBA. With expectations that he would be in the mix for an NBA scoring crown this season, so far the Celtics’ new star has been mostly underwhelming.

In addition to his slighty-below-average play so far, Kyrie has also already offered up some odd incidents.

In the home loss to Milwaukee he went into the tunnel to the locker room for 10-plus minutes in the first half. Later that game, with Kyrie pounding the basketball and the offense looking completely out of sorts – typically reserved head coach Brad Stevens threw himself violently into his chair on the bench, shaking his head. In the locker room after the game, Stevens told his team that “if you don’t learn the plays, you won’t play.”

It’s highly speculative to suggest Stevens was talking about Kyrie, but that’s absolutely something worth monitoring. Kyrie noticeably passed up shots against Philly on Friday night, so it’s possible he’s already taking Stevens’ cues.

Also in Philly on Friday, a Sixers fan yelled at Kyrie in the tunnel, “Kyrie, where’s LeBron!?” Kyrie responded with a quick, “S--- my d---!”

No harm, no foul there – in fact it’s pretty funny, and Boston fans can get on board with a little trash talk toward a Philly fan any day. But, is it fair to start expecting this sort of thing from our new basketball hero?

There was this little thing, too, in the preseason. During training camp, Kyrie was 45 minutes late for a meeting with Stevens because he had car trouble.

Again, no biggie. Everyone has car issues now and again. But just another thing to keep in mind in case there’s more weird Kyrie stuff going forward.

One thing is for certain, this season is going to be interesting as all hell with Kyrie running the show.

Will he be able to handle the cynical Boston fans when he has more shooting night clunkers like he had the other night? Will Celtics fans be OK with the up-and-down nature of Kyrie’s play? (Last season with the Cavs he had a 3-for-17 shooting night one night against Philly, and later that year had a 49 point explosion against New Orleans).

Will there be a struggle between Kyrie and Stevens, the perfectionist?

As we all know by now about Boston, win and all is forgiven.

“Edgy Kyrie” can still own this town, so long as the Celtics start to rack up some W’s.


What’s on tap?

The Celtics will sport a 1-2 record heading into Tuesday night’s game against Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks (0-2) at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., NBCSB).

The C’s will then get their second shot of the season at Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Thursday in a national TV game (8 p.m., TNT).

Boston will close out the week in Miami against the Heat (1-1) on Saturday (8 p.m., NBCSB).

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