Kyrie Irving is Boston’s new KG – and why the Celtics can be even more successful than the Paul Pierce era

Kyrie Irving (NBAE/Getty)

Boston Celtics president Rich Gotham reckons Kyrie Irving can be the leader his team have lacked since Kevin Garnett.

The Celtics are in London this week for Thursday’s match-up with the Philadelphia 76ers as they bid to win their first championship since 2008.

Back then it was a big trade for the Big Ticket which sparked them to glory, with Garnett teaming up with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to go all the way.

But Gotham expects Irving to inspire Boston to even greater success after his big off-season move from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He said: “Kevin became such a catalyst. Bringing in Kyrie, they’re different personalities but they both have the same effect of lifting other players up.

Kyrie Irving (NBAE/Getty)

Kyrie Irving (NBAE/Getty)

“Suddenly the other guys are playing with a little more confidence, a little more swagger. Our younger guys, Kyrie’s really paid a lot of attention to helping them.

“There’s a similarity there. And I think there’s a mental toughness too. That 08 team could grind. Kevin Garnett would call it a bar fight.

“This team, even though they don’t have that same kind of extroverted type of personality, they just go in and they’re ready to compete every night.”

Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck added: “The one difference is that back then we were one of the oldest teams in the league and now we’re the third youngest. So we’re set up for a more sustained chance at being good.”

Nobody expected Boston to be this good when Gordon Hayward went down, but they have defied the critics and look the best bet to dethrone LeBron James.

Whether they have enough to worry the Golden State Warriors yet is another matter, but Gotham believes this team has years of growing to do yet.

And he insists we still haven’t seen the best of Irving despite Boston’s superstar point guard putting on highlight reel plays week after week.

Gotham said: “Kyrie is a difference-maker at the highest level. A big-time scorer who hit the game-winning shot on a championship team.

“It’s not like there was any downside or risk. You could see there was something in Kyrie that wanted to come out. It’s not about the stats.

“It’s about the leadership and playing the game differently, in a way that’s more… you see more of what he can do versus just being a scorer.

“He’s got so much more to his game and he’s shown that since he’s been in Boston.

“Everybody in the league knew he was a special talent but until he plays for your team and you see him every day, you have no idea what he can really do.

Kyrie Irving (NBAE/Getty)

Kyrie Irving (NBAE/Getty)

“We hadn’t seen it before, because we play a different way to the way Cleveland play.

“His college coach was telling us there’s so much more to his game that people haven’t seen yet in his NBA career. He’s still young.

“There is more he can do at this level. You hope your assumptions are the right assumptions when you make a trade.

“It’s Danny Ainge’s job to know these people through every lens, and he does a great job of identifying people who fit into the way we want to play, and he had the vision to see that Kyrie would really suit us.”

Gotham also believes Irving has massively helped the likes of rookie Jayson Tatum make an impact this season.

He said: When Hayward got injured he certainly got an opportunity to step up, and I think Kyrie being Kyrie and focusing all the attention allows him to do that.

“Jayson’s a particularly mature boy and his basketball IQ is of a much more experienced player.

“But in our league, young guys are expected to come in a be saviours. With us, we don’t need him to be a saviour. We need him to play a role.

“The fact he’s played that role so well is kind of eye-opening.”

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