The Boston Celtics lost their fourth game in five Sunday night, trailing by 17 in the first half in an eventual 100-94 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Afterward, point guard Kyrie Irving told reporters he thinks the team could use a veteran leader to help get them out of this funk:
"I think it just comes with, just some experience. Looking at this locker room, me being in my eighth year and being a 'veteran' as well as Al [Horford] and [Aron] Baynes.
"Right now, I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it's a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint, when you want to play, when you want to do what you want to do. It's all about attitude and effort. That's all it is."
Boston's roster is youngish among contenders, but it isn't lacking in veterans. Horford is in his 12th season. Gordon Hayward is in his ninth. Irving his eighth. The Celtics' Big Three beyond rising stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are into their primes; they are guys who should be capable of taking the veteran leader mantle.
Irving said he thinks the slow stretch will ultimately help the Celtics:
"We needed this. We're not as good as we think we are. I said it at the beginning of the season. The excitement is done. It's real basketball now, so it's not just about the potential of the team or where we'll be at the end of the season. It's right now and taking care of what presently is in front of us. We have challenges.
"We have barriers to get over as a team and individually. I'm going to be the most patient out of everyone. I'm not going to get too frazzled, too high or too low or stuff like that. It's a long season. I just understand that for us to be special, we just have to get through some challenges."
The Celtics are already five games behind the Toronto Raptors in the race for the East's top seed. Some expected them to challenge for 60 regular-season wins, but their offense has lagged far behind a league-best defense.
The Celtics have 15 players with guaranteed contracts on their roster, so odds are they won't add a veteran. If they do, however, names like Jason Terry, Joe Johnson or perhaps even Carmelo Anthony could surface.