After the Boston Celtics were ousted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Celtics guard Terry Rozier commented on what it's like to play alongside Kyrie Irving on ESPN's Get Up! on Tuesday.
Irving has been widely criticized for his poor play during the five-game series, and while Rozier praised Irving's leadership, he also suggested that his veteran teammate has a "my way or the highway" approach: "He's a great guy, great leader. You know, you just have to adjust to his style. Whatever Kyrie wants done, he's gonna show it, that's what he wants done. You have to adjust to his style of play and how he goes about every game and every day."
Rozier also suggested that Irving's in-game style resulted in the Celtics straying from the intended game plan at times: "I think guys was getting it, especially toward the end of the season. Like I said, we had come into the game and it'd be a different game plan than what we kind of expected and went through in practice."
Kyrie can become an unrestricted free agent during the offseason, while Rozier is set to be a restricted free agent, which leaves their respective futures with the Celtics in question.
Irving shot just 35.2 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from three-point range against Milwaukee in the playoffs, which included a 6-of-21 performance for only 15 points in the Game 5 loss that eliminated Boston from the playoffs.
Expectations were high for the Celtics entering the 2018-19 season since they reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season despite Irving and Gordon Hayward missing the entire postseason run because of injuries.
With those two back in the fold and joined by rising stars such as Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celts were the Eastern Conference favorites on paper.
They struggled at times throughout the season, though, and entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the East after failing to fully jell as a team. After playing great in a first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers and beating Milwaukee in Game 1, Boston dropped four straight games to end its season.
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Since Irving is a one-time NBA champion who was brought to Boston to be "the guy," his leadership was questioned at times during the season, especially when the Celtics were in the midst of some rough stretches.
In January, Kyrie called out his younger teammates and openly wondered if they truly knew how to be a championship-caliber team, per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports:
"The young guys don't know what it takes to be a championship level team. What it takes every day. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we're trying to get to the Finals?
"There were no expectations last year. Everyone played free and easy. Everyone surpassed whatever they expected for themselves. This year? We all have high expectations. The players, the coaches, everyone. And that's good, but we aren't doing it yet."
This month, ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullan reported that Kyrie's teammates were "treading lightly" early in the season because of Irving's "mood swings."
It was once considered a foregone conclusion that Kyrie would re-sign with the Celtics. In October, Irving said at an event for season ticket holders that he planned to remain in Boston: "I've shared it with some of my teammates as well as the organization as well as everyone else in Boston. If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year."
Irving's conviction seemed to diminish as the season wore on, leading him to say, "Ask me July 1," when asked about re-signing in February, according to Jay King of The Athletic.
If Kyrie does decide to re-sign, there is no getting around the fact that the Celtics will be his team. If he leaves in free agency, however, it could open the door for younger players like Rozier, Tatum and Brown to take on a greater leadership role moving forward.