Alright, nice win by this group tonight without Kyrie!
Smart, Brown, and Horford really brought their A games tonight!
After the win in Toronto, there was an article in RaptorsHQ that suggests that Celtics struggles isn't so much as the young guys not playing well, but rather its because of Horford not playing well or not playing at all due to injuries, minutes restriction etc. I'm starting to think that is really the case.
It's true, even Steve Kerr mentioned it. Kyrie is the best player on this team, but Horford is the engine that makes everything work. When he does well, there's a trickle-down effect for the rest of the team and we win a lot.
Horford is a great team player. Kyrie is a great individual player.
When Kyrie plays well, he generally is not elevating his teammates.
When Horford plays well, he brings his teammates with them and gets the best out of his teammates (they play well too).
I prefer Horford myself. I like guys who make others around them better. Who bring players together and make them a team.
That's too stark.
Kyrie's assist totals are way up, and more than that he's making very good passes - shooting percentages of players who receive his passes is way up (can't find the article now, but if someone else can please post it). When the team has won big games, he doesn't just score every play down the stretch, he's also assisting on big buckets. The players do sometimes stand around watching him get into his bag of tricks, but I don't think that's always his fault. I think the team gets that they need to leverage his abilities better and I look forward to the team continuing to build on it.
He's also shown a real commitment on defense, improving to the point where he's a good (not great, but good) defender.
In many ways, Kyrie has actually been winning me over throughout this season.
I loved that he has improved his defense effort. He has always been a good defender when he tries. He just didn't try often enough (which drove me nuts!). When Kyrie did try, he would often only keep it up for a couple of weeks and then slack off again for a few months. That he has maintained his increased effort on defense thus far has been a surprise to me. A most welcome one.
I have also been pleased with his growth on offense. He is finally trying to create more for his teammates after sorta stagnating for a few years. Renewed enthusiasm for developing his playmaking abilities.
Two things still concern me though:
(1) That while Kyrie is having a career year, the 4 other star players on this team are all having sub-par years. Hayward is not Kyrie's fault. The other three though? I wonder about that.
I am a big fan in the old sentiment that a PG is judged by how the other 4 guys on the floor are playing. It is the PG's job to get them involved, get the ball in spots were they can be effective, and, to make sure everyone is involved. Then find his scoring from there.
Kyrie as a scoring PG is obviously not that type of PG which has always caused me personally some extra difficulty with him. Same with Isaiah Thomas before him.
So for me to feel wholly comfortable with him offensively, what I have to see is the 4 other stars succeeding individually while he too (Kyrie) succeeds.
Until then, I am still skeptical about him (and most other scoring PGs!!).
(2) That criticism of the young players and bad leadership. That whole thing rubbed the wrong way in a big way. He says he won't do that anymore and that he is moving on. I'll take him at his word on that and I am happy he realized he was handling it badly.