Smart presented his defense of Irving on Monday during an episode of ESPN's The Jump, in which he admitted Kyrie didn't play up to his own expectations this past season, but also pointed out that he wasn't exactly the only guy out there.
“Let me make this be clear: We, not just me, the world, even Kyrie knows that he didn’t play up to the standard that he wanted to, but there’s four other guys out there with him, there’s a coach out there, we’re all supposed to be one team,” Smart said, according to MassLive. “So you can’t put the blame on just one guy, because there’s things that everybody could have done better to not just help Kyrie, but help each other. And when you’re going in, especially when you’re trying to build that camaraderie, and you start singling guys out, it makes it really hard.
"And we’ve seen it inside the locker room and things like that, with guys calling guys out and it just wasn’t working for us. So for me, I just wanted to let people know that yes, we understand that Kyrie wasn’t up to Kyrie’s standard, but there’s four other guys, there’s a whole roster full of coaches, everybody participated.”
For those who may have forgotten, Irving dealt with his fair share of local media scrutiny and unfriendly ball-busting during the 2018-19 season...especially during the latter portion of that year. Smart made sure to say that he personally found Irving to be a great teammate, but also conceded that this past campaign, in which the Celtics were seen as major players to rep the East in the Finals, was plagued with issues.
“I mean let’s call a spade a spade, right?” he said. “It’s true. We were dysfunctional. It takes a lot for guys and especially athletes to own up to that.” Smart stated that almost all of those issues took place on the court, but he added that off the court things went much smoother. Notoriously understanding Boston fans are sure to understand.
“Off the court, we actually hung out with each other," he added. "Things got on the court, it was just everybody was put in a situation trying to help the team any way they knew how. We got guys scoring the ball, that’s what they do. They don’t know anything else, that’s what they do, that’s how they made their name. And you’re asking guys to take a step back and not be themselves, and that was hard for a lot of guys. It’s hard for guys to look at themselves in the mirror and sacrifice something, and that’s just what it was for us. Everybody was trying so hard to help the team, but they didn’t know what exactly to do.”
All told, Irving spent two years with Boston after a public falling out with the Cavaliers following the 2016-17 season. In those two years Boston went a combined 104-60, with an exit in the Eastern Conference Finals followed by, most recently, an exit in the second-round. After this past season Irving signed a four-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets.
Media coverage there TBD.