A surprisingly clean-shaven face, a tacky green suit, and a lot of compliments.
That’s the short summary of the press conference that finally introduced Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving as members of the Boston Celtics—a sentence that still feels as jarring to say out loud as it is to see this in full color:
After a long, drawn-out process that began on July 24, when the report surfaced that Kyrie had requested a trade from the Cavs, and concluded on August 30 after the standoff between Cleveland and Boston ended, the Celtics presented the jewels of their revamped team to the rest of the NBA world, looking like an unnaturally happy family.
“Is there ever such thing as one person carrying a whole team? I don’t think so,” Irving said. “We have to depend on those moving parts. It’s our job to bring the best out of one another every single day. There is no one player. I think the team gets remembered more than the player.”
Irving said he hadn’t talked to LeBron James at all since the trade request surfaced, but he talked about how much he had learned from playing with one of the best players ever. The word that Kyrie repeated over and over when asked about leaving Cleveland was “intent.” His intent was to do what was best for him, to find a situation where he could “be happy … with a group of individuals [he] can grow with,” to be in a place “where everyone gravitates to us as a team, not individually.”
All the talk of intent, along with the overall narrative of the press conference, was intriguing; everyone in the room acted as if Kyrie had chosen Boston, when, in fact, it’s just that the Celtics had presented the best deal to the team he wanted to leave. Of course, Irving hadn’t said a word publicly throughout this whole process, and he might have had more of a voice in his preferred destination than we know.
Irving happened to say all the right things Friday, talking about what everyone does when they head to Boston—the history. He said he asked Danny Ainge if he had old VHS tapes from the Celtics’ championship runs in the ’80s. He also touted Brad Stevens as one of the main reasons he was drawn to Boston, and said he’d been watching Hayward highlights to spot his tendencies.
“He’s a bad dude,” Irving said of Hayward, who he recruited to Cleveland in 2012 before LeBron arrived and the process was “squashed.” "I think the first thing is like destiny. We both have March 23 birthdays,” said Hayward.
Another aspect of the presser that was hard to ignore was the veiled, and likely inadvertent, shots at former franchises. Every good thing Kyrie said about Stevens felt like a slight toward Ty Lue. Every time he mentioned his new team’s culture, it was hard not to think of the one he’d just wanted to leave behind.
“I just want to be with those incredible coaches and incredible minds, and I felt like in doing that, Boston came right at the exact time,” he said. “This is not a knock on Cleveland.” Hayward wasn’t exempt from this either, calling Boston fans “especially educated,” which is something that will surely go over well in Utah.
For the most part, both Kyrie and Hayward said all the right things Friday amid the jovial atmosphere of the TD Garden dais. Their verbal intent to build, grow, improve, and win was music to the ears of Celtics fans and brass. But intentions will need to turn into actions before the franchise will truly be happy.
For now, though, can someone at least tell Hayward to fix his tie?