U.S. Markets open in 6 hrs 21 mins

Kyrie Irving is living his truth, and the Celtics' success is very much 'reality-based'

We’re still not sure of the specifics behind Kyrie Irving wanting off the Cleveland Cavaliers, since this may have been the least ambiguous answer he provided in his thank you video to Cavs fans, a “very much woke” appearance on “First Take” and his introductory news conference with the Boston Celtics:

“It never came from the fact of me wanting to be absolutely selfish and putting myself first and wanting to be the man. I don’t really have an ego. I have a presence and aura about me that’s very reality-based. It didn’t come in a form of living in this false world and not being able to tell the truth to somebody and look them in the eye and say, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to be on my own. I’m ready to try out a new situation and be in an environment where I feel like I can be happy.’ My intent was the same and always will be the same — to be around people and to interact them. I love doing that, and to do that through basketball, that’s even better. But to be happy every day I come to work and perfect my craft, oh man, I can’t wait to get the season started.”

Irving’s responses to questions on the subject of asking off a team that featured LeBron James have been as circular as the world is round, but we’ve at least deciphered he wanted to work in a nurturing environment that allowed him to live his truth, perfect his craft and “actually play point guard.” And through 11 games, at least, Irving sure seems to be living his best life with Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

[Follow Ball Don’t Lie on social media: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr]

Irving enjoyed the best game of his brief Celtics career on Monday, when they needed him most. The C’s were riding an eight-game win streak into Atlanta on the second night of a back-to-back, and they spent the first half looking like a tired team struggling to find the drive to stay with a game Hawks squad that was feeling pretty good about themselves after knocking off LeBron’s Cavs on Sunday.

There was the devastating dribbling, of course:

And that dagger from just above the right arc that we’ve come to know so well:

But there were also some making-something-out-of-nothing assists:

Unselfishness in the flow of a real-live offense:

And keep an eye on the dribble handoff Al Horford that frees Irving up for that curling dagger:

These are the staples of a Stevens offense and precisely the sort of action that turned Isaiah Thomas into a top-five MVP candidate last season. Irving’s 35-point, seven-assist line in the 110-107 come-from-behind win over the Hawks — including 12 fourth-quarter points and a direct hand in the Celtics’ final 11 points — just might be the start of a similar conversation again in Boston. After all …

That’s right. The Celtics own the league’s best record (9-2) and longest active win streak (nine games), with the rival Los Angeles Lakers on tap Wednesday. Their net rating (just under double digits) ranks second behind the Golden State Warriors, and in the most surprising development of an Irving-led team, they allow almost two fewer points per 100 possessions than any other team in the league.

Among regular NBA starters, Irving joins teammates Aron Baynes, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum in the NBA’s top-10 for defensive rating. The Celtics allow 95.5 points per 100 possessions when Irving is on the floor — right around their league-best average — and that number rises when he sits on the bench. The four-time All-Star leads the league in steals, and he’s giving real effort on defense, which he wasn’t known for when the Cavs significantly improved on D without him over the past three years.

This isn’t to say Irving has been perfect on either end. He started slow offensively, seeming impacted by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, but he always found bursts of production before fully realizing his flow on Monday. Irving still has lulls of lost interest defensively, but Stevens is quick to get on him every time he slips. There’s an old coaches saying about it being easier to get guys to try on defense when they’re more engaged in the offense, and a similar sentiment seems to be true of Irving, whose defensive effort can flow from his offense coming easier in a motion system this year.

We may be about an eighth of the way through the season, but Boston’s defense looks legit, and it’s hard to imagine Irving won’t get more comfortable as the season goes on. That’s encouraging news for the Celtics, whose ceiling has also been raised by the potential of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

This might be why Irving told Geno Auriemma on the UConn women’s basketball coach’s podcast last week, “Brad fits perfectly in terms of that because he has an intellectual mind and is an intellectual human being. It was something I was unbelievably craving in terms of what I wanted for my career.”

Irving’s “intellectual” comments could be interpreted as a dig at Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, whose team is 4-6 and owners of the league’s worst defense without him. However you decipher any of Irving’s odd remarks, it’s hard not to concede the 25-year-old is living his truth, perfecting his craft and actually playing point guard in a nurturing environment, at least through his first 11 games on the Celtics.

“It’s just a new season,” Irving told reporters in Atlanta. “It’s probably just unexpected, more or less, because of all the input everyone had going into the season, in terms of what they thought this was going to look like. The only thing that really matters is us handling just our preparation, understanding the trust that we continue to build with one another, and the expectations we have within this locker room are reality-based.

“We know what we want to accomplish,” Irving added before answering a question about how his plant-based diet has affected his recent play, “but it starts by not taking any moment for granted and understanding we’ve got to get better in practices and shootarounds, and every moment we have a chance to be with one another and connect matters. Brad always says, ‘There are never really any little things anymore in the grand scheme of things,’ so every moment matters for us to continue to build our foundation and what we want to be going forward.”

If you were wondering if this early Celtics success under Irving is real, there’s your answer, as cryptic as ever. Kudos to NBC Sports Boston for this tagline under another reality-based answer from Irving:

That this performance came on a night when LeBron sent yet another cryptic Instagram amid a dramafilled series of disastrous Cavaliers losses has to be that much more satisfying for Irving.

We may suspect LeBron’s passive-aggressiveness was at the root of Irving’s reasoning behind wanting out of Cleveland, but some questions are better left unanswered. We know what we know, and that’s enough for now: Kyrie Irving, very much woke, is living his best life, and Boston is better for it.

– – – – – – –

Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

More from Yahoo Sports:
NFL Power Rankings: 49ers, Browns staring down 0-16 possibility
Steve Kerr offers solution to gun violence epidemic
LeBron delivers first cryptic social media post of new season
Report: Suns finally trade disgruntled star Bledsoe

  • 7 Stocks to Buy and Hold Through Any Market Selloff

    7 Stocks to Buy and Hold Through Any Market Selloff

    Last week’s market collapse made headlines throughout the world. Since the sharp correction has negatively impacted virtually all investment sectors, you’re going to find discounted deals everywhere you look.

  • Netflix user growth beats expectations, shares spike
    Yahoo Finance

    Netflix user growth beats expectations, shares spike

    Netflix (NFLX) reported user growth that exceeded Wall Street expectations, underscoring a recovery for the online streamer following a rare miss in new user additions last quarter.The Los Gatos, California-based company brought on 6.96 million total new streamers, beating its own guidance of 5 million total member additions for the quarter. The company issued guidance that it would add 9.4 million new members in the fourth quarter of 2018. Netflix’s stock rose 13% in late trading Tuesday.

  • Brits Are All Making the Same Joke About the New Royal Baby

    Brits Are All Making the Same Joke About the New Royal Baby

    Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, is expecting her first child with Prince Harry. The news, announced Monday morning by Kensington Palace, has already been greeted by hundreds of messages of congratulations for the royal couple on social media. The U.K. is set to leave the European Union on March 29, exactly two years after Prime Minister Theresa May started the formal process for doing so by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

  • Boeing delivers first 737 Max 8 BBJ and unveils Max 7 luxury interior (Photos)
    American City Business Journals

    Boeing delivers first 737 Max 8 BBJ and unveils Max 7 luxury interior (Photos)

    Boeing has delivered its very first 737 Max 8 business jet to a paying customer. It's the first of 20 BBJ Max jets that buyers from around the world have ordered from the Chicago-based jetmaker since they went on sale. Boeing spokesman Dmitry Krol declined to identify the buyer of the jet, which is the second of its kind made at Boeing's Renton 737 factory.

  • Marijuana Stocks to Watch in October -- and Into 2019
    Motley Fool

    Marijuana Stocks to Watch in October -- and Into 2019

    Tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 17, Canada will become the first industrialized county in the world where marijuana is legal for adult recreational use -- and only the second country, along with Uruguay, where such use is legal.  Not only does this open up

  • Here's the Average Social Security Benefit for 2019
    Motley Fool

    Here's the Average Social Security Benefit for 2019

    Millions of seniors collect Social Security, and without it, they'd be underwater on their bills. At present, the average retiree gets $1,422 a month in Social Security benefits. There's a world of misinformation surrounding Social Security, and perhaps one of the most detrimental myths out there is the notion that the program is enough to sustain seniors by itself.

  • General Electric (GE) Stock Sinks As Market Gains: What You Should Know

    General Electric (GE) Stock Sinks As Market Gains: What You Should Know

    With this in mind, we can consider positive estimate revisions a sign of optimism about the company's business outlook. Investors can capitalize on this by using the Zacks Rank. This model considers these estimate changes and provides a simple, actionable rating system.

  • Where Will NVIDIA Be in 5 Years?
    Motley Fool

    Where Will NVIDIA Be in 5 Years?

    At one time, NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) floated under the radar in the technology sector. Its graphics processing units (GPUs) were then niche tech products that appealed mainly to graphic artists and hardcore PC gamers, but that all changed over the last

  • Sears faces tough foe: an unforgiving bankruptcy code

    Sears faces tough foe: an unforgiving bankruptcy code

    The change stems from a 2005 legislative overhaul of the bankruptcy code that forced companies to find an agreement within seven months on its real-estate leases, or allow landlords to walk away from the agreement. The law intensifies the pressure on Sears and Chairman Eddie Lampert to restructure the company and turn it into a relevant, viable business. Sears did not respond to requests seeking comment.

  • Jamal Khashoggi was accidentally killed during interrogation: report
    Fox Business Videos

    Jamal Khashoggi was accidentally killed during interrogation: report

    Fox Business foreign policy analyst Walid Phares on the report that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was accidentally killed.

  • 3 Stocks for Warren Buffett Fans
    Motley Fool

    3 Stocks for Warren Buffett Fans

    Warren Buffett has no shortage of acolytes, and it's easy to see why. The Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) chief and founder has made thousands of early investors in his conglomerate rich as the parent of businesses like GEICO car insurance and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad has posted average annual returns of 20% over the last 50 years, crushing the market. Buffett has never gotten too big for his britches, however.

  • Walmart is aggressively shifting away from its most legendary shopping format
    Yahoo Finance

    Walmart is aggressively shifting away from its most legendary shopping format

    Walmart (WMT) continues to kill off the American shopping creation it’s most known for, the massive supercenter that sells everything under one roof. With the U.S. market already having more than 3,500 Walmart supercenters and a focus by CEO Doug McMillon to increase spending on eCommerce and India, Walmart said Tuesday it will open a mere 10 supercenters in 2019. The company has reduced emphasis on the store format pioneered by founder Sam Walton – which could average a gargantuan 178,000 square feet – in recent years.

  • Price Target Update for Canopy Growth in October
    Market Realist

    Price Target Update for Canopy Growth in October

    How Analysts Rate These Cannabis Stocks in October (Continued from Prior Part) Canopy Growth Without a doubt, Canopy Growth (CGC)(WEED) has been one of the hottest cannabis stocks on the market (MJ). The company is one of the most valuable companies,

  • A Look at AT&T’s Dividends
    Market Realist

    A Look at AT&T’s Dividends

    What Investors Should Know about AT&T’s Growth Prospects (Continued from Prior Part) Shareholder returns Increasing capital returns to shareholders is one of AT&T’s (T) main priorities. In the second quarter, the company returned $3.1 billion to shareholders

  • Cramer: 'Cannabis might be the most disruptive force sinc...
    CNBC Videos

    Cramer: 'Cannabis might be the most disruptive force sinc...

    Jim Cramer surveys the pot craze as Canada prepares to legalize cannabis nationwide and flags the companies he thinks will be long-term winners.

  • Why New Age Beverage Corp. Stock Popped Today
    Motley Fool

    Why New Age Beverage Corp. Stock Popped Today

    Shares of New Age Beverage Corp. (NASDAQ: NBEV) were climbing again today, riding a surge on marijuana stocks as growers like Tilray, Cronos Group, and Canopy Growth all jumped by double digits. Along with the bullish sentiment in the industry, a number of other factors seemed to be driving New Age shares higher, including the recent hiring of a new CFO, the upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada on Wednesday, and the market's reaction to its launch last week of a new line of beverages infused with cannabidiol (CBD). On Friday, New Age named Gregory Gould as its new CFO, a notable move as Gould brings experience from the pharmaceutical industry, which should help the beverage company as it moves into CBD products.

  • Finance

    Morgan Stanley: The stock sell-off is going to get worse

    The stock market is in the middle of a rolling bear market, says Morgan Stanley's Mike Wilson. "It's being caused by a drain in liquidity and peaking growth," Wilson says. The stock market sell-off is only going to get worse, predicts Morgan Stanley's chief U.S. equity strategist, Mike Wilson.

  • The Largest Private Employer in the World May Soon Sell Marijuana Products
    Motley Fool

    The Largest Private Employer in the World May Soon Sell Marijuana Products

    With literally hours remaining, Canada is set to lift the curtain on nine decades of recreational marijuana prohibition tomorrow. This makes Canada the first industrialized country in the world to legalize adult-use weed. As you might rightly imagine, investors can't wait for this legalization to take place.

  • Marijuana stocks to watch: Canopy Growth is the cannabis business’s $4 billion gorilla

    Marijuana stocks to watch: Canopy Growth is the cannabis business’s $4 billion gorilla

    The following article is part of a package of stories that MarketWatch is publishing to mark the start of full legalization of cannabis for adult use in Canada on Wednesday. Smith Falls, Ontario–based Canopy Growth Corp. made headlines and drove cannabis stocks to new heights over the summer when it announced that Corona brewer Constellation Brands Inc. was going to invest an additional $4 billion in the company. Billed by both companies as a strategic partnership, the additional $4 billion investment adds to the 9.9% stake that Constellation bought in October of last year and sets the company up to either be bought outright by Constellation — via warrants that could increase its stake to more than 50% — or continue to work with the beverage company to create a range of consumer-focused cannabis products that may one day appear in markets in dozens of countries.

  • These are the bad things about early retirement that no one talks about

    These are the bad things about early retirement that no one talks about

    For all the glamour of living an early retirement lifestyle, there are plenty of negatives I’ve come to discover since I permanently left my job in 2012. As a result, you’re repeatedly forced to will yourself into action.

  • Business

    30 Marijuana Stocks to Buy as the Future Turns Green

    With the previous presidential administration’s frankness on the matter, marijuana has become more blasé. Naturally, marijuana stocks have also increased in popularity, where we have more choices today than was previously thought possible. For instance, some of the top marijuana stocks are levered toward medical cannabis.

  • Business

    Walmart saves $200 million by changing its light bulbs and $20 million with a new floor wax

    Walmart says switching to LED lights in its parking lots cut its annual energy costs by $200 million. A change in the floor wax it uses cut costs by $20 million a year because the floors need to be buffed less often. It's exactly what Walmart WMT is doing.

  • Lam Research (LRCX) Q1 Earnings and Revenues Surpass Estimates

    Lam Research (LRCX) Q1 Earnings and Revenues Surpass Estimates

    Lam Research (LRCX) came out with quarterly earnings of $3.36 per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.21 per share. This quarterly report represents an earnings surprise of 4.67%. Lam Research, which belongs to the Zacks Semiconductor Equipment - Wafer Fabrication industry, posted revenues of $2.33 billion for the quarter ended September 2018, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 1.16%.

  • Netflix is ditching freeloaders from subscriber forecasts after volatile stock moves

    Netflix is ditching freeloaders from subscriber forecasts after volatile stock moves

    After two consecutive quarters of missing the mark on its own forecasts for subscriber growth, Netflix Inc. hopes to put an end to the big swings in its stock with some changes in its accounting. In kicking off tech’s earnings season Tuesday, Netflix (NFLX) reported better-than-expected subscriber growth in the quarter, leading to an 11% jump in its shares in after-hours trading. Three months ago, Netflix reported weaker-than-expected subscriber growth, sending its stock tumbling around 12% in the next trading day.

  • 3 Top Large-Cap Stocks to Buy in October
    Motley Fool

    3 Top Large-Cap Stocks to Buy in October

    If you're looking for high-quality large-cap stocks to add to your portfolio this month, three of our Motley Fool contributors have some ideas. Here's why you should consider Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.B), Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO), and AT&T (NYSE: T). Tyler Crowe (Berkshire Hathaway): Perhaps one of the most ridiculous investment takes out there right now is that Berkshire Hathaway's immense cash pile isn't a good thing.