BOSTON — Kyrie Irving said he regretted criticizing his younger teammates, then he made a call to a former teammate he also owed an apology.
The Celtics point guard said Wednesday that he called LeBron James over the weekend to apologize for failing to understand the burden the four-time NBA MVP carried when they played together on the Cavaliers.
“I had to call Bron, and tell him I apologize for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips,” Irving said after scoring 27 points and handing out a career-high 18 assists as the Celtics beat the Toronto Raptors 118-107 on Wednesday night. “I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that.”
The win snapped a three-game losing streak — all on the road. In lengthy comments after a loss in Orlando on Saturday, Irving called out his less-experienced teammates and said: “We have a lot of learning to do.”
But he said he came to regret what he said, or at least how he said it.
“I did a poor job of setting an example for these young guys what it’s like to get something out of your teammates,” he said. “Going forward, I want to test these young guys, but I can’t do it publicly. That was a learning experience for me, realizing the magnitude of my voice and what I mean to these guys.”
And that also made him realize that he owed James an apology for bristling when the star returned from Miami to a Cleveland team that Irving had come to think of as his own.
The Cavs came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors and win the 2016 NBA title with James, Irving and Kevin Love. Irving hit the game-winning shot.
“He’s been in this situation, been there with me, where I’ve been the young guy, been the 22-year-old kid, wanting everything, wanting everything right now,” Irving said.
“The responsibility of being the best player in the world and leading a team is something that’s not meant for many people. And Bron was one of those guys that came to Cleveland and tried to really show us what it’s like to win a championship. And it was hard for him. Sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world. Fewer are meant for it or chosen for it. And I felt like the best person to call was him.”
The Athletic reported that Love was with James in Los Angeles when he got the call from Irving.
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