It was a wild summer—definitely the craziest offseason of my career—and I’m definitely relieved that it’s over, and that it’s nearly time to play basketball again.
In a lot of ways, the first part of it flew by. Up until July 1st, when I was supposed to be relaxing and resting, my mind was racing with questions about free agency. Then I made my decision, and the aftermath of that was stressful, too. The Utah Jazz family, and I do mean family, have done so much for me, and it tore me apart to disappoint anyone and everyone associated with the Jazz. But it was a moment in my life where I had to make a decision that was best for me and my family. I will always have nothing but love for the entire Jazz organization and all of the fans.
I only hope that as time goes by, everyone will realize I gave every ounce of energy I have to the fans, my teammates, coaches, and front office in Utah. I wish them all nothing but great success going forward.
But as I get ready to begin a new chapter in Boston, I want to talk about everything else that happened over the past few months. The superstar who recruited me to come here is gone, and another one is here in his place. I have a (sort of) new coach and a new set of teammates, and a new city to play for. There’s a lot to talk about.
ISAIAH AND KYRIE
When the rumors about Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving started, I tried not to worry about it too much. This offseason especially, there have been so many rumors, and so many different things have happened. I really was just focused on continuing to work out, continuing to put the time in.
But it really started to get real when this happened:
Sources: Boston, Cleveland nearing deal on Kyrie Irving, but details still working to completion. Isaiah Thomas, Crowder, pick(s) in talks.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 22, 2017
All of a sudden, my friends were hitting me up, asking me about it, if I knew anything. At that point in time, I didn’t really know too much. I just knew what everybody else was seeing on Twitter. I talked to Al Horford about it, and he was kind of in the dark as well. Then when it finally happened, I got a call from Danny Ainge and we talked about it, and I talked about it with Coach Stevens as well.
My first reaction was to text I.T., and wish him the best. That was a really strange moment because I’d really been looking forward to playing with him. He didn’t just help recruit me to Boston—he was a big piece of that recruitment. He had talked a lot about city and how it was different to be a Celtic. He talked about the intensity of playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, playing at the Garden in the playoffs, and how much fun it was, and how much fun he had playing in Boston.
All of that ultimately helped win me over. And by the time of the trade, I had already started to build a little bit of a relationship with him.
But that is just how the business works. I have spent enough years in the NBA to realize that things can change like that, in an instant. Still, even though we didn’t necessarily get to be teammates, I’m definitely going to be watching him as a fan. In this league, I think we are all rooting for each other in some way or another—just to try to stay healthy, to try to be the best we can be.
So that door closed, and then another one opened, and Kyrie Irving was a member of the Celtics. I texted Kyrie too, and said, “Welcome to Boston. Let’s do this thing.”
Being able to play with Kyrie is an amazing opportunity. He’s a guy who can really do it all. He has the ability to score one-on-one, score in clutch situations, get his own shots. He’s also a playmaker, and someone who can make the game easier for me. He’s going to give me more space, because the defense has to respect him. Whether he’s driving, or because somebody shifts off of me to go to him, and he can kick it out, I will have more space. Just his presence on the floor will do that for me. And of course, I can always kick it right back to him, too. The fact that he can score as well as he does and finish as well as he does—it just gives us another huge weapon.
And that’s just his impact as far as basketball goes. When it comes to his experience, he’s done it all. He has been through the lows when he was first in the league, playing as a rookie. Going through that ultimately helps you become a better player. And then getting a chance to play with LeBron James, and going to the Finals three straight years—those are experiences that are invaluable and that you really can’t teach.
Having that experience of playing in those big moments, dealing with the circus of the media, dealing with expectations, those are all things that I think he can help us with. Because most of us, myself especially, have never been through that.
THE COMING SEASON
There’s a lot about the coming year that’s going to be new.
Playing in Boston is definitely going to be a big change. It’s a much larger place than either Indianapolis—where I grew up—and Utah, and there are teams in every major American sport, so they’re sports-crazed in a way that I’ve never really experienced. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a different kind of energy. Everywhere I’ve gone so far, people have stopped me and said, “Welcome to Boston. Thanks so much for coming here. I can’t wait to watch you and the Celtics play this year.”
When it comes to basketball, I’m also entering a new system. Given what a competitor and strategist Coach Stevens is, I’ve been working on learning his system since pretty much right after I signed. The Celtics actually sent guys out to San Diego to help me learn the offense. That helped me get a little bit of a head start. I’ve kept that up these first few weeks of September, going to our facility here in Boston to make sure I don’t go into training camp cold turkey. And because I’m a veteran entering my eighth year in the league, I want to be in a position to help some other guys out, too.
Much of the talk has centered around Kyrie and I, but we have a lot of great players on our team. Al Horford is a guy that I am really excited about playing with. Fans don’t understand how good Al is as a player because a lot of the stuff that he does doesn’t show up on a stat sheet. He makes the game so much easier on his teammates, whether it’s as a playmaker from the post or the top of the key, or with his ability to shoot, creating the floor space so you have more room to drive. He also has great defensive smarts, and a veteran presence in knowing how to win. I’m excited to learn from him, and hopefully help him out, too.
Marcus Smart is another guy I’m looking forward to playing with. He brings so much heart to the way he plays, tough and physical out there on the court. He seems like a guy who just goes out and competes every night. He’s not afraid of the moment or big shots. You have to love having a guy like that as your teammate.
And of course, we have the two young guys, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. They have so much potential, and from watching them in Summer League, I think both of them are going to be great NBA players. Jaylen Brown has crazy athleticism and explosiveness, and the ability to finish around the rim. He just seems like a smart player. And I think all the same things can be said about Jayson, too. He seems to have a great feel for the game, and that’s something you can’t teach. They’re in a great situation, too, because Coach Stevens is going to help them get better as players, put them in the right spots to be successful.
OFF THE COURT
Outside of all the basketball-related events, my favorite thing that I’ve experienced in Boston so far was going to the League of Legends NA LCS Finals at the Garden. I got a backstage tour of the LCS event, and got to see their production and what it takes to put an event like that on, which was cool. I also got a tour of the Garden—from a basketball standpoint, from the Bruins, just hearing all the history of it. I got to see the locker room and everything, which was something that I hadn’t done yet.
Because it’s been such a busy summer, I haven’t had as much time to play video games, but I did play a lot of League of Legends in San Diego. I also got a chance to play the Destiny 2 beta, which is coming out in October on PC. The game actually came out a week or so ago on console, so I’m pretty bummed that I have to wait, but right now I am gearing up for the season, so maybe that’s a good thing. I’m just trying to get everything organized at the house for my wife and I, as well as the girls and our dog.
I’d be a bad husband if I didn’t mention what a rock star my wife, Robyn, has been during the whole summer because it was really stressful for her, too. For her, it’s been one question after another: “Where are we going to live? How am I going to figure out what the girls are going to do? Where are they going to be at?” She’s a pretty organized person, and then I just threw her for a huge loop. Like, “We are moving to a completely different city. You’re not going to know anybody there. And we have to find a house and get situated in the house.”
So I do just want to thank her for everything that she has put up with, and had to put up with, and is going to continue to have to put up with. Because I wouldn’t be able to play the way I can play without her holding everything together for us.
The family is good though, and all of us are excited about getting to know Boston. We’ve settled into our house, and are finally getting basically all the way moved in. Now, we’re just trying to find all the spots for my daughters, Bernie and Charlie—the little gyms that they can go to, the parks that we can go to and play at, all that good stuff. It’s funny—right now, they don’t understand too much. As long as they have their dolls and their blankets, they’re good to go.
WHAT TO EXPECT
When I chose to come to Boston, it was really important to me that the team understood one thing: I don’t feel that I have reached my potential. I still feel like there’s a long way I can go, and I wanted to know that the Celtics were going to help me get there. They assured me they would, and so did Coach Stevens.
Going back to Butler, Coach’s philosophy has always been, “What can you do to improve yourself today? How can I get better?” That’s resonated with me from that point all the way through to the way I approach the game now. I’m still looking to improve.
After I signed I went right to work adding little bits of Coach Stevens’ offense to my workouts and taking shots that I am going to get in the system, along with just trying to expand my game all the way around and get better in every area. I’m feeling good about where things stand heading into training camp.
Becoming a Celtic brings a lot of history and tradition with it. I feel that responsibility. One of the biggest things that was stressed from the moment we started having conversations about me potentially joining the Celtics is that there is one goal here, and that is to win a title. You can feel that from the get-go.
I want to contribute to the franchise’s continued success, and I understand that the only goal this fan base has is to win a championship. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to get there, especially on my end, but I want that pressure. I want to compete for championships.
Finally, I want our fans to know that I will always give you everything I have. We might not always be successful, but if we’re not, I promise you this: I will do whatever I can to make sure that we are successful the next time. We’re a new team, but stick with us. We know what the expectations are, and together, one day, we’ll raise that 18th banner.