The Kyrie Irving-less Boston Celtics fell one game short of the NBA Finals in 2018, losing Game 7 to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury in the first five minutes of the season and Irving's ill-timed injury left a young Celtics squad without two of their highest-paid, highest-touted players throughout a deep playoff run.
When James left Cleveland to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers that offseason and the Celtics returned nearly the exact same roster while having both of the aforementioned stars returning to the lineup, they become heavy favourites to represent the East in the NBA Finals in 2019.
The expectations were unfathomable, but the team never came close to meeting those expectations. There was locker room turmoil, players never seemed to get accustomed to playing with each other on the court and overall, the team chemistry never clicked.
"Will Kyrie re-sign in Boston?" became an unavoidable storyline throughout the entire season, despite Irving stating to a raucous Boston crowd on the team's opening night that "if you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here."
As the season went on, it became more clear that Irving and Boston weren't the match made in heaven that it was supposed to be. This summer, Irving signed a four-year, $141 million contract to team up with Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets.
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At the Nets' media day on Friday, the NBA world got to hear from Irving for the first time since his final game in Boston. He gave us more clarity into the confusing situation that was the 2018-19 Celtics, as well as some personal reasoning as to why he felt it was time to move on from Boston into a different situation.
#Celtics #Nets pic.twitter.com/H1yqMLVeKx- Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) September 27, 2019
His response to why he left Boston was long - 809 words to be exact, thanks to NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg. But it was heartfelt, eye-opening, insightful and within good reason.
Early in the season, Irving's grandfather had passed away and that changed his focus, attitude and love for the game of basketball for the rest of the season.
"After he passed, basketball was the last thing on my mind," Irving said.
"A lot of basketball and the joy I had from it was sucked away from me. ... I've never dealt with anything like that, so, for me, I responded in ways that were uncharacteristic, and I had to acknowledge that fact.
"... I talked to Danny (Ainge) and I wanted to re-sign. So throughout the year, it started becoming more and more clear that my relationship within my home life had a way higher precedence than the organization or anyone," Irving continued.
At the end, Irving was blunt with himself about his time in Boston - he was up-front that their lofty goals were not met and he played a key role in that as the team's star player.
"... I failed those guys in a sense that I didn't give them everything that I could have during that season, especially with the pieces that we had."
Irving talked about turning a new page in Brooklyn and went as far as saying he wants he and Durant to "end their careers together" with the Nets.
"We want to end our careers together...and then what better place to do it than Brooklyn?" pic.twitter.com/RoVvXgvxKh- SNY (@SNYtv) September 27, 2019
We'll have to wait until 2020 to see that duo hit the floor together as Durant is expected to miss the entire season recovering from his Achilles injury suffered in The Finals, but Irving will have a chance to redeem himself as a leader immediately with this young and promising team in Brooklyn.