As for the basketball itself, well, Boston has had an uneven season, the product of a team that is not nearly Lakers-level dysfunctional but is not exactly cohesive, either. The Celtics arrived for their game against the Warriors having lost five of their last six games, and their locker room was a joyless place.
Perhaps they needed to get away from Boston. Perhaps they needed perspective. Perhaps Irving needed to speak with Danny Ainge, the team’s president of basketball operations, and Brad Stevens, its coach, who reminded Irving that the team still had a lot of season left to play. It was not over, not yet, not by any stretch.
“Every team has to find a togetherness in competing,” Stevens said. “Some teams, it takes 60 games. Some teams, it takes 20 games. And bad teams never get there. We hope that it took us 60 games, but we’ll see. We haven’t proven ourselves to be great at that yet for a long stretch of time.”
In their 128-95 win against the Warriors, the Celtics had 38 assists on 49 field goals. They also communicated. When Irving and forward Jaylen Brown botched a play that led to an early turnover, Brown patted himself on the chest to apologize, then appeared to apologize a second time on their next trip up the court.
The next night, in Sacramento, Irving sat behind the visiting bench for the Celtics’ 111-109 victory over the Kings. He was vocal. He did a lot of fist-pumping. And he celebrated when Hayward, less than 24 hours after scoring 30 points against the Warriors, connected on the game-winner.
After suffering a grisly ankle injury in the opening game and missing last season, Hayward has struggled to find a rhythm in his return. Maybe he found it here in California, along with the rest of the team. The Celtics are too talented to let this opportunity go to waste, because who knows how long it will last?
“As long as my teammates are feeling good,” Irving said, “then we’re in a good place.”