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Marcus Smart admits Celtic locker room turmoil, defends Kyrie Irving

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Indiana Pacers v Boston Celtics Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

In the continuing (never ending?) examination of Kyrie Irving’s role in the Celtics disappointing season, Marcus Smart admitted to ESPN Monday that there was a lot of locker room turmoil, but the sixth year pro noted there was a lot of blame to go around and Irving should not be seen as the scapegoat.

And for him personally, Smart said Irving was a great teammate and not just on the court...

With Irving and Gordon Hayward returning from injury and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown ready to take the next step, the Celts were viewed as a championship contender. Instead, they won 49 games in the regular season and exited the playoffs unceremoniously in the second round. Since then, Irving, Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier have departed Beantown.

“We were dysfunctional,” Smart admitted.

Although Irving has become the scapegoat for the disaster, Smart said there were others beyond Irving who should share the blame. He did not dismiss the criticism of Irving, however.

“When you’re trying to build that camaraderie, when you start singling guys out, it makes it really hard,” said Smart. “And we’ve seen it inside the locker room and things like that, with guys calling guys out and it just wasn’t working for us. So for me, I just wanted to let people know that yes, we understand that Kyrie wasn’t up to Kyrie’s standard, but there’s four other guys. There’s a whole roster full of coaches, everybody participated.”

Asked how he personally views Irving, Smart praised his former teammate, mentioning how Irving helped him through the death of his mother to cancer last September.

“For me, personally — I can’t speak for other guys — but for me, personally… Kyrie is a great teammate. I’ve had sit-downs with Kyrie where things for me weren’t going too well and he’s pulling me aside. And it wasn’t even really about basketball. Everybody knows what I’ve been through with my mom, losing her and everything. Kyrie’s one of the first guys to text me, to call and talk. When I got back to Boston, he pulled me to the side and we talked. And as far as basketball, just helping me slow the game down and recognize and understand it more. So as a teammate, I love him for it.”

Smart’s comments about the complex nature of last year’s locker room chemistry mirror those of Jackie MacMullan who spoke last week on an NBC Sports podcast. MacMullan also shied away from blaming him for this year’s disappointing season, pointing as well as his younger teammates. But she also sees his faults, noting at one point in the interview that she believes Irving has “a warped view of how success works and how teamwork works.”

Meanwhile, Wyc Grousbeck, the Celtics owner told WEEI Tuesday that he received a text from Irving.

“Well it just wasn’t a general era of happiness around the team at the end,” Grousbeck said on WEEI. “You know, he just sent me a text the other day out of the blue and it was a really thoughtful and nice text, lengthy text kind of, and I responded and we had a nice back and forth. I mean that doesn’t always happen with players, and he’s a guy that wants to have a good relationship.

“We do have a good relationship, he and the Celtics organization have a positive relationship. We wish him kind of the best, except when he’s playing us. But he’s a good guy, he tried hard, he gave us two years, and we’re going to move forward.

“I think that he wanted to go back down, his family is in New York and he wanted to be back down there, and we’re going to gear up for the Nets. There are good feelings, but good competitive feelings.”