Irving, Boston's new leader

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October 11, 2017
Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving, left, has a laugh on the bench with Al Horford during the second half of Boston's 113-96 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in a preseason NBA basketball game in Boston on Monday.

BOSTON (AP):

Kyrie Irving turned the NBA world upside down multiple times this summer.

It happened the first time after news leaked out that he had asked the Cleveland Cavaliers front office to trade him from the team he helped lead to a championship in 2016.

Then Irving was in the spotlight again as the centerpiece of a league-shaking trade that sent him to the rival Boston Celtics in exchange for a package that included Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder.

Now detached from the partnership he created with LeBron James, Irving enters the 2017-18 season as one jewel of the Celtics' offseason overhaul, along with Gordon Hayward, who signed as a free agent.

Only four players remain from Boston's roster from a year ago, when it outfought Cleveland for the East's top seed, only to fall to the Cavs in five games in the Eastern Conference finals.

Along with Al Horford, the Celtics have a brand new 'Big Three' as they continue their pursuit of the Cavs. While Irving maintains his departure from Cleveland wasn't about James, he now has exactly what he says he wanted - the leadership role in building a championship team.

Still, he downplayed the idea that this season is more important than any other during his six-year career.

"Every moment in my life is pretty important," Irving said. "I wouldn't say that it's the most important. I would say it's probably the most interesting."

Here are some things to watch for with the Celtics this season:

One of the byproducts of the deal that brought in Irving was that president of basketball operations, Danny Ainge, had to part with Thomas, who had become not only a two-time All-Star, but the team's emotional leader as well.

A hip injury he suffered in the play-offs won't allow Thomas to be on the floor when his new Cavaliers team hosts the Celtics in both team's season opener on October 17.

But it will make for an interesting on-court reunion for Irving and James.

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