MINNEAPOLIS - Just a few days into his tenure with the Boston Celtics, Kyrie Irving expressed exactly what type of teammate he intended to be.
"My door is always open," he stated on Oct. 6 as the C's were preparing for their second preseason game in Philadelphia. "Because lending out a hand can go a long way."
What Irving was offering by opening that metaphorical door was his knowledge. And with six NBA seasons, including three consecutive trips to the Finals, under his belt, the 25-year-old point guard had a lot of wisdom to share.
Irving's eagerness to teach was the first sign of his desire to be a leader for the Celtics. Now, more than three quarters of the way through his first campaign with the team, it's evident that his leadership has had an immense impact on the group.
"He's been our leader from the beginning of the year," backup point guard Terry Rozier said following Wednesday afternoon's practice at Target Center in Minneapolis. "He's vocal and leads by example, so he's just a great guy to be around off the court and on the court."
"He brings that winning mentality," added Marcus Smart, the longest-tenured member of the team. "A guy like Kyrie who knows what it takes to win a championship and the things you have to go through, to have somebody like that to come in and stabilize this group where you've got a lot of young guys, young talent that's been thrown in the fire very early, it's been huge for us."
It's not easy to be able to garner such praise and collective respect so quickly, but Irving's aura captivated his teammates from the first day he stepped foot inside the team's training facility. He was able to accomplish that by being honest, supportive, and most importantly, by being himself.
"We talk about it all the time how you have to lead to your personality," said coach Brad Stevens. "You have to lead authentically, and everybody has to do their role as well as they can. That's the first step. I think that he's done all of that stuff well. He's just tried to be one of the guys. He has come in and shared what he knows, and at the same time is very open and welcoming to everybody else to share."
Through that approach, Irving has discovered that his teammates have just as much to offer him from an educational standpoint as he does to them.
"I think I've been learning as much from them as they have from me," said Irving, who plans to play Thursday night against the Timberwolves after missing a game due to left knee soreness. "That's just the environment that they've created over here, and I've just tried to integrate myself as much as possible. There's a few of us that have been through a few things in this league where we've experienced some success, and I think that we can all offer a lot of knowledge.
Added the five-time All-Star: "It's just great to learn from the guys as well as be one of the leaders on the team. They do a great job of leading themselves, first and foremost. I just try to set a great example."
How, exactly, does he do that?
"I lead by example in terms of being in the weight room almost every day," said Irving. "Making sure I'm up and eating the right things and doing whatever is needed in order to give myself a fighting chance to be great for the group."
Irving's greatness for the Celtics has been displayed every time he has taken the court this season. He has averaged a team-best 24.8 points, along with 5.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game, all while leading the C's to a 45-20 record.
There's another side to Irving's greatness, however, that's not publicly displayed on the court. That side consists of the invaluable off-court leadership that he provides for his teammates behind closed doors.
Or, in this case, behind an always-open door.