Kyrie Irving left LeBron James, not the other way around. Many were quick to demonize Irving and accuse him of not caring about winning and not being grateful to LeBron. But Irving was smart enough to leave LeBron before LeBron left him, which is what is presumed by many to happen next summer. James is accustomed to being in total control, and Irving's sudden departure, therefore, hurt him personally.

Critics and LeBron-fanatics began to advertise that Irving was not a leader, did not make his teammates better, and was a mere shooter. But Irving has been quick to prove the opposite in Boston.

Even Gordon Hayward's devastating season-ending injury in the season opener did not hinder Irving's focus and determination to lead a young Celtics' team to success. The team has had an impressive winning streak at the start the of this season which has helped them stay atop the Eastern Conference. Irving is fine. Can the same be said about LeBron's future?

Irving was vital for LeBron

If we take a stroll down memory lane, we will recognize that it was Kyrie, not LeBron, who secured the 2016 championship. With 53 seconds left on the clock of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena, Irving delivered a clutch three-pointer in Stephen Curry's face. After LeBron had yet again failed to close a game, Irving came to the rescue and handed LeBron his first and much-desired title with the Cavaliers.

And one also cannot ignore the fact that it is Irving who kept the team afloat in many complicated moments during the Finals and other playoff series by leading impressive offensive runs. Irving usually appeared when his team needed him most during these last three seasons. He became the team's official closer. Furthermore, he forced one of the "Splash Brothers" to defend him closely.

Now, without Irving, LeBron is asked to be a playmaker as well as a closer, and he cannot do that. The level of Eastern Conference games still deceives many. LeBron is more comfortable when things are going his and his team's way. That's when his play shines most and he becomes unstoppable... especially against Eastern Conference teams

James has long awaited Isaiah Thomas' return, but Isaiah will not solve LeBron's problems entirely.

The Cavs struggled at the start of the season because they are slow, predictable, and lack effort on the defensive end. These deficiencies have not suddenly disappeared now that the Cavaliers are winning. They will surface once again against the defending champion Golden State Warriors because that is what they do best, expose the opponent's weaknesses.

Thomas will make them quicker and less predictable on offense. However, he is accustomed to having the ball in his hands most of the time in recent years. That is when he has shined the most. Thomas will have to adapt to playing with LeBron, which means playing off the ball. For example, Irving had mastered finding his space on the floor with LeBron and was always ready to catch and shoot.

Most importantly, five-foot, 11-inch Isaiah Thomas is a defensive liability, so it does not look like the Cavs' defense will get better with him. He might not fit, and that is why he could be gone in the summer

On the other hand, Irving has already proven that he can be a leader whilst still being the scoring assassin that he has always been. He is doing this with an inexperienced team that includes the likes of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris. Irving is being able to carry the Celtics on his back and make these young players feel they are active participants and more confident in their ability this early in their careers.

Irving is also locked in on defense more than ever.

He is getting necessary steals and making a strong effort to stay in front of the opposition. Irving has always been asked to take a step forward on the defensive end, but the potential was there. Now, the Celtics are clearly among the best defensive teams in the league even after letting two defensive specialists like Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder go. Irving has impacted the Celtics' mentality on that end of the floor as well.

Cavs and Celtics going in opposite directions

At this stage of his career, LeBron James, 33, needs Kyrie Irving, 25, more than the other way around. Kyrie is blossoming more than ever as he is entering his prime, and his Celtics look fine. The future is theirs. However, this will probably not be the Celtics' year.

Their best chance at truly challenging the Cavs (if LeBron stays) is possibly next year, once Hayward is back and other attractive pieces are added.

On the other hand, the Cavaliers have had trouble finding their groove this season. While the Celtics are getting younger, the Cavs are getting older. They have already lost several games that would have been easy wins in prior years. This does not mean that they are not the favorites to win the East yet again, which they will probably do considering the deplorable state of the Eastern Conference. In addition, the supposed elite teams in the East like Boston, Washington, Toronto, and Milwuakee are either inexperienced, lack talent, or simply cannot match up defensively against LeBron and company.

Sooner or later, LeBron will get tired and suffer to carry all the load that was once shared with Kyrie. LeBron can still put up amazing personal numbers, but he cannot do that whilst also continuously pushing the rest of the team. He also is not the defender he once was, nor does he have the killer instinct that Irving has, which is necessary when things are not going too well. While Irving is embracing this new opportunity to showcase all of his talents and lead a franchise, LeBron has been weakened and is full of doubts right now. Irving might have given him a reason to leave. So, yes, there is no doubt in my mind - LeBron James misses Kyrie Irving.