Kyrie Irving opens up on Gordon Hayward's injury: 'All hell broke loose'

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Kyrie Irving opens up on Gordon Hayward's injury: 'All hell broke loose'

MINNEAPOLIS -- When you've been this good for so long, you learn to embrace the spotlight. Kyrie Irving has been doing so as part of his basketball life for years. 

But that all changed five minutes into the season. 

When Irving was traded to Boston from Cleveland, his excitement about the change was fueled in part by playing with Gordon Hayward who, like Irving, was ready to embrace all the pressure that comes with playing a prominent role for the most storied franchise in the NBA. 

But in the days and months that followed Hayward’s dislocated left ankle injury just five minutes into the opener at Cleveland, which sent the Celtics’ season into a vortex no one knew how they would handle, often overlooked was how Hayward’s injury made an already-intense amount of scrutiny on Irving, even greater.


“Gordon’s a huge piece,” Irving said. “And when we lose him . . . I think all hell broke loose for a little bit. Just like, what are they gonna look like?”

More specifically, what are they gonna look like with Irving as the face of the franchise, the undisputed leader of this team no matter how many times he says he’s just one of the team leaders?

Following the Celtics’ practice on Wednesday, when he declared he would play after sitting out Monday’s win at Chicago due to left knee soreness, Irving opened up about how things changed perception-wise following Hayward’s injury which the Celtics consistently have said will keep him out for the rest of the season despite Howard’s continued efforts to keep hope alive that he can return in time to play this season. 

“Losing Gordon was just, a few more eyes on me that I had to be aware of,” Irving said. “It’s tough because it is an adjustment. Coming into a new environment and you kind of expect this to be the team, and one big piece goes down. You have to figure it out from there.”

And Irving has done just that, being named to his fifth All-Star team last month in part because of his impressive numbers -- 24.8 points, 5.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game -- but also because of the Celtics’ record, which has been at or near the top of the Eastern Conference standings most of this season. 

Boston (45-20) comes into Thursday’s game against Minnesota (38-28) trailing Toronto (46-17) by two games for the best record in the East.

And a big part of Boston’s quest to move back into the top spot hinges on the health of Irving, who suffered a left knee fracture in the 2015 NBA Finals which, to some degree, requires a bit of maintenance on his part. It can be as simple as missing a game to let the knee rest, or holding him out for multiple games if the medical staff deems it necessary for that course of action to be taking. 


Although he was on the court for only three-fourths of Wednesday’s practice, coach Brad Stevens likes what he saw out of Irving. 

“He looked like he was in pretty good spirits and moving well,” Stevens said. “And it’ll be up to how he wakes up and feels and everything else.”

Irving was pretty emphatic about playing Thursday against the Timberwolves. 

But as he knows as well as anyone, the best-laid plans are not immune to having a last-minute audible called.


Celtics finding ways to win without Kyrie Irving

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Celtics finding ways to win without Kyrie Irving

As expected, Kyrie Irving’s first regular season with the Boston Celtics is over following a procedure on his left knee Saturday that team officials described as being "minimally invasive," that will keep him sidelined until the playoffs.

Not having Irving for the final 10 games of the regular season is certainly disappointing for Boston, but it won’t have the kind of devastating impact one might expect a team to have to endure when the leading scorer is out for a significant chunk of time.

Friday’s 105-100 win over Portland was Boston’s fifth straight game without Irving, and 12th this season.


There’s no question Boston is a better team when he is in the lineup.

But when he’s not, the Celtics have continued to find ways to win games which is evident in their 8-4 record when Irving has not played.

Victories over teams like the Blazers only validates the quality depth that the Celtics players speak of when they talk about their team. 

“We know what we have,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “It is encouraging for our group. And for us it’s to make sure we keep working and understand when we commit on the defensive end, we’re a tough team to beat.”

But Horford acknowledges the challenge to be successful becomes infinity greater when key players such as Irving are out.

“We can’t dwell on the guys who are not here, the guys who are injured,” Horford said. “It’s tough, but it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and guys have really taken advantage of that opportunity. We’re trying to move forward. It’s hard but we don’t have an option.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 105-100 win at Portland on Friday night.


The ability to not just run a team but do so in an effective, steady manner is what separated Shane Larkin from most of the guys who saw action last night. He made timely shots, kept the ball moving (he had seven assists and just one turnover) while playing at a really good tempo which was apparent as he finished with a pace of 95.97 which was tops among all Celtics players.


Greg Monroe could not have picked a better time to play his best basketball of the season. Against the Blazers, he came off the bench and tallied a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. The 10 boards were particularly impressive with a team-best rebounding percentage of .303 and team-best usage percentage of .316 which speaks to how Boston made a point of going to Monroe early and often when he was on the floor.


It was another big-time scoring night for Marcus Morris who led all scorers with 30 points, easily becoming a fixture as Boston’s go-to guy now that Kyrie Irving (left knee) will miss the rest of the regular season. And like Irving, Morris is doing it in an extremely efficient manner. Against the Blazers, the 6-foot-8 forward was 9-for-13 (69.2 percent) shooting from the field with an effective field goal percentage eFG% of .885.


For most of Friday’s game, Jayson Tatum was not having a good game offensively with three points through three quarters of play. But Tatum, one of the NBA’s better fourth quarter players, was once again saving his best for last. He would go on to lead the Celtics with 10 points in the fourth quarter, which was a huge factor in Boston’s comeback victory.


The Celtics’ second unit looks a little different, but the production and overall impact remains strong as ever. Boston’s backups outscored their Portland brethren 26-10. But more than the points, Boston’s backups individually came up with big plays. Greg Monroe’s 10-point, 10-rebound performance stood out for obvious reasons. But the floor leadership of Shane Larkin and timely contributions from Guerschon Yabusele was also important in the win.


Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Sometimes we forget that a big part of why Brad Stevens is in Boston is because of what he has done as a coach this time of year.

He led a pair of Butler teams to deep postseason runs before coming up short in a pair of national title games.

Well, he’s embarking on a different kind of March Madness in leading the Celtics to a string of improbable wins, the latest being a 105-100 victory at Portland on Friday night.

It was the kind of victory that when you start to roll out the reasons why Stevens should be this season’s Coach of the Year winner, folks will use the win at Portland as an example.

The Blazers are not only one of the better teams at home, but they came in having won 13 of 14 games with the lone loss coming to Houston, which has the best record in the NBA.

But what made the victory so unexpected was the cut-and-paste lineup Stevens has employed because of a long rash of injuries.

Kyrie Irving missed his fifth consecutive game and is expected to be lost for another three to six weeks after having a procedure to on Saturday to help alleviate some of the soreness in his left knee.

Jaylen Brown has missed several games with a concussion, but he has progressed to where he's now questionable for the game in Sacramento on Sunday night. 

Boston was also without Marcus Smart (right thumb) who won’t be back until sometime in the playoffs.

And that doesn’t factor in Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) or Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee), both out for the season.

It’s easy to chalk up Stevens’ success to great Xs and O’s work.

But he’s doing more than that.

He’s inspiring a level of confidence in players that generated results exceeding all expectations; that is, expectations outside of their locker room.

Even when this team struggled with no clear signs of hope on the horizon, they didn’t blink.

Rather than use their less-than-ideal state as a justification for poor play, they funneled that energy and focus into becoming a better team - not better players, but a better team.

Because frankly, that is what we’ve seen from this group all season. Of course, you have your star in Irving, but this team has been a get-it-done-or-else squad all year that doesn’t get too locked into the success or struggles of any one teammate.

And that has allowed Boston to withstand the kind of injuries to key players that would have crippled many other teams.

But with the lack of bodies, there has been a lack of respect for how good this team really is.

Stevens has tapped into that and used it to help focus this team on playing great and most important, giving themselves a chance to win regardless of the opponent, regardless of how dire a situation may be.

And that has created the kind of March Madness Celtics fans are absolutely lovin’ right now.