BOSTON – The Celtics have been consistently praised for their ability to win despite not having two of their best players - All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Still, as Danny Ainge pointed out this morning on 98.5 the Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich" show, simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, the team’s success has been a bittersweet experience for those two players unable to participate in the postseason due to injuries.
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“It’s hard on those guys,” Ainge said. “This is why they wanted to come to Boston, what’s going on now and they don’t get to be a part of it.”
Hayward suffered a season-ending left ankle injury just five minutes into the season-opener in Cleveland.
Irving, who was traded from Cleveland last summer, had his season end when a minor procedure on his left knee revealed an infection. It required an additional procedure to remove the screws from his 2015 surgery to repair his fractured left kneecap.
Both certainly want to be out there, but Ainge said they're happy for the team’s success even if they can’t be on the floor playing with them.
“They are excited for this young group of guys [and] Al Horford, they're excited for all those guys,” Ainge said. “All I can do is think about how good we’ll be with them. Because those guys are good and our depth will be great. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
Some other highlights from Ainge’s interview:
· Shane Larkin, who has been out with a left shoulder injury suffered in the second-round series against Philadelphia, is unlikely to play in this series but may heal in enough time to play if the Celtics advance to the NBA Finals. “We’re taking it week by week now,” Ainge said. “We’re not counting on him coming back but I’ll leave the door open a little bit for him to come back another series, if we get that far.”
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· On the amount of attention coach Brad Stevens gets relative to the players and whether that’s a concern. “There is a danger in that,” Ainge said. “But because the players know Brad and know his humility and they know he’s not seeking that, I don’t think there’s any issues with that. Brad does get a lot of attention. There’s not a coach in the NBA that I wouldn’t trade Brad for. He’s the best and we love him. But the players are playing great. So, I do think the players deserve the credit. Brad’s a terrific coach but the NBA is a player’s game.”