CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NBA All-Star games aren't the best barometer as to how well or woeful a player may be health-wise, with the level of intensity lingering somewhere between a five-on-five practice and an exhibition game.
But Kyrie Irving, who had not played in a game since injuring his right knee on Feb. 9, didn’t look any worse for wear in Team LeBron’s 178-164 win over Team Giannis in Sunday night’s All-Star game.
Irving finished with a near double-double of 13 points and nine rebounds along with six assists in his sixth All-Star game and fourth as a starter.
“It was good to get out and play the game I love,” Irving said. “This is always fun; really special for me. The point I am in my career, just appreciate it more.”
☘️ CELTICS AT ALL-STAR WEEKEND
One of the game’s highlights involved the league honoring Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade with framed All-Star jerseys during a stoppage of play.
“It’s emotional for those guys, I know,” Irving said. “To think they put that much work in every single day, dealt with the lifestyle, been very successful at what they did. They’re raising families now, they're about to leave the game. It’s crazy; I’ll be there one day. I appreciate that.”
One of the main reasons Irving opted to play in the game was to give his well-rested body a chance to run up and down the floor against some of the best players in the world, even if they weren’t going to be running up and down the floor with the kind of focus and intensity you see in the regular season.
But most important, getting a chance to get on the floor Sunday night can only help Irving pick up where he left off after missing two games with a right knee strain and a tough game on Thursday at Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee.
“I shot a basketball twice in the last eight days,” Irving said. “I missed it (playing basketball). I don’t ever want to take games off. But when it happens to do with my body, the investment that I put in it, I’m glad it’s at a high level.”
The Celtics (37-21) are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Milwaukee Bucks (43-14) by 6.5 games with 24 remaining for the best record in the East.
Irving returns to the floor in what has been one of his best seasons ever.
He is averaging a team-leading 23.6 points along with 4.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists while shooting 49.8 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from 3-point range.
Irving is the only player in the NBA this season averaging at least 23 points and six assists while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range.
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