Kyrie Irving

Brad Stevens on Kyrie Irving: 'He looks pretty good'

Brad Stevens on Kyrie Irving: 'He looks pretty good'

PLYMOUTH, Mass. –  The last time we saw Kyrie Irving, he was in street clothes as the Celtics navigated their way through the playoffs without him and advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Fast forward to this month, one in which Stevens has seen Irving working out with his teammates in pickup games doing what can be best described as Irving-like things.

When asked if Irving had the cutting moves we’ve seen him display in splicing up defenders on a nightly basis, Stevens, with a mischievous smile, said, “he’s got ‘em. He looks pretty good."

And that bodes well for a Boston team that’s expected by many to advance to the NBA Finals this season.

“He’s worked really hard,” Stevens said of Irving. “I think he’s excited … it’s good to see that.”

Irving has established himself as one of the top guards in the NBA and has shown himself capable of stepping up in the playoffs when needed.

A career 22.0 points per game scorer, Irving has averaged 23.9 points in the postseason, putting up at least 25.2 points per game in his last two playoff appearances (2016 and 2017).

But injuries and an infection in his left knee have led to him missing all or most of the postseason in two of the last four seasons.

“The one last year with us was such a shock,” Stevens said. “Just because of the unfortunate event with the infection.”

He won’t be the only Celtic who will be watched closely in training camp.

Gordon Hayward, who missed most of last season with a left ankle injury suffered in the season opener, has also looked good in workouts according to Stevens.

“He’s been really diligent all the way through his rehab and progressing to each step,” Stevens said of Hayward. “I watched him go all the way through the steps of working out to 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3 and now he can play some of the open gyms some of the guys are having.”

Irving and Hayward, like most of the Celtics, won’t play major minutes in the preseason.

“I don’t think anyone will play a ton in the first week,” Stevens said. “That’s too quick. Usually you have five or six days before your first game. But to have three days and we play the second one right after that. We’re basically breaking our camp down from a staffing standpoint into two separate camps. The first one is, getting back together, making sure we’re fluid in what we’re trying to accomplish for the most part on offense and defense playing as a team through those first ten days when we have four games. And after that, we have a full eight-day period. We’ll basically treat it like another camp, as we get ready for the regular season. I don’t anticipate anybody hitting the 25-minute mark in any of those early games.”

Stevens knows not to put too much stock in what he sees early on from his players. This is especially true for Irving and Hayward.

 “I think like anything there’s going to be a period of adjustment,” Stevens said.

But that reality has to be balanced with an earlier-than-usual preseason schedule which will present its own unique sets of challenges.

The days of easing into the preseason, at least this year, are gone.

“If we’re not ready for the competitive side, that’ll smack us in the face pretty quick,” Stevens said. “But that’s part of getting ready for a season.”

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With Knicks on Jimmy Butler's wish list, could Kyrie Irving be far behind?

With Knicks on Jimmy Butler's wish list, could Kyrie Irving be far behind?

BOSTON – Jimmy Butler reportedly wants out of Minnesota and has a trio of teams he’s interested in, and that includes the New York Knicks.

Despite the Celtics not being among Butler's preferred destinations, they have the fifth-best odds of landing him, according to Bovada.

And the Butler-to-the-Knicks talk is indeed worth watching for one reason: Kyrie Irving.

The Celtics All-Star, who will become a free agent in the summer of 2019, has reportedly longed to play with Butler.

If New York is able to trade for Butler this season, it would do nothing but enhance their chances of landing Irving when he becomes available.

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Of course, New York’s chances of trading for Butler and turning around to sign Irving next summer will be difficult to achieve, especially with Joakim Noah’s contract ($18.5 million this season, $19.3 million next year) still on the books.

Still, in acquiring Butler, it would provide the Knicks with the kind of hope that maybe -- just maybe -- they can bolster their roster in the both the short-term with Butler, and potentially long-term if they can reshuffle their roster and create a max-salary slot for Irving.

Of course, Irving’s future rests heavily in how things play out with the Celtics, who will enter the season as the odds-on favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.

And a big part of those lofty expectations lies in Irving, who has been at the team’s practice facility playing 5-on-5 with his teammates.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has had a chance to see Irving at work and when asked about whether he has all his moves back, Stevens smiled, “he’s got ‘em.”

Boston has maintained from the very start that its goal is to create a winning culture, and that all players who are part of the program understand that they are part of the team’s success.

Even before Irving arrived in Boston, he had established himself as one of the best point guards in the NBA. But it wasn’t until he arrived in Boston did he not only produce at a high level, but do so in leading a team to the postseason.

What’s often lost in the narrative behind Irving’s decision to ask out of Cleveland, was the fact that he had never had any team success without LeBron James.

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And as talented as Irving was for the Cavs, there was no way that was going to change as long as James (now with the Los Angeles Lakers) was around.

But in coming to Boston and finding both individual and team success, Irving has shown himself to be more than a productive player, but also someone who can successfully lead others.

That makes his return to Boston a no-brainer, right?

Not exactly.

While there is no question Irving has enjoyed his time in Boston both on and off the court, there’s no telling what he will be searching for when the summer of 2019 arrives.

And that is why the Butler-to-New-York talk is worth watching if you are a Celtics fan.

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Kyrie Irving reportedly will be under no minutes restriction once season begins

Kyrie Irving reportedly will be under no minutes restriction once season begins

The Celtics surprised many last season when they surged to the top of the Eastern Conference despite a season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward. A huge part of that was the performance from Kyrie Irving, one that had him squarely in the MVP conversation. Irving posted 24.4 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting a career-high 49 percent - in just 32 minutes per game.

But the Celtics took another big blow when Irving's knee, in which he had previously torn his patella tendon, flared up. Irving had felt pain in the knee all season, and it finally became too much to bear. He left the game against the Pacers on March 11 at halftime and did not return for the rest of the season. The original diagnosis was "minor surgery" to remove a tension wire, but that turned into major surgery after an infection developed in the knee. What was going to be a three-to-six-week absence became the entire regular and postseason. 

NBA.com's David Aldridge reported that sources told him Irving would "be under no minutes restrictions once the regular season begins." Irving was seen on video last week playing five on five in Miami and looking darn good doing it. 

This is great news for Boston as it comes on the heels of Hayward saying that he was 100 percent. With Irving and Hayward healthy, the Celtics are the favorites in the Eastern Conference and poised to make another deep run in the playoffs. 

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