Update: Celtics release:
This will shut down any thoughts of Irving returning in the playoffs. There will be questions of whether he’s ready for the start of training camp.
The Celtics gave a timeline on Kyrie Irving’s knee injury that would have him back around the start of the playoffs or several weeks later.
Turns out, he’ll miss the entire postseason.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
In the aftermath of left knee surgery, Boston Celtics All-Star guard Kyrie Irving will miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs, league sources told ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 5, 2018
This is devastating to Boston, which falls from a legitimate Eastern Conference challenger to a team susceptible to losing in the first round. The Celtics will still probably finish with the No. 2 seed, but without Irving, they’re not necessarily better than the Heat, Bucks or Wizards – potential first-round foes.
Irving joins Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis as Boston players listed as done for the season. Like with Hayward, rumors could still emerge about Irving returning if the Celtics advance far enough. Today’s leak could be about Boston trying to preemptively shut down speculation and questions about Irving’s availability. But winning a series or two obviously becomes far more difficult without those stars.
This also opens the door to questions about Irving’s long-term health. His knee is a reoccurring issue, and he and the team must manage it. This might cause the Celtics to retain Marcus Smart in restricted free agency and/or extend Terry Rozier’s contract this offseason.
Boston isn’t finished. Brad Stevens is an excellent coach who gets everyone to understand and embrace their roles. Al Horford is a star. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are emerging.
No matter what happens in the playoffs, this was a positive year for the Celtics – acquiring Irving and Hayward, seeing Tatum, Brown and Rozier develop. The Cavaliers still have LeBron James, and the Raptors have extended their window through a “culture reset.” Boston can afford to take the long view.
With the available talent diminishing, the Celtics now look more like a lower seed than their 53-25 record would suggest. They play hard and cohesively, but goes only so far in the playoffs. They acquired Irving to put them over the top in those situations – but that must wait.