Boston Celtics manager Brad Stevens is hoping to have Kyrie Irving back in the team sooner than later after confirming their star point guard is feeling “better and better.”
Irving hinted at an extended break after Celtics’ 99-97 loss to the Indiana Pacers on March 11 as he failed to return to the court after half-time owing to soreness in his knee. The former Cleveland Cavaliers star indicated he will not start playing again until he is close to 100 percent fit.
The Celtics played three games since and lost two of them, most recently 89-108 to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. The Boston team already secured a place in the playoffs and have a comfortable hold of second place in the Eastern Conference standings, but Stevens will be keen to have his starting players return for final 12 games of the regular season.
The Celtics coach revealed Irving did have a chance to play against the Pelicans after the knee showed good signs of progress, but pulled out at the last moment. Stevens made it clear he will sit out until he is 100 percent fit.
“I think he feels better and better,” Stevens said about Irving prior to their loss against the Pelicans, as quoted on NESN. “He just doesn’t quite feel 100 percent. So until that point then he’ll be out. There was a chance that he would play today, yesterday. He just didn’t quite feel that. And, again, we’re going to make sure that he feels that way.”
Irving is not the only starter that has been sidelined for recent games, with Jaylen Brown also missing the last four matches after suffering a concussion following a scary fall during their win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 8. The Celtics shooting guard is with the NBA’s concussion protocol and is yet to get clearance to return to action.
Stevens is certain he will not be available for their game against Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, but Brown could return for their match against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
“He’s doing good through his progressions (in the NBA’s concussion protocol) so far,” the Celtics coach added. “Still has a few days left. Don’t see how he’ll play Tuesday either. But from everything I’ve heard we’re getting closer, but that’s all pending no setback.”
Apart from Irving and Brown, the Celtics are also without Marcus Smart, who is out indefinitely after rupturing a tendon in his thumb. And Daniel Theis, who is also sitting out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury earlier in the campaign.