The Celtics may have finished last season without Kyrie Irving, but they’ll ‘easily’ start 2018 with Irving at 100 percent. That’s according to the 26-year-old Irving himself, who was off the court but in Las Vegas for Team USA practice, on Thursday.
And while the break was something Irving didn’t necessarily want — he’s previously mentioned that it killed him not to be on the floor with his Celtic teammates during their three-round playoff run that came to a crashing halt with a Game 7 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers — he did mention that this forced reset has been beneficial to Irving’s state of mind and body.
“This is probably one of the first summers in the last seven years where I have actually had time to develop and work on things that I want to improve on,” Irving, whose season ended with knee surgery, told reporters. “I have been playing USA every summer, or I was hurt one summer, or we are coming off a championship. It has been a grind, and it kind of caught up with me last season, and now [I’m] getting a chance to really take my time and focus on my body this summer.”
Given what the Celtics were able to do without him on the court, and without superstar free agent Gordon Hayward for the entire season, Irving can hardly wait for the growing core of the 2018-19 Celtics to get back to work.
“Nothing but excited to lead that group. I mean, we haven’t started [yet, so] everyone is zero-zero right now,” Irving acknowledged. “The most important thing right now is finding our cohesion,” Irving said, pointing out that he and Hayward basically haven’t played together in a game yet. So finding that [cohesion] is going to be a process, which I am looking forward to doing with [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge], [Celtics head coach] Brad [Stevens], everybody.”
Shut down because of that aforementioned knee surgery that removed some deteriorating screws from his surgically-repaired knee, Irving also touched on a recovery that was complicated further when the Celtics found an infection budding within Irving’s knee.
“I mean, you ask anybody with an infection, they will probably try to downplay it. It’s a personal thing because your body is going through it. I was fighting an infection in a specific place in your body where you can’t necessarily reach with your hands,” said Irving. “You got to go in there and kind of see what’s going on, and what happened for me was, the metal wiring and the screws that I had in there, the infection was on that, so I had to remove that and then be on antibiotics for about two months. It could have evolved to a staph [infection], but good thing we caught it early.
“I am glad that is done. That was a long, long [expletive] two months.”
Irving led all Celtics with 24.4 points and 5.1 assists per game last season.