Celtics should be fine with or without Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving has been the source of plenty of drama this season for the Boston Celtics, even if his play on the court has been exemplary at times. But with the star point guard battling injuries heading into the All-Star break, the Celtics should remember that they will be in good shape whether or not he is available during the stretch run.
Irving had been dealing with a knee strain just before the break and missed the team's win over the Philadelphia 76ers before All-Star weekend. The Celtics were relieved to find out that his knee strain isn't anything serious and that Irving is day-to-day rather than out for an extended period of time. But this latest setback has been one in a series that might require the Celtics to get ready for life without Irving later in the season.
Struggles on the road
The Celtics' point guard is averaging 23.6 points per game for the season at the break, with just under seven assists per game. But his solid numbers haven't been enough to stop the Celtics from struggling at times this season. They enter the break in fourth place in the Eastern Conference despite being one of the most popular picks to win the conference heading into the season, and their performance on the road is one of the biggest reasons for their perceived struggles.
Boston is a 23-8 team at home this season, thanks to one of the best home-court advantages in sports. But they are just a 14-13 team on the road at the All-Star break, which could be a concern in the playoffs against the best teams in the league. And without Irving, the Celtics could have even more trouble away from home if he were to miss any action in the postseason.
Hope without Irving
Fortunately for the Celtics, they should be able to get over any potential loss of Irving thanks to other players on the team stepping up in a major way. Gordon Hayward is playing some of the best basketball of his career near the All-Star break, having hit some big shots against the Sixers and being a rare source of consistency for the team. And Marcus Smart has been shooting well from the perimeter, something the Celtics would need with or without Irving in the fold.
The Celtics proved last year that they could win games without Kyrie Irving on the floor. Their run through the Eastern Conference playoffs and to the Eastern Conference Finals came without Irving or Hayward. It was also the coming-out party for the young stars on the Celtics, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown proving that they can carry a team deep into the playoffs. The Celtics hope that Irving will be around for the playoffs this year, but the team is prepared either way this season thanks to that learning experience last time around.
A bright future for the Celtics
Heading into the All-Star break, the Celtics are the fourth favorite team to win the NBA Finals. As of February 15, they were listed at +1200 to overcome the Warriors and the rest of the NBA to win the Finals at Betway. Given that the team hasn't been playing its best basketball on the road this year and that there are still improvements that can be made, that has to be an encouraging sign. If they can play up to their potential for the rest of the season, it's clear that there are very few teams that can stop them from getting to the Finals.
Of course, the Celtics have their focus on beyond just this season as it relates to Irving. The team is confident that they will be able to bring him back after this season, with Danny Ainge equating the relationship to an engagement. Things can change in the NBA, but the Celtics should be in a good position to bring him back given how proud the franchise is and how bright the future looks for them, relative to other teams in the league.
Kyrie Irving has been the story for the Celtics throughout this season, but there is one thing that's clear: whether or not Kyrie Irving is available for the Celtics, they have the talent to win games in the postseason.