Thursday night turned out to be a bittersweet one for the Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving.
On the one hand, the point guard was named as an All-Star starter, validating both himself and the team’s direction. On the other, he was unable to go for a nationally televised tilt with the Philadelphia 76ers—which Boston lost—due to a shoulder injury.
Worse still, at least potentially, neither Irving nor head coach Brad Stevens could provide a concrete timetable for his return while speaking with reporters before opening tip—even if they are optimistic, per ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg:
“Just precautionary stuff and just making sure everything is all right from a strength perspective,” Irving said before Thursday’s game. “Obviously a few days will definitely put me where I need to be, and we’ll just see what goes on for Sunday’s game. It’s nothing too crazy. It was just giving me a little discomfort over the past few weeks, and I’ve just been playing through it, in terms of preparing best for every single game, and I just felt it best to get a few tests and make sure everything’s all right.” . . .
“He’s been evaluated by our docs and everything else,” Stevens said. “Don’t feel like it’s a long-term issue, but he is sore and has been, and so hopefully he can get to feeling better sooner rather than later.”
Knowing the Celtics turned in one of their worst offensive performances of the season on Thursday night, it would seem like a good time for fans to cross their fingers that Irving returns on the double. But there’s no need for real panic here.
For one, the injury itself doesn’t sound too serious. Mostly, though, the Sixers are a great defensive team when Embiid is playing like he was. Suffering from offensive anemia is understandable. If the same thing happens against the Orlando Magic on Saturday, then yeah, it’s a good time to get concerned. But it probably won’t.
The Celtics are posting a top-notch offensive rating on the season when Al Horford plays without Irving, and the four starters are piling on 113.4 points per 100 possessions when he’s riding the bench, according to NBA.com. They’re going to be just fine, no matter how long he’s out.