NBA Analyst: Bringing Kyrie Irving Back This Year Would Have Been "Irresponsible"

The Celtics weren't winning an NBA title this year – even with Kyrie, Brian Geltzeiler says

Taz and the Moose
April 06, 2018 - 10:41 am

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Kyrie Irving will undergo season-ending surgery Saturday, all but ending Boston’s chances of winning the East – or an NBA title.

This is devastating for the Celtics, right?

“Well, yes and no,” Sirius XM NBA Radio, NBA TV, and Hoopscritic.com analyst Brian Geltzeiler said on Taz & The Moose. “Yes, it’s devastating for the Boston Celtics in the respect that he’s going to be out four to five months and now faces a summer with a big rehab. But if we’re going to be frank about this, I didn’t expect him to come back this year. I thought it would have been not really wise and virtually irresponsible even before this complication with the infection for them to bring him back this year.”

Irving will have two screws removed from his patella, which were inserted to repair a fracture he suffered during the 2015 NBA Finals. Doctors discovered a bacterial infection during Irving’s March 24 surgery, which removed a tension wire in his knee. Irving’s surgery Saturday will ensure that the infection is gone.

Boston (53-25) trails Toronto (56-22) by three games in the East.

“As well as the Celtics have played this year, are they winning an NBA title this year without Kyrie Irving? Without Gordon Hayward? Absolutely not,” Geltzeiler said. “Up until now, they have played the long game. There is no reason with Irving here not to continue to play the long game. Again, no one bargained for a four- to five-month rehab and the fact that he’s questionable to be ready for training camp, but even under those circumstances, you go slow with him. You’re careful with him, and you load up for next year.”

The Celtics have a talented young core that includes Jaylen Brown (14.1 points per game), Jayson Tatum (13.9), and Terry Rozier (11.4). Their ages: 21, 20, and 24, respectively. 

“What we’re seeing out of guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier is going to really help this team in the future because they’re forced into some larger roles here,” Geltzeiler said. “I think for the most part, those three guys, those three young players, are doing a great job in those larger roles. So next year when Irving is there, when Hayward is there, you’re going to be that much better for having these young guys have to assume a big role here down the stretch and going into the playoffs.”

As of now, Boston would face Washington (42-37) in the first round and Cleveland (49-30) in the second.

“With no Irving, this whole thing falls apart for the Celtics,” Geltzeiler said. “We know that. But as rough as it is with Irving, the big picture is still pretty good as long as they get Kyrie Irving back 100 percent healthy. If it takes him six months, so what? They don’t have to bring him back next year until January and they’ll be fine.”

Irving, 26, has been no stranger to medical procedures. In fact, he’s drawing comparisons to 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose, whose play deteriorated after several surgeries.

Geltzeiler, though, doesn’t buy that comparison, mainly because Irving has a reliable jumper. 

“He’s an incredible bad-shot maker,” Geltzeiler said. “If he does lose a little bit of burst from having this kind of lingering knee issue, will it hurt some of those creative drives he makes to the basket? There’s no doubt about it. It will hurt that. But is it really going to undermine his overall effectiveness? I’m not sure that much just because of what a good shooter he is. This guy can score from anywhere on the floor. He’s not the type of pure shooter we see in Steph Curry, but would you want anybody else in the league short of Durant taking a 20-foot fadeaway more than Kyrie Irving in a big spot? Probably not. These are things he’ll still be able to do. It’s been a lot injuries for Kyrie over the years, but I think we’ll see as close to as effective a Kyrie Irving as we always have.”