David Butler II/USA Today Sports

Celtics should ice Kyrie Irving until the playoffs

Alex Reimer
March 12, 2018 - 10:59 am

The Celtics have little to play for as the regular season winds down. They are basically locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, sitting seven games ahead of the Pacers in the loss column. With 15 contests remaining until the playoffs, it would take a colossal collapse for the Celtics to slide down the standings.

As a result, the Celtics should approach the following month with caution. That means Kyrie Irving, who pulled himself out of Sunday’s loss against the Pacers due to his ailing knee, should not play until the postseason begins. 

Irving, 25, has been dealing with a balky left knee for a couple of years. The star point guard fractured his knee cap in the 2015 NBA Finals, which ultimately required surgery. Three years later, Irving will likely need an additional procedure at some point. He reportedly threatened the Cavaliers he would have that surgery this season, and sit out the year, if he remained in Cleveland. 

The Celtics have managed Irving’s minutes this season. He’s averaging just over 32 minutes per night. Irving says he reaggravated his knee against the Rockets March 3, when he played 35 minutes in the loss. He sat out the following game against the Bulls before returning to the lineup three nights later when the Celtics visited the Timberwolves. 

With 60 games under his belt, Irving doesn’t need to mesh with his teammates anymore. There’s no advantage to pushing him down the stretch. If the Celtics want to make a run in an open Eastern Conference, Irving will have to feel healthy, and presumably be up to playing more than 32 minutes per contest. The chances of that happening increase with the more rest he receives. 

The same can be said for Jaylen Brown, who recently suffered a concussion, and Al Horford, who's battling an illness. 

It’s time to shut down Irving until the games start to matter again. 

Update (3:30 p.m.): ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports there's "confidence" Irving is just dealing with tendonitis and will be day-to-day. So maybe I got ahead of myself here. In other news, Marcus Smart suffered a torn tendon on his thumb and is out indefinitely. 

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