PORTLAND, Ore. — Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving on Saturday underwent surgery to remove a tension wire in his left knee and is expected to return to basketball activities in three to six weeks.
The “minimally invasive procedure” removed a wire that had been inserted during Irving’s 2015 surgery to repair a broken kneecap, according to the team. The Celtics said that the procedure should relieve irritation it was causing in Irving’s patellar tendon, and that the fractured patella is fully healed and structurally sound.
The playoffs will begin in just over three weeks, so depending on how much time Irving would need to get into basketball shape and regain his rhythm, it is certainly plausible that he could return either during a first-round series, or perhaps more likely, during the conference semifinals. But there are no guarantees, and the Celtics and Irving have insisted all along that they will err on the side of caution.
“Kyrie’s health is most important,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Thursday. “I think that’s the bottom line.”
This is certainly not ideal for Boston, as it looks to find its groove with its core players leading into the postseason. But it is certainly far better than the most likely alternative, which would have resulted in Irving immediately being shut down for the rest of the season.
Irving suffered a broken kneecap in the 2015 NBA Finals, and it was known then that the resulting surgery would likely need some kind of follow-up maintenance procedure at some point.
In the short term, Irving’s absence will have no real impact on the Celtics, as they are all but locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference standings. Also, Boston has played quite well without its injured All-Star point guard this season.
Including a game against the Hornets in which Irving played less than two minutes, Boston is 10-4 without Irving this season. The two most impressive wins came in the past week, as Boston toppled the Thunder and Trail Blazers in back-to-back games.
Of course, Irving’s absence is exacerbated by Marcus Smart’s thumb injury that is expected to sideline him for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.
With Irving and Smart out, Terry Rozier will continue to start at point guard. The third-year guard has shown himself to be quite capable, averaging 11 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting a career-best 38 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Also, third-string guard Shane Larkin has been something of a revelation for the Celtics. He spearheaded Boston’s comeback from a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the Blazers on Friday night, and has consistently made a sizable impact with his hustle and relentless on-the-ball defensive pressure.
“We’ve just got to continue to go out there and defend the way we can,” Larkin said, “and offensively we have talent 1-15, so if we defend at the level we can, we always have a chance.”
The Celtics could receive at least some help soon, as forward Jaylen Brown nears his return from the concussion he suffered after taking a hard fall March 8.
Brown took part in the team’s morning shootaround practice on Friday and stayed after for extra training, and he reported no lingering headaches or concussion-related symptoms.
He was expected to complete another workout in Sacramento during the Celtics’ off day Saturday, and there is a chance he could play against the Kings on Sunday.
“We can’t dwell on the guys that are not here and the guys that are injured,” forward Al Horford said Friday.
“It’s tough, but it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and guys are really taking advantage. We’re trying to move forward. It’s hard, but we don’t really have an option.”