CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kyrie Irving collected a victory, nearly posted a double-double and more importantly for the Celtics, declared himself healthy after his 25-minute outing in Sunday’s All-Star Game at Spectrum Center.
Irving’s Team LeBron rallied for a 178-164 win over Team Giannis and Irving finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists, feeling refreshed after missing the previous two Celtics games with a sore right knee.
“It was good to play the game that I love and I’m looking forward to next Thursday and getting back with the team,” Irving said. “This is really special for me, at the point I am in my career, just appreciating it a lot more.”
Irving was more of a facilitator and rebounder, wowing the crowd with a second-quarter over-the-back alley-oop to former teammate LeBron James. Irving last played in a game on Feb. 9 when he left the Celtics’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at halftime after suffering the knee sprain.
“It’s been too long since I played a game, man,” he said. “Like I’ve shot a basketball twice in the last eight days, just getting off my legs. It really came down from that hit that I took in the [Feb. 7] Lakers game, really tightened up my [thigh tendon] and then my knee buckled in a way and I’m just thankful the strength in my quad caught it and it could have been a lot worse. I’ve been doing a lot of work every single day just to play in this game.”
When asked how he felt, Irving said. “It felt great. Like I said I missed [playing]. I don’t ever want to take games off. But when it happens to do with my body and the investment that I put in, I’m just glad it’s at a high level.”
Irving said he collaborated with his own training team and Celtics team doctors to use the All-Star Game as a training session to prepare for Thursday’s return game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“We understand it’s an All-Star Game but to go up and down before Thursday come, I’d be a lot worse if I didn’t play in this game going on Thursday and that was my first time playing in basically two weeks,” he said.
“Five days in an NBA season is a lot of time. I don’t think a lot of people realize that. Getting up shots, being around this competition, camaraderie of course, but I was just happy I was able to run up and down.”
More photos from Sunday’s All-Star Game:
Silver weighs in
The NBA is a thriving league that is reaching new horizons internationally, such as the newly announced 12-team league in Africa. Yet, the news cycle has been dominated by the Anthony Davis trade demand and teams such as the New York Knicks tanking games for the rights to draft Duke’s Zion Williamson.
Commissioner Adam Silver said he can’t interfere in how the New Orleans Pelicans handle the Davis situation, but he made it clear he doesn’t like players making public trade demands that can force organizations to make hasty deals.
“Well, in terms of the role the league should take, I don’t want to do something extraordinary in that I’m reaching to some broad power to interfere with the workings of the collective bargaining agreement,” Silver said Saturday evening. “I mean, I think those are issues that should be discussed at the table in terms of how the system should work. I think you raise a fair point in terms of it’s two-sided. Of course, teams also blind-side players, too, and trade them.
“I think the issue ultimately is that, whether it be a team or a player not meeting a contractual obligation, I mean, that’s something I think you just don’t want to see as a league, even if it’s a one-year contract or a five-year contract, that’s a commitment the player makes, and that’s a commitment the organization makes to that player with a guaranteed contract. I recognize, and I think it’s perfectly appropriate, that conversations take place behind closed doors, where players or their agents are saying to management, it’s my intention to move on for whatever reasons.”
Davis’s agent, Rich Paul, informed media outlets that his client wanted to be traded. Davis drew a $50,000 fine from the league but it has caused a messy situation between Davis and the Pelicans, who failed to trade him before the Feb. 7 deadline.
“I think, when they make a public spectacle of it, I hear you in terms of the enormous media interest that comes from it, but that’s not the kind of media interest we’re looking for,” Silver said. “I will say that people have lost sight a little bit of the fact, again, blame the league or not, but two collective bargaining agreements ago in 2010 and ’11, we set out to shorten contracts because we wanted to more closely tie pay to performance, and we wanted to give teams a chance to rebuild faster, meaning players wouldn’t be locked into contractual situations for too long a period, and we also wanted to give players the flexibility to move on.
“So the result of that is the latest I’ve heard from our basketball operations group is that, I believe, 40 percent of our players are going to be free agents this summer.
“So it’s two sides of the coin. Some people could say, ‘Oh, my God, look at all that player movement.’ On the other hand, that player movement could be very positive for a lot of teams.”
Silver also publicly discouraged teams from tanking for draft picks.
“I personally don’t think it’s a winning strategy over the long term to engage in multiple years of rebuilding,” he said. “I understand genuine rebuilding, when you’re trading away, for example, or not re-signing a star player who you believe is now in the downward slide of his career, and you think you’re better off going young and invariably getting a high draft pick. . . . But I’m certainly not here to say we solved the problem.”
Tatum wants to stay
Jayson Tatum said despite being involved in trade rumors for Davis, he wants to stay in Boston. Tatum, who won the Skills Challenge on Saturday night, is the Celtics’ second leading scorer behind Irving . . . Patriots owner Robert Kraft was courtside at the All-Star Game, shaking hands with celebrities and All-Star players.