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Kyrie Irving feels it’s time to take a step backward so strides can be made down the line.
The All-Star point guard of the Boston Celtics did not return for the second half of Boston’s 99-97 loss to the visiting Indiana Pacers on Sunday at TD Garden because of left knee soreness. He also sat out game last week for the same reason.
After the loss to the Pacers, Irving, hinted extended rest might be necessary.
“I think [rest] will probably be the best thing, just instead of kind of hoping it gets better over the two or three days that it usually does,” Irving said. “It’s aching a little bit more than I wanted it to now, so I’m taking the necessary time.”
With Boston (46-21) pretty much locked into the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, 3.5 games behind Toronto (49-17) and seven games up on third-place Indiana (39-28), Irving is not concerned about where the Celtics stand.
“I’m not concerned. Where we are in the season, I’m pretty comfortable,” Irving said. “I think that, competitively, I think that’s more or less what I’m concerned about.
“When I actually do get back on the floor, I want to feel the level I expect myself to be at and I want to play at and being able to sustain it. Right now, I’m not able to do that. I just got to do that.”
Irving, who suffered a fractured kneecap on the same knee and missed the last five games of the 2015 NBA Finals while with the Cleveland Cavaliers, said the knee began to bother him in a hard-fought loss at Houston on March 3. He sat out a game two nights later against Chicago, but returned for the Celtics’ win at Minnesota on Thursday.
When it began acting up again Sunday, the Boston training staff decided to err on the side of caution with the team’s best player.
“At halftime, he was talking about [the knee], felt some soreness in it, probably similar to the Houston game,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He was getting it worked on after halftime. We don’t know what it is above general knee soreness, and he doesn’t seem overly concerned, big-picture, with it. But obviously it’s been giving him fits here and there for the last five to eight days or so.”
Stevens said whatever is necessary to allow Irving to feel comfortable the knee is at full strength is the avenue on which the Celtics will travel.
“If he doesn’t feel 100 percent, then we need to have him sit,” he said. “And so I think that that is something that we’ve all talked about, and [that’s] why he didn’t come back in [against the Pacers].”
Last week, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suggested during an appearance on sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub that soreness in the knee may be something Irving may have to “manage the rest of his career.”
“I don’t think it’s anything serious, but we want Kyrie healthy and fresh,” Ainge said while appearing on the “Toucher and Rich” program. “And he carries a heavy burden, the offensive load that he carries, so we’re OK with him missing some games. We feel like we have a deep roster, and we need him to be healthy and fresh.”
Irving, for one, is hopeful he will not need to have more work done on his left knee.
“I don’t know. I hope not,” he said. “I’ve been down that road before. I’ve had a fractured kneecap already. So I think taking games like this, being smart about it probably will put me in a better position not to be out for a long period of time.
“That’s the last thing I want to do.”