Celtics: Kyrie Irving out 4-5 months

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Update: Celtics release:

This Saturday, Celtics guard Kyrie Irving will undergo a procedure to remove two screws implanted in his left patella after the patellar fracture he suffered during the NBA Finals in 2015. Following a mid-March procedure to remove a tension wire that had been implanted at the same time as the screws, pathology indicated the presence of a bacterial infection at the site of the hardware. To ensure that no infection remains in the knee, the screws will be removed. The fracture in Irving’s patella has completely healed, and his knee remains structurally sound. He is expected to make a full recovery in 4-5 months.

Turns out, he’ll miss the entire postseason.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is devastating to Boston, which falls from a legitimate Eastern Conference challenger to a team susceptible to losing in the first round. The Celtics will still probably finish with the No. 2 seed, but without Irving, they’re not necessarily better than the Heat, Bucks or Wizards – potential first-round foes.

Irving joins Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis as Boston players listed as done for the season. Like with Hayward, rumors could still emerge about Irving returning if the Celtics advance far enough. Today’s leak could be about Boston trying to preemptively shut down speculation and questions about Irving’s availability. But winning a series or two obviously becomes far more difficult without those stars.

This also opens the door to questions about Irving’s long-term health. His knee is a reoccurring issue, and he and the team must manage it. This might cause the Celtics to retain Marcus Smart in restricted free agency and/or extend Terry Rozier‘s contract this offseason.

For now, Rozier must continue to step up at point guard. Smart will help if he gets healthy. So will Shane Larkin once he does, too.

Boston isn’t finished. Brad Stevens is an excellent coach who gets everyone to understand and embrace their roles. Al Horford is a star. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are emerging.

No matter what happens in the playoffs, this was a positive year for the Celtics – acquiring Irving and Hayward, seeing Tatum, Brown and Rozier develop. The Cavaliers still have LeBron James, and the Raptors have extended their window through a “culture reset.” Boston can afford to take the long view.

With the available talent diminishing, the Celtics now look more like a lower seed than their 53-25 record would suggest. They play hard and cohesively, but goes only so far in the playoffs. They acquired Irving to put them over the top in those situations – but that must wait.