Ball is life for Kyrie Irving. After Team USA called in 2010, an offer he refused to ignore, he committed to the stars and stripes over his birthplace of Australia. With deep playoff runs with the Cavaliers and his time with USA Basketball, the whirlwind of the hoops calendar largely eliminated any semblance of an off season for him. After spending the last two months recovering from the knee infection that stole a post-season from him as a Celtic, it’s all picking up again.
He’s back with Greg Popovich and company in Las Vegas, but this time, as a spectator. After he tried his best to convey is his otherworldly moves to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, probably knowing full well they can’t be replicated, he told the media he’s not quite back to full basketball form despite clearance to return to the court.
“No five-on-five,” he said. “Still taking a little time.”
Irving played in some one-on-one action, without full contact, and performed skill work with his trainer today. He isn’t ready for the capacity of work he’ll face in September with the Celtics — when he’ll compete against a second unit that resembles the starters from Boston’s Eastern Conference Finals run. He assured reporters that he’ll easily be ready by the time training camp hits at the newly-opened Auerbach Center in mid-September and is excited for “the level of play” that just intrasquad scrimmages will provide. “That’s the level of talent that we have on our team right now,” Irving said, looking down the road to training camp. “You don’t necessarily as often 1 through probably 10, so it’s good that we have that on our team.”
Plenty of big names didn’t show at all for Team USA minicamp ... and three guys watching due to injuries are Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. pic.twitter.com/mP4Dj72yQe— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) July 26, 2018
Irving still has over one month of recovery, but in Oregon Jordans, spiraling the ball around his body wearing black athletic sweats, he’s at home on the floor with the world’s best after spending the last five months recovering from knee surgery. In March, he exited a game against the Pacers with knee irritation he’d never return from. Beneath the surface, an infection flared up that could have threatened his life.
“It could’ve involved a staph (infection), but good thing we caught it early,” he said. “I’m glad that’s done though.”
He wore a PICC line for an excruciating two weeks. Metal and wiring left his body as medicine flowed in, cutting off his normally packed summer. Beside the Uncle Drew press tour, Irving’s been on the sidelines. For the first time in seven years, he said he’s been able to boil the game back down to basics.
After a championship run with the Cavaliers, international play and a season-ending knee injury in 2015, the offseason grind caught up to him a year ago. The Cavaliers traded him in August, then only three weeks of preparation separated an entirely new roster from the preseason and Opening Night when Gordon Hayward went down.
Now he’s focusing on getting his body right for the mounting expectations facing the Celtics as they more or less run it back from last year.
“There are some expectations that we have to meet individually and then as a group, and then we worry about the expectations outside of it,” he said. “The most important thing right now is finding our cohesion.”