The Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night without Kyrie Irving, who’s dealing with a knee strain, improving their record to 8-2 this season when the All-Star point guard is sidelined.
This comes on the heels of the Celtics falling just one win short of the NBA Finals last season despite Irving missing Boston’s entire playoff run.
So, are the C’s actually better without their most talented player?
It sounds silly on the surface, but the opinion is gaining steam. Greg Jennings, former NFL wide receiver-turned-sports analyst, said Wednesday on FS1’s “Undisputed” he believes Irving “just doesn’t fit” with the Celtics and what Boston coach Brad Stevens is trying to accomplish.
(This is the second time this week Jennings has questioned Irving’s impact, as he also said Monday the 26-year-old is Boston’s “biggest problem.”)
The Celtics have a deep and talented roster, which is why they were able to push LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals last season despite not having Irving and Gordon Hayward. Al Horford is an excellent leader, and Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier often look more comfortable in their roles with Irving on the bench.
But Irving is one of the best players in the NBA. It’s hard to imagine the C’s benefiting from losing the six-time All-Star, even if the numbers paint a strange picture.