If you ask Nick Wright, the Boston Celtics are battling for more than just an NBA championship in these playoffs.
The Celtics will look to put their regular-season struggles behind them when they kick off their playoff journey Sunday afternoon against the Indiana Pacers. All eyes will be on Kyrie Irving, who shouldered quite a bit of blame for Boston’s woes this season and is bound for free agency this summer.
If the C’s end up suffering an early postseason exit, Wright believes Irving is as good as gone.
“If they can’t do that, then we’re watching the last five to 12 games of Kyrie Irving as a Celtic,” Wright said Thursday on FOX Sports 1’s “First Things First.” “That’s all that’s on the line, is retaining Kyrie Irving. So no pressure.”
Wright continued: “You do well in these playoffs, you convince Kyrie to stay. You use three of those potential four first-round picks you’re gonna have plus Jayson Tatum to acquire Anthony Davis and you go into next season as the big favorites in the Eastern Conference. Or the playoffs go the way this regular season’s gone. You lose games you shouldn’t lose, guys are unhappy. You’re all of a sudden in a Game 7 with the Pacers while Milwaukee’s been off for a week after sweeping the Pistons and Giannis (Antetokounmpo) goes and annihilates you in Round 2, if you get there. In which case Kyrie Irving’s last day with the Boston Celtics would be sometime in late April, or best-case scenario, very early May. That would make this a disastrous season.”
It likely would be tough for Irving to leave Boston should the club reach the Eastern Conference finals or NBA Finals. But unless the C’s go down in embarrassing fashion, it’s tough to imagine Irving will put a ton of stock in their postseason run as far as his free agency decision goes. After all, being bounced in one of the first two rounds might motivate Danny Ainge and Co. even more to make an offseason run for Davis.
The Celtics will cross that bridge when they get there. For now, all focus goes to living up to expectations and making the most of this fully loaded roster.