We’ve completed the all-star break and the Boston Celtics are no closer to knowing if Kyrie Irving is staying or leaving come the end of the season.
A lot has happened since Irving publicly announced his intentions to stay in Boston at a fan event back in October, telling the crowd, “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here”.
Celtics fans had every reason to take this as a show commitment to the franchise, yet Irving’s comments over the past few months, a lack of unity in a talented Boston roster and now a video of him involving another impending free-agent in Kevin Durant over all-star weekend, has re-opened speculation he may look elsewhere come free agency time.
Irving has been linked to the New York Knicks for a long time, whilst a reunion with LeBron James in Los Angeles is also something that has generated speculation.
For the Celtics, Irving has brought leadership, experience and has lifted the Celtics in some big moments on the court.
He’s the man they look to in games, and the player they need who has experience in clutch playoff situations.
Irving is the leader in a strong Boston set up, but the Celtics also have a plethora of youth that play important roles.
The Celtics are a more talented team when Irving is available – but their system has seemed to work just as well, if not better when they are without their star point guard due to a knee injury.
Before the All-star break they were able to overcame the 76ers in Philadelphia, with Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris all influential; whilst the following day saw six Celtics record double figures in points during their victory over the Detroit Pistons at home.
It’s only the regular season and the pressure isn’t as high as playoff basketball, but there’s evidence to suggest that the Celtics can still at least survive without Irving; especially after making a deep playoff run to the Eastern Conference finals last year with him and Hayward on the sidelines.
Irving’s cloudy future in Boston only increases the importance of back-up point guard Terry Rozier, who also hits free agency at the end of the season as a restricted free-agent.
Rozier has shown the potential to be a consistent starter in the NBA, and provides insurance for the Celtics at the point guard position; he would seamlessly slot into the starting role at Boston if Irving was to depart.
The Celtics boast a 9-2 record without Irving this season, ball movement seems to flow well without him, and scoring is spread between the talented players on the Celtics roster.
It’s obvious the Celtics are a stronger outfit with Irving, but they have the depth to still be formidable enough in the Eastern Conference without him.
When it comes to winning championships however, an Irving-less Celtics team doesn’t have that star player who’s been deep into the NBA finals; which counts for everything.
They may be able to manage without him in the regular season – but it’s hard to see them winning a championship without someone of his calibre.