But this season, after experiencing discomfort, Irving underwent what the Celtics described as a “minimally invasive procedure” to remove the wire with the aim of relieving irritation in his patellar tendon.
The Celtics had anticipated that Irving, 26, would be able to return within three to six weeks, but subsequent tests revealed a bacterial infection at the site of the two screws. On Saturday, Irving is scheduled to have the screws removed to “ensure that no infection remains in the knee,” the team said in a statement.
“The hardest thing to do sometimes is accept the uncontrollable things life throws at you,” Irving wrote in a lengthy post on his Instagram account, adding: “This season was only a snapshot of what’s to come from me. Trust me.”
With Irving out, the Celtics’ chances of competing in the East are severely diminished — and the conference playoffs could be wide open. The Toronto Raptors are poised to be the top-seeded team behind DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. The Cavaliers, after several bumpy stretches, are surging once again behind LeBron James, who is assembling one of the finest seasons of his career at age 33.
But perhaps no team looks more dangerous than the Philadelphia 76ers, who have won 12 straight games as they prepare for their first playoff appearance since 2012.
Boston has not had much luck in recent seasons. Last year, the Celtics were the top-seeded team in the East but were eliminated by the Cavaliers in the conference finals after Isaiah Thomas, their star point guard, was sidelined with a hip injury. Three months later, the Celtics traded Thomas to Cleveland as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Irving to Boston. Thomas was later traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.