Irving Making 'Exciting' & 'Encouraging' Strides in Recovery

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving, just eight days removed from left knee surgery, walked crutch-less Sunday afternoon into TD Garden to cheer on his Boston Celtics for the first game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Many fans and members of the media were surprised, not just to see the rehabbing point guard in the arena, but to see him walking around without a noticeable limp and without any type of assistive walking device.

It turns out, they weren’t the only ones who were shocked. Even C’s coach Brad Stevens raised an eyebrow at Irving’s mobility as he entered the packed venue to watch the Celtics take Game 1 over the Bucks, 113-107.

“The first time I saw him, when I saw him the other day he was walking around, I was surprised too,” Stevens recalled Monday afternoon in a conference call with the media.

Irving underwent season-ending knee surgery April 7 to remove two screws in his left knee that had been inserted after he broke his patella during the 2015 NBA Finals.

The All-Star point guard had previously undergone surgery March 24 to remove a tension wire in the knee in order to relieve some discomfort that he had been experiencing throughout some of the season. However, it was later discovered that the remaining screws developed a bacterial infection that would call for another procedure and force him to miss the remainder of the season.

It will likely take Irving four to five months to recover from the operation, but seeing him up and about and back on the sideline so soon after the procedure was uplifting for Stevens.

“I had just got done literally 10 minutes ago talking to our training staff and the people who are working most closely with him, and they feel great about his early [progress] a week in, or whatever it is,” Stevens said during the call. “That’s exciting, that’s encouraging. Again, he’s going to make a full recovery. Now that the screws are out and now that you see his early progress, it is very good.”

In the meantime, Irving can still contribute to the team by being present on the sideline and offering support.

Even if he’s not on the floor, Irving’s presence alone is enough to give Boston a boost. He, along with fellow injured teammates Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis, were three of the loudest, most encouraging fans in the building Sunday afternoon, as they helped guide their teammates to a Game 1 win.

"No matter if you are playing or not, it is about camaraderie," said Celtics big man Greg Monroe. "When you see your teammates cheering for you, it gives me extra energy and I am pretty sure it has that effect on other people also."

Irving has also been lending a helping hand off the court. His replacement, Terry Rozier, paid him a visit two days before Game 1 to seek advice ahead of his first postseason start. Judging by the result, the visit seems to have paid off well.

“He made me feel comfortable,” said Rozier, who tallied 23 points, four rebounds and three over 40 minutes Sunday afternoon, while leading the C’s to an overtime win. “He’s a great guy, and whether it’s basketball talk, whether it’s joking around, he’s great at engaging with guys. He’s a great leader, and I know for a fact, even if I hadn’t reached out to him, I’ve got him in my ear. I’ve got him in my corner.”

The rest of the Celtics can say the same.

Irving should be in their corner – at the end of Boston’s bench at TD Garden – for the remainder of the Playoffs. Nothing – not even the fact that he’s just barely more than a week removed from surgery – will stop him from supporting his teammates from the sideline, as they look to make a lengthy postseason run.