Taylor Snow/Celtics.com

Irving Looks Ahead to Next Season as a Chance for Redemption

BOSTON – A bitter taste of unfulfillment still lingers inside Kyrie Irving’s mouth after his inaugural season with the Boston Celtics was cut short by season-ending knee surgery. It’s a taste that the All-Star point guard hopes to soon spit out.

Speaking Tuesday afternoon at a press event in Boston for the upcoming premiere of his film "Uncle Drew," Irving expressed a desire to make up for the lost opportunity of the 2017-18 season. He plans to do this by taking the Celtics to new heights in 2018-19, while enjoying the entire ride with them.

“My attitude is really just redemption next year,” Irving said as he met with the local media for the first time since mid-March. “Just integrating myself with our team again and really focusing on winning a championship. That’s the only thing that I’m worried about.”

Irving believes that capturing an NBA title next season is a completely attainable goal for Boston, especially after witnessing the team advance all the way to the brink of an NBA Finals appearance despite the key absences of himself and star forward Gordon Hayward.

While he could not participate in the run, Irving was astounded by the poise and promise that the young Celtics core displayed.

“For me, I’m just glad that everybody got to see how special they were on a bigger stage,” Irving said of the shining Celtics’ youths. “I had been talking about how great they were. I mean, some of their numbers probably didn’t look as appealing to the outside looker, but they were always locked in. And then when they were afforded the opportunity to take the reins of the team, you saw them take full advantage of it. You saw guys that are literally going to be stars in this league for years to come.”

Irving can’t wait to be a part of that growth, but first he must regain full health and strength in his surgically repaired left knee.

So far, things are going well in that regard. With that being said, Irving is taking a slow-and-steady approach to his rehab so that he can return by the start of training camp in late September without facing any setbacks along the way.

“It’s a process,” he said. “I’m on the floor doing some running activities, but I’m not running on the treadmill or anything like that. Me and my strength and conditioning coach, we’re taking it one day at a time. I think around this time it’s around 15 weeks until the third week of September, so I’m excited to just really utilize this offseason to dedicate myself to my craft and things outside of it.”

Irving also wants to utilize the offseason to grow closer to his teammates. He has missed the on-court camaraderie and competition over the last three-plus months, so he can’t wait to gather his teammates for some basketball-related activities after they enjoy some well-deserved R&R.

“I’ll definitely put together a few camps for us as the summer continues, but they deserve their vacation time,” said Irving. “I mean, I’ve still got to get to work in terms of what I’ve got to do to prepare, so I'll just leave those guys alone for a little bit and then we’ll start getting back into it.”

Once they do get back into it, Irving believes that he and his teammates will be in store for some special experiences together. Because not only is he set to return to action, but Hayward is as well.

“That what makes it even more exciting,” Irving said of the C's regaining all of their parts. “And the challenge is, now we have championship pedigree. They have experience, our young guys, that other young guys in the league aren’t necessarily afforded. They gained a lot of experience and now it can only help us going forward.”

Irving’s hunger for redemption can only help the Celtics, as well. For the next 15 weeks, he’ll be chomping at the bit, eagerly waiting for another opportunity to chase his championship aspirations.

And if he’s able to seize that opportunity, then the bitter taste that this past season left behind will turn into sweetness.