Removing screws from an earlier procedure will end his 2018 campaign, a huge blow to a team that already lost Gordon Hayward during the first game of the year. The Celtics are still playoff-bound and some have said the East is still wide open, but Shaq isn’t hearing that with Irving officially on the shelf.
The TNT commentator said on Thursday night before the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Washington Wizards that he believes the Celtics are done contending in the East this year.
“I don’t think they have a shot now,” Shaq said. “A devastating blow. It was already devastating enough when they lost Gordon Hayward the first game, but now to lose Kyrie?”
Shaq said the team will still play well in stretches, but pointed to young players like Jaylen Brown in the Celtics lineup and how difficult it will be for them to play in the postseason without a player like Irving to lean on.
He also added that Irving has a lot to prove next year, alluding that people have claimed he’s “damaged goods.” In a statement that sounded an awful lot like what analysts were saying about Isaiah Thomas last year, Shaq believes that Irving now has to prove himself after a major injury in order to get his next contract.
“The thing now with Kyrie is he just has to get back in the gym and try to get better because it was rumored in Cleveland that he was damaged goods,” Shaq said. “You talk about damaged goods and supermax contracts he’s going to have to work extra hard next year to come out with MVP-like performances so he can get the supermax and I hope he can get it. ”
Irving has already vowed to prove the “naysayers” wrong, and maybe Shaq is now in that category. What’s clear is that everyone wants to see him come back healthy, both for the Celtics and for the future of his career.