A mild hubbub was made by Mark Jackson out of the absence of Kyrie Irving from Boston’s bench in Game 7. Jackson was het up, complaining that Kyrie is “more important than an assistant coach” and that it would be a real problem if Kyrie was “just at home chilling or somewhere not important,” instead of, uhh, sitting on the bench in a suit.
This sounds silly, but I guess it’s not so silly. Kyrie played the last three years of his career alongside LeBron James in Cleveland, and it’s not unreasonable that he might’ve had some useful input on the sideline for his teammates. Nothing he was going to say would’ve been as valuable to the Celtics as, say, Terry Rozier making more than zero of his 10 three-point attempts, but I have no trouble believing there’s more value to having an injured starter on the bench than just moral support. Beyond that, I dunno, it seems vaguely lame and uncool for a team’s star player to not at least attend the most important game of the season. Maybe not Mark-Jackson-huffing-and-puffing-during-live-playoff-basketball uncool, but at least a little uncool.
Clarity came after the game, from Irving’s agent Jeff Wechsler and Danny Ainge. The explanation? Nasal surgery. Per ESPN:
“It was a residual from the facial fracture he had earlier in the season,” Wechsler said, noting the fracture that Irving suffered in November that forced him to wear a mask. “He had the knee surgery, and now he’s taken care of this sinus surgery, so he will be all set going forward.”
Ainge described it as surgery to repair a deviated septum, and joked that Kyrie didn’t want to ruin his movie career by appearing publicly with a busted-up face. I doubt very seriously that Irving’s teammates had the bandwidth or energy to give a shit about his absence, but it’s worth noting that he injured his face more than six months ago. The timing sure sucks! Maybe Terrifying Masked Kyrie Irving could’ve intimidated the Cavs into submission without ever taking the court. Alas, we’ll never know.