The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors received bad news over the weekend. Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry were both ruled out for the remainder of the regular season and are due to miss playoff action.
Irving’s prognosis has lined up to come back any time during the first round through to the back end of the playoffs. Curry’s is arguably less clear, though, with the two-time MVP due to be re-evaluated in three weeks. Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said that Curry will sit out the first round at the very least.
Even for a sport accustomed to injury, it felt cruel to receive this news on one day. The playoffs are already missing DeMarcus Cousins and we have barely seen Kawhi Leonard play this season. Now basketball fans have to process that two elite point guards will miss postseason minutes.
Kyrie’s absence is more significant to Boston than Curry’s does to Golden State as it stands. Should Irving return towards the end of the suggested three-to-six-week window, there’s little chance the Celtics are still in the playoffs. While uncertainty is greater with Curry, the Warriors should still navigate the first, and maybe second, round comfortably. That is assuming Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are fully fit by then, of course.
As harmful as this could be for the individual teams, this hurts the league. The NBA lives off its stars. The highlight-reel finishes of Kyrie and incomparable shooting of Steph are iconic. The pair have duelled in the last three NBA Finals, and while it’s unlikely to happen again this season, the playoffs will not be the same without them.
The Celtics and Warriors are locked into the two seeds. The similarities between the two teams are limited on the court, though Irving and Curry are one of the few such likenesses. That comparison is not one of playing style, but importance. Boston and Golden State rely on Irving and Curry more than any other player.
This season was meant to be a forgone conclusion for the Warriors. Without Curry, they’re probably not even favourites. Boston were unstoppable in the first half of the season with Kyrie in full flow. Without him, they are very unlikely to make it through a second-round matchup with LeBron James’ Cavaliers.
The cities of Toronto, Houston and Cleveland may be less excited for their respective returns, but basketball needs Curry and Irving back at their majestic best before long. The playoffs are about the best against the best. And there aren’t many better than Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving.