4X4 With CLNS Media: A Weekly Discussion on the Boston Celtics and the NBA

This weekly segment brings together the CLNS Media Celtics content team to discuss the latest in professional basketball news.

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Kyrie Irving recently had a second opinion on his left knee. What are your general thoughts? Are you optimistic?

Nick Cherico: Kyrie has been playing on a bum knee all season. So, to say that the recent news shocked me at all would be a lie, but I’m very optimistic. From what we currently know, the initial diagnosis didn’t reveal any major structural damage to Kyrie’s knee, which is a good sign. As long as there’s no long-term problems then I’m ok. However, I think the main question here is whether or not he should get the screws removed (ending his season), and I think he definitely should. This team isn’t wining the Finals this year, so why risk your long-term health?

Hunter Perkins: Pretty nervous. Kyrie has had knee problems in the past, and it was rumored that he threatened the Cavs with surgery if they would not trade him. Now, he will likely have to get that surgery. Irving has screws in his knee that he needs taken out, and I just hope it can wait until after the season. Kevin McHale went out there and said the Celtics should sort of shut it down and wait for next season. That win against OKC said otherwise. This team is special and they have that “it” factor. If Irving can play, let’s go for it. For now though, we nervously wait.

Cory Prescott: This season has been a rollercoaster from the very first tip-off. The Irving news is more unsettling if anything given that we don’t know much. Nothing has changed, according to Brad Stevens, so I’m under the assumption that Irving will be fine come playoff time. Stevens and Ainge wouldn’t put Irving’s career in danger, so when you see Kyrie in the playoffs in three weeks, he’ll be good to go.

Devon Clements: No. I am, as they say on 98.5 The Sports Hub, in “Big-Jim-Worry” mode. Knee issues are some of the longest lasting injuries for athletes, so to hear all the stories about Irving wanting to get his knee cleaned up after last season, and hearing that he may need to get the screws removed from his knee give me no real optimism in terms of his recovery. Let’s pray that I am overreacting and that Irving’s knee just requires a little cleaning.

Can the Celtics last long enough in the playoffs without Marcus Smart before he returns?

Cherico: I think the Celtics are going to miss Marcus Smart desperately over these next two months. With all of the injuries piling up on top of one another, his loss just makes this team even thinner than they already are. If the roster looks the way it does now in the next couple weeks (no Kyrie, Jaylen, etc.) then I can’t say I’m too confident in the Celtics lasting long enough for Smart to make his return to the court.

Perkins: I think the Celtics will be just fine without Marcus Smart; that is, until the playoffs start. The Celtics need Smart to contend with the bigger and more powerful point guards in the East (Lowry, Oladipo, Hill). Smart has never shot well, but he continues to make winning plays more often than not.

Prescott: The last three weeks of the NBA season will be fascinating, particularly to see who the Celtics draw in the first round. If the Celtics can draw a Milwaukee team that has a 15-19 road record and have lost 9 of their last 13 games, maybe they can make quick work out of the Bucks and set themselves up well for the conference semifinals. By the time that series rolls around, Smart’s six weeks could be close to up, leading to his return (hey, I can be hopeful).

Clements: I think it all depends on who the Celtics have to play in the first round. If Boston has to play Miami, absolutely. If they have to play Washington, then get ready to see a first round exit for the Celtics. Not having a defensive playmaker like Smart on the court will have a big impact, especially considering all the other injuries the Celtics have been dealing with as of late.

Isaiah Thomas recently said via Twitter that he wouldn’t rule out returning to Boston. Throw out contracts – would you want Thomas back next season in a Celtics uniform?

Cherico: I would only take Isaiah Thomas back if he were to come off the bench. But even if that were the case, I can’t see it happening. IT has started to find his niche in LA, so I think his best bet would be to go back there or to whoever is offering the most money. But at the end of the day, what Danny Ainge did to IT last Summer left a pretty big scar. And I think it’s is beyond repair at this point.

Perkins: No way. I love Isaiah and respect what he did for the Celtics and their rebuilding efforts, but there is no spot for him on this team. Terry Rozier is a better player right now than Isaiah Thomas, and Kyrie Irving isn’t going anywhere. Along with being one of the worst defenders in the league, he’ll need the ball in his hands to succeed. The fit just isn’t there, sorry IT.

Prescott: Yes, Thomas was a cult hero in Boston last season, and his gutsy playoff performance was one of the most gut-wrenching performances I’ve ever seen. Yet, with Irving as the bona-fide star of this team, would Thomas be willing to take a back up role with the team? Even those backup minutes would be better served going to Terry Rozier.

Clements: Yes…but only if Marcus Smart is no longer wearing a Celtics uniform. I could see Thomas playing a similar role to what he is playing in Los Angeles right now, and for that to happen there needs to be one man out from the second unit. That man would most naturally be Marcus Smart because he will be entering free agency this summer and because they are both guards. I would also be able to wipe the dust off of my Thomas jersey…so that would be nice as well.

Outside of Golden State and Houston, who is the next best team in the Western Conference?

Cherico: This is simple. It’s the Portland Trail Blazers. Not only does Portland currently sit at third in the Western Conference Standings, but they’re the hottest team in the league post-all-star break. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been nearly flawless up to this point in the season, and I think they’re going to be a tough out for whoever they draw in the first round.

Perkins: Portland all day. That Trail Blazers team is a lot of fun to watch. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum might be the best backcourt in the game right now, and they have the role players to make it work. Al-Farouq Aminu is the perfect 3-and-D guy. Jusuf Nurkic is emerging as one of the more reliable young centers in the game. If Kawhi comes back, I might have a different answer. For now, it’s Portland.

Prescott: I really like this Portland team, and am pleased to see continuity pay off for a small market team, yet I can’t quit the Oklahoma City Thunder (despite their embarrassing loss in Boston Tuesday). When the game slows down in the postseason, they have the star-level players and big bodies to compete. They’ve consistently been a top-10 defensive team this season, and sport a 10-4 record since the all-star break. They’re far from perfect, but as far as overall ceilings go, the Thunder’s is probably next in line behind Golden State and Houston.

Clements: I believe the next best team after Houston and Golden State is the team the Celtics beat last Tuesday night – the Oklahoma City Thunder. If you have a guy on your team that on any given night can dish out a 30-point triple-double (Russell Westbrook) along with guys like Paul George and an aging Carmelo Anthony, that leads to a recipe for success. I have never been sold on Portland and I will continue to stick to that, and there are not enough impact players on any of the other Western Conference teams to earn my vote as the third best team in that conference.