Marcus Smart confident Celtics can contend in the East even without Kyrie Irving
Marcus Smart pointed out the fact that the team got all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals without Irving in 2018, so success without the dynamic guard is possible:
Marcus Smart on The Jump: "We played without Kyrie last year and made it to the ECF… so it can be done. I think having that chip on our shoulder is that extra motivation that we needed to get us over that hump. I think it's going to work out for us this year."
— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) July 29, 2019
The Celtics won’t be just without Irving, as Marcus Smart knows. They also lost Al Horford to their conference rival, the Philadelphia 76ers. Bench sparkplug Terry Rozier signed a large contract with the Charlotte Hornets.
There are also some positives for the Celtics this year. They replaced Kyrie Irving with another All-Star guard, Kemba Walker. Jayson Tatum is expected to rebound from his sophomore slump. Gordon Hayward has had more time to recover from a gruesome injury and return to his former self.
Marcus Smart is right that the Celtics have shown that they are capable of winning without Irving. In fact, some C’s fans claim the team is even better off without the mercurial guard. While this may be a stretch, losing Irving does not doom Boston.
The Celtics are still considered one of the strongest teams in the East. It would be a shock to see them finish anything lower than a fourth seed this season. If Smart and the team play the whole year with that chip on their shoulder, they could be playing deep into the postseason.