BOSTON -- Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving hinted that he'll opt for extended rest in hopes of combating the left knee soreness that forced him out of Sunday's 99-97 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Irving, who missed a game last week after knee soreness initially flared, did not return for the second half of Sunday's game. Boston, already playing without All-Star big man Al Horford (illness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion), watched a 12-point lead evaporate as Indiana rallied for the win.
"I think [rest] will probably be the best thing, just instead of kind of hoping it gets better over the two or three days that it usually does," Irving said. "It's aching a little bit more than I wanted it to now, so I'm taking the necessary time."
Irving noted that, with more than a month before the start of the playoffs, he isn't overly concerned about the balky knee. The Celtics are firmly entrenched in the No. 2 spot, now trailing the Raptors by 3.5 games (though two head-to-head matchups remain) and sitting 7 games ahead of the surging Pacers.
"I'm not concerned. Where we are in the season, I'm pretty comfortable," Irving said. "I think that, competitively, I think that's more or less what I'm concerned about. When I actually do get back on the floor, I want to feel the level I expect myself to be at and I want to play at and being able to sustain it. Right now, I'm not able to do that. I just got to do that."
Irving said his knee started aching in Houston, and it bothered him for much of Boston's loss to the Rockets on March 3. Irving sat out two nights later in Chicago but was back on the floor for Boston's win in Minnesota on Thursday.
When the knee started aching again on Sunday, Irving and the training staff elected to exercise caution.
"At halftime, he was talking about [the knee], felt some soreness in it, probably similar to the Houston game," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "He was getting it worked on after halftime. We don't know what it is above general knee soreness, and he doesn't seem overly concerned, big-picture, with it. But obviously it's been giving him fits here and there for the last five to eight days or so."
Stevens sounded open to the idea of shelving Irving until he's more confident in the knee.
"If he doesn't feel 100 percent, then we need to have him sit, and so I think that that is something that we've all talked about, and [that's] why he didn't come back in [against Indiana]," Stevens said.
During an appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub last week, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suggested that knee soreness might be something that Irving might have to "manage the rest of his career."
Irving underwent surgery for a fractured kneecap after suffering the injury in the 2015 NBA Finals.
"I don't think it's anything serious, but we want Kyrie healthy and fresh," Ainge told the "Toucher and Rich" program. "And he carries a heavy burden, the offensive load that he carries, so we're OK with him missing some games. We feel like we have a deep roster, and we need him to be healthy and fresh."
Irving was uncertain when asked if he might eventually need more work on the knee.
"I don't know. I hope not," Irving said. "I've been down that road before. I've had a fractured kneecap already. So I think taking games like this, being smart about it probably will put me in a better position not to be out for a long period of time. That's the last thing I want to do."