Brad Stevens: Kyrie Irving 'in a great place' despite absence from court

BOSTON -- Celtics coach Brad Stevens said it's "killing" Kyrie Irving not to be on the floor for the Eastern Conference finals against his former team but stressed that the injured All-Star point guard is "in a great place" as he recovers from last month's knee surgery.

Irving had hardware removed from a balky left knee in early April, ending his first season with the Celtics. Boston acquired Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers in August in a jaw-dropping swap between East rivals.

The Celtics took a 3-2 series lead with a 96-83 win in Game 5 on Wednesday night. Stevens addressed Irving's emotions before the game.

"In our sit-downs or just our casual conversations, he seems to be in a great place," Stevens said. "It's killing him not to be out on the floor. But I think that would be the case, obviously, any time you're playing this deep into the playoffs, especially in a new place. Other than that, his recovery is going great. We're excited about that. But he seems to be in a good place."

Irving earned All-Star honors while guiding the Celtics through much of what was a 55-win campaign. His knee forced him to shut down in mid-March, and after a minimally invasive procedure wasn't enough to get him back on the court, he elected for a more invasive procedure aimed at having him healthy for the start of the 2018-19 campaign.

Irving has been a familiar presence on the Celtics' bench during home games throughout the postseason, and teammates, especially new starting point guard Terry Rozier, have raved about the leadership and guidance he has provided behind the scenes.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said before Game 5 that he has not spoken to or interacted with Irving during the series other than seeing him at the end of the bench during games in Boston.

Cleveland guard JR Smith told ESPN's Dave McMenamin that as far as he knows, none of the Cavs has caught up with Irving during the series. However, he added that there is no bad blood between him and his former backcourt mate, whom he recently referred to as his "kid brother" on a podcast appearance with former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.