The Cavs announced Monday that the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year will miss four weeks with a hairline, non-displaced fracture in his left index finger. Cleveland, which is 2-8 and has dropped six straight, is scheduled to play 15 games in that span.
Irving played in just 11 games as a freshman at Duke due to an injury to his big toe, but was still chosen by the Cavs with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
The point guard excelled as a rookie, but missed 15 of Cleveland’s 66 regular-season games due to a shoulder injury and concussion.
The 6-foot-3, 191-pounder drew raves for his play for an NBA select team that practiced against the United States Olympic team over the summer, but missed all of the Cavs’ summer league games after breaking his hand. Irving suffered that injury in practice when he hit a padded mat in anger.
Irving suffered his latest injury in the third quarter Saturday against Dallas when he hit his finger against the foot of Mavs point guard Darren Collison. Irving went to the locker room with trainer Max Benton for treatment, but returned and saw significant action in the fourth quarter.
After the game, the 20-year-old said the finger was very sore and bruised, but vowed to play Sunday in Philadelphia, which he did, only to go 4-for-14 from the field.
On Monday, an off day for the Cavs, Irving underwent an MRI and CT scan at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health and the fracture was revealed. The Cavs said Irving will be treated with taping and a splint and will be evaluated again in two weeks.
The injury comes at a bad time for the Cavs, who have not won since Nov. 5. Other than perhaps center Anderson Varejao, the injury also could not have been suffered by a more significant player.
Irving leads Cleveland with a 22.9-point scoring average and is also putting up 3.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. He is shooting .463 from the field, .391 on 3-pointers and .825 at the line.
With their floor leader and most talented player out a month, it will be interesting to see what the Cavs do.
General manager Chris Grant could waive someone like forward Luke Harangody and go out and sign a point guard, or he could tell coach Byron Scott to make do with what he has.
The only other true point guards on the roster are Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan, and both have struggled. Pargo had just taken over for Sloan as Irving’s backup, so he might also get first crack at being Irving’s replacement in the starting lineup.
Scott also could decide to start Daniel Gibson and have him share point guard duties with rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters, but that seems unlikely for several reasons.
Gibson has repeatedly shown he’s not a point guard when given extended minutes at the position over his seven-year career, while the 20-year-old Waiters is a horrendous 9-for-45 from the field over his last three games and probably doesn’t need any more on his plate at the moment.
Starting Gibson, who is averaging 9.3 points but just 1.7 assists, would also leave a thin Cavs bench even thinner.
In addition, the 6-2, 200-pounder did not play Sunday in Philadelphia after bruising his right elbow Saturday vs. Dallas. An X-ray and MRI done Monday were negative and Gibson was cleared to play when the 76ers visit Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday.
In other injury news, the Cavs will have two players wearing protective masks vs. Philadelphia, as the team announced Monday that power forward Tristan Thompson suffered a nasal fracture Sunday against the Sixers.
Thompson is projected to start against Philadelphia, with 7-footer Tyler Zeller, who is already wearing a mask to protect a fractured cheekbone, coming off the bench.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.