July 28, 2014

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Cavs’ Kyrie Irving out at least 3-4 weeks, perhaps rest of season

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INDEPENDENCE — Kyrie Irving’s latest injury could end his season.

The Cavaliers announced Monday that their point guard would miss three to four weeks with a sprained left shoulder suffered Sunday in a 100-96 loss in Toronto.

Kyrie Irving massages his shoulder after injuring it during a fall in Sunday’s loss in Toronto. The oft-injured point guard is expected to miss three to four weeks, which doesn’t leave much of the season even if he is able to come back. (AP photo.)

Four weeks from Monday will be April 8. The season ends April 17, and Cleveland, which is not in playoff contention, would have little to gain by bringing Irving back at that point.

“Nobody’s happy about the news we got with Kyrie,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Losing him for the next two or three weeks or whatever the case may be is tough. Any time you lose a player of that caliber, it’s going to be tough on the team.”

After X-rays taken Sunday at the Air Canada Centre were negative, Irving underwent an MRI and physical exam Monday, at which time it was determined the injury was to his A-C joint.

The Cavs said rest and rehabilitation are normally enough for the injury to heal and that surgery is unlikely, but the latter has not been ruled out.

Irving, who needed help putting on his sweatshirt after the Toronto game, has already missed 29 out of a possible 129 games (.225) in less than two full seasons with the Cavs (21-42). Cleveland is 8-21 without him, including 4-10 this season. Should Irving miss the next 19 games, he will have sat out 32.4 percent of his pro career.

“He’s still very young,” Scott said when asked if he was concerned about Irving’s ability to make it through an 82-game season. “His body hasn’t fully developed. I’m just not that concerned about it, to be honest with you.

“All the injuries he’s gotten have been legitimate injuries. It’s not something that keeps recurring over and over again.”

Scott said Shaun Livingston will start at point guard in place of Irving, who is averaging a team-leading 23.0 points and 5.7 assists, with starting shooting guard Dion Waiters serving as the backup. Wayne Ellington will continue to be the primary backup at shooting guard, while Daniel Gibson also could see some time in the backcourt.

“I’m hoping some guys are looking forward to the challenge,” Scott said. “It’s going to be fun to see how these guys grow.”

Irving, who also had a shoulder injury in high school, played in 11 games as a freshman at Duke — eight at the beginning and three at the end — due to an injury to his big toe.

The No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Irving earned Rookie of the Year honors last season, but also missed 15 games in the shortened 66-game schedule. A sprained right shoulder sidelined the 6-foot-3, 191-pounder for 10 games. He missed three others with a concussion, one due to illness and sat out the final game with no injury.

Irving broke his right hand over the summer when he slammed it into protective padding in frustration while practicing with the Cavs prior to Las Vegas Summer League play, but was ready to go by the start of training camp.

The 20-year-old missed 11 games early this season with a non-displaced fracture to his left index finger and had recently returned after sitting out three games with a hyperextended right knee.

Irving, who also wore a mask while playing through a fractured jaw in 2012-13, probably could have played in every game he’s missed this season had the Cavs been in the playoffs hunt, but the team has been extra careful with its franchise player throughout his brief career.

“He was in good spirits last night when we got off the plane,” said Scott, who had not yet spoken to Irving when he met with the media Monday but planned to contact him. “We were messing around when we were going to our cars. He was smiling and everything else.”

The latest injury occurred with 2:04 left in the third quarter against Toronto, when Irving drove right and attempted to go baseline. The Raptors’ 6-foot-11, 257-pound Jonas Valanciunas came over to help, but was late getting there and was called for a blocking foul as Irving crashed into him and fell to the floor.

Irving immediately clutched his left shoulder and grimaced in pain, with the Cavs calling a timeout to check on him — and because he had to shoot the two free throws in order to be able to return to the game if he was later deemed healthy.

After the timeout, Irving seemed to be comparing his left shoulder to his right as he stepped to the line, where he shot the two free throws solely with his right hand. He made the first and missed the second, with the Cavs immediately fouling to stop play and get him out of the game. Irving then went straight to the locker room with trainer Max Benton.

“He doesn’t avoid contact,” Scott said. “That’s how he gets to the free throw line so much. He kinds of seeks it out at times. The biggest thing this summer is getting him in the weight room and getting him stronger.”

Lottery talk

In what some Cavs fans might view as a positive, Cleveland could improve its lottery chances with Irving out.
Prior to Monday, the Cavs had the fourth-worst record in the league and were just one game better than third-worst Washington (20-41), which will visit Quicken Loans Arena tonight.

With Irving in the lineup, the improving Cavs were threatening to overtake teams like Sacramento (22-43), New Orleans (22-42), Minnesota (21-39), Detroit (23-42) and possibly even Philadelphia (23-39).

The catch is this year’s draft is regarded as one where the first player taken may not turn out to be better than the player who goes seventh.

Tip-ins

  • If Irving were to return by April 1, the Cavs would have 10 games left. If he made it back by April 8, there would be six games remaining.
  • Scott said signing a point guard to a 10-day contract was not discussed when he met with general manager Chris Grant.
  • Largely because of the return of point guard John Wall, Washington has won nine of its last 15 games.
  • Wizards rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal, who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle that has caused him to miss the last three games, has raised his scoring average for the season to 14.2.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.