By Ben Golliver
You knew something had to be wrong when one of the NBA's most promising young point guards didn't register a single assist for the first time in his NBA career.
The Cavaliers announced Monday that Kyrie Irving will miss four weeks with a hairline fracture in his left index finger. If his absence is exactly four weeks, Irving will miss Cleveland's next 15 games.
"Freak injury, minor setback but ill be back soon everybody, love the support," Irving wrote on his Twitter account Monday.
Irving, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, missed 15 games for the Cavaliers last season and sat out for an extended period of time due to a concussion. He also broke his hand this summer, an injury that prevented him from participating in the Las Vegas Summer League. A toe injury also caused him to miss a majority of his one and only season at Duke.
Cleveland.com reported on Saturday that X-rays on the finger were negative, but that Irving reported pain and discomfort after he failed to record an assist in 34 minutes of playing time in a loss to the Mavericks.
The Cavaliers' star point guard trotted off the court and into the locker room clutching his left hand during the third quarter. He emerged just in time for the start of the fourth quarter with his left index finger wrapped and a report that X-rays on the bruised digit were negative.
Irving later reported that he somehow caught his left hand on Mavericks guard Darren Collison's foot, and that the injury affected how he performed in the fourth quarter -- when he had 10 of his game-high 26 points, but when the Mavericks sank 59 percent of their field goals and outscored Cleveland, 28-22.
"I'm just not feeling comfortable with my left hand," said Irving, who had zero assists for what he said was the first time in his life. "Attacking the rim, I only had one hand, so I was trying to force shots over [Mavericks center] Chris Kaman, and he did a good job of trying to block my shot. It still doesn't defeat the fact that we need to get stops on the defensive end."
Irving played 37 minutes in a Sunday loss to the 76ers, scoring a season-low nine points on 4-for-14 shooting.
Irving, 21, is far and away Cleveland's most valuable player. Through 10 games, Irving was averaging 22.9 points, 5.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 steal. Those marks made him Cleveland's leading scorer and assist man. The 2-8 Cavaliers, currently on a six-game losing streak, are not equipped to deal with an extended absence from Irving, who was tracking towards a likely All-Star appearance. Going from Irving to reserve guards Donald Sloan and Jeremy Pargo is about as steep of a drop off as you will find. Last season, the Cavaliers were 17-34 (.333) with Irving and 4-11 (.267) without him.