The Cleveland Cavaliers now have to replace Kyrie Irving, who will miss the rest of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors with a fractured left kneecap.
OAKLAND, Calif.—Less than two months after losing All-Star forward Kevin Love to a season-ending shoulder injury, the Cavaliers have taken another brutal hit. On Friday, an hour after completing its media availability at Oracle Arena, the team announced that Kyrie Irving, its All-Star point guard, was done for the season with a fractured left kneecap.
Irving will undergo surgery and is expected to miss 3-4 months.
The injury occurred midway through overtime of Cleveland’s 108–100 loss to Golden State on Thursday. Irving drove middle, and while attempting to stop felt his knee give out. He immediately fell to the floor and limped off the court. Minutes later, Irving, who has battled knee and foot problems throughout the postseason, was headed to the locker room and did not return.
“I don’t know what I felt. But obviously it didn’t feel right,” Irving said Thursday. “It was a little bit different than what I had been experiencing in the Chicago series or anything like that because it was just a quick pinch and I could still feel what was going on in my knee and this time I kind of knew it was a little bit different than the other times.”
[daily_cut.NBA]Replacing Irving is impossible. Matthew Dellavedova will likely take Irving’s spot in the starting lineup, and though Dellavedova has played well this postseason, averaging 6.5 points and 2.7 assists, Dellavedova isn’t anywhere near as dynamic as Irving. Still, on Friday, Cavs players said they feel comfortable with Dellavedova in the game.
“The good thing about it, we've been in this position before,” LeBron James said. “So next man up, and guys will be ready for the challenge.”
Equally concerning for Cleveland is the tension between Irving and the team over the handling of the knee injury. Irving’s father, Drederick, and Irving’s agent, Jeff Wechsler, were in the Cavaliers locker room after the game on Thursday. With reporters in the room, Drederick appeared visibly upset. According to ESPN, tension has existed between Dredrick and Wechsler and the Cavs over how the injury has been handled in recent weeks.
When asked if there was a disconnect between the team and Irving’s inner circle, Cavaliers coach David Blatt said he had “absolutely no idea.”
According to Dr. Joshua Dines, an orthopedic surgeon at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery and the assistant team physician for the New York Mets, non-contact kneecap fractures are “clearly rare.” Dines added that there was the possibility that Irving’s previous injuries predisposed him to cracking the kneecap.
“Tendonitis, ankle problems, all of those things affect your lower extremity alignment,” Dines said. “You load things a little differently. Your body is not stupid. Anything you can do to unload areas that are in pain, you can. Other areas that are not used to such stresses can break down.”
For Irving, the knee problem is the latest in a career that has been snakebitten by injuries. In college at Duke, Irving was limited to 11 games because of a foot injury. Since entering the NBA, Irving’s list of injuries included a sprained shoulder, a broken hand and a fractured jaw. He played in a career-high 75 games this season but will end it in the worst possible way: on the sidelines, watching his team compete for a championship.