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.
SI's Best Photos from Game 1 of the NBA Finals
SI's Best Photos from Game 1: Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors got the better of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, winning 108-100 in overtime. The Game 1 victor of the NBA Finals has a 48-20 series record.
LeBron James scored a finals-best 44 points against Golden State, but saw his team fall in overtime in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Andre Iguodala scored 15 points off the bench for the Warriors, including this dunk.
Kyrie Irving had a great opening game, beating the Warriors off the dribble to score 23 before he left with an injured leg.
Cleveland center Tristan Thompson and Golden State center Andrew Bogut battle for the ball.
Timofey Mozgov had a couple of massive slams against the Warriors.
Steph Curry pressures Kyrie Irving.
Klay Thompson puts up a runner over the outstretched hands of Tristan Thompson.
LeBron James was matched up against Steph Curry on more than one occassion.
Tristan Thompson looses the handle on the ball in a second-half sequence.
Marreese Speights of Golden State keeps the ball away from J.R. Smith. Speights scored eight points in nine minutes and had two rebounds.
LeBron James launches one of his 38 shots.
The Warriors rallied from an early 14-point deficit, much to the delight of their bench and their fans.
Kyrie Irving played solid defense on Steph Curry at times, blocking this shot and another in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime.
Fans show their love for Riley and Steph Curry.
Andrew Bogut attempts to stop LeBron James.
Klay Thompson sizes up Iman Shumpert.
J.R. Smith made 3 of 13 from the field and was the only Cleveland reserve to score in Game 1.
LeBron James gave Golden State fits in regulation, but missed three shots and had two turnovers in overtime.
Draymond Green brings the ball upcourt.
Tristan Thompson played a team-high 47 minutes for Cleveland, scoring two points and pulling down 15 rebounds.
J.R. Smith's hairdo was flashier than his game in the Finals opener.
Kyrie Irving made 10 of 22 shots and contributed six assists, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Steph Curry does a postgame interview after scoring 26 points with eight assists.
The Warriors treated the home crowd and a national tv audience to a rendition of the National Anthem by 10-year-old San Jose resident Nayah Damasen.