This Kyrie Irving injury is especially frustrating because, for his 44 minutes on the court, he looked great. Looked like his old self, before his left knee started to give out at the beginning of these playoffs, putting up 23 points, seven boards, six assists, and two very definitive blocks of Stephen Curry—one early, and one late in the fourth that may well have saved the game, at least for the time being.
And then, with two minutes left in overtime, the knee gave out when he tried to drive and put the brakes on.
Irving was examined in the locker room, and the Cavaliers claim the initial tests show no structural damage to his ACL or MCL—they’re hoping, strongly, that this is just a flare-up of the tendinitis that’s bothered him in recent weeks. Irving, who looked inconsolate at his locker, appeared to disagree.
Irving said this injury felt different than the tendinitis, calling it a “quick pinch” when he tried to decelerate.
“You can hear in the tone of my voice that I’m a little worried,” Irving said. “I just want to make sure everything is OK, and I’m going to take the necessary steps to see what’s going on.”
He left the arena on crutches, and will undergo an MRI exam later today. His presence for Sunday’s Game 2, and for the rest of the series, is very much in doubt. But the decision might be one that’s more than strictly medical.
In this column, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst dances around, but frustratingly does not explicitly go in on, what appears to be a major difference of opinion on how to handle Irving’s injury. On one side is Irving’s camp, including his father and his longtime agent, who seem to believe that the Cavs have pressured him to play through tendinitis at the risk of injury.
There’s been some tension between these two sides for weeks now. Irving’s father and Wechsler, sources said, have been preaching caution with Irving and this knee issue. Naturally, they are focused on his long-term health and have concern that playing on a weakened knee — what the Cavs have said publicly was a bad case of tendinitis — could put him at risk of suffering a greater injury. Going to see Andrews was part of the entire group’s efforts to get a full handle on what Irving was facing and get independent advice on the situation.
Of course on the other side, the Cavs want Irving to play as long as he’s not seriously hurt. As Irving was limping through the start of the conference finals against the Hawks, it was easy to identify some mild friction. As Irving was preparing to get a second opinion, there was a sense he was being challenged to play through it.
A potential torn ligament would seem to validate the fears of Irving’s camp. But it’s not news that NBA medical staffs often have imperatives that go beyond a player’s long-term health.
We’ll know soon, perhaps by day’s end, whether Kyrie Irving will appear again in these Finals. (Steve Kerr says he hopes Irving’s back for Game 2. “You probably don’t believe me, but I mean that.” I definitely don’t believe him, because the LeBron and Mozgov Show probably isn’t enough to hang with the Warriors.) And even if he does return, we’ve seen the healthiest Irving we’ll see until the fall. There are no more eight-day layoffs. Cleveland’s in trouble.