July 23, 2016

Mostly clear

Cavs’ Kyrie Irving says he could play

INDEPENDENCE — The Cavaliers and star point guard Kyrie Irving are taking the better-safe-than-sorry approach when it comes to the 20-year-old’s fractured left index finger.

That the Cavs were 2-8 and had lost six straight games with their best player — and are now about to play 15 games over the four weeks he will be sidelined — is of secondary importance.

Kyrie Irving

“I’m glad it’s not, knock on wood, an injury that keeps me out six months,” Irving said Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “I’m going to miss a few games, I’m aware of that.

“But you just have to stay positive. Things happen in the game of basketball. Obviously, I could play, but I’m just being cautious right now.”

Irving was on the floor shooting jumpers following practice and could play if the Cavs were in the NBA Finals — the index finger was bandaged and taped to his middle finger — but he would not be 100 percent.

And while there have been players who have played with a fractured finger on their shooting hand — Irving’s is on his non-shooting hand — the Cavs don’t want to risk making the injury worse.

“If he really gets this thing hit again, then it requires surgery and instead of three or four (weeks), you’re talking about months,” coach Byron Scott said. “I don’t think we’re being overly cautious by saying, ‘Let’s shut it down and see how it looks in a couple weeks and go from there.’”

Irving, who is averaging 22.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists, suffered the injury in the third quarter Saturday when he hit the finger on the foot of Dallas point guard Darren Collison, who was going up for a shot.

Irving went to the locker room with trainer Max Benton, but returned to play in the fourth quarter and started Sunday in Philadelphia, where he went 4-for-14 from the field and said he couldn’t hold onto the ball with his left hand.

An MRI and CT scan Monday revealed a hairline, non-displaced fracture, which was basically what Irving had suspected all along.

“It’s frustrating, but I’m going to get through it,” he said. “I’ll try to stay positive.”

In just over two-plus seasons, Irving has now suffered an injury to his big toe that limited him to 11 games as a Duke freshman, a sprained shoulder and concussion that caused him to miss 15 games as a rookie, a broken hand that kept him from playing in summer league games and the fractured index finger.

“You get frustrated, but you live with it and understand you’ve got to get ready for the next opportunity,” Scott said. “Is it a big concern? No, not really.”

Irving will remain in Cleveland throughout his rehabilitation and plans on being on the bench tonight to cheer on his teammates when they host Philadelphia at Quicken Loans Arena.

Who will start at the point in place of the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year is unclear, as Scott would only say it will be Jeremy Pargo (2.7 ppg, 1.3 apg, 3-for-6 FG) or Donald Sloan (2.6, 2.0, 7-for-24).

“I’ll make up my mind (today) and we’ll go from there,” Scott said.

Sloan, who had some success running the team when Irving was hurt late last season, began 2012-13 as the second-string point guard, but Pargo took over two games ago.

Scott said the 24-year-old Sloan is currently better at running the offense and the 26-year-old Pargo is the better defensive player. Neither player was drafted coming out of college.

Scott also said 20-year-old rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters, who is 9-for-45 from the field over his last three games, will play some point guard.

“I don’t know what affect it’s going to have on us psyche-wise,” Scott said. “Obviously, when somebody goes down, especially when it’s one of your best players, there’s an opportunity for your other players. We haven’t changed our outlook.”

Though the Cavs were just 2-8 with their starting point guard this season, the players remain confident they can win in Irving’s absence.

“Everybody thinks the situation is bad because he’s our best player,” Sloan said. “Guys will really step up.”

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

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.