INDEPENDENCE: Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant was in attendance Monday night in New York to watch UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad’s college debut. Given the latest injury to befall their star, the Cavaliers now could be drafting high enough to select Muhammad next spring.
The Cavs put up a brave front Tuesday, but the reality is a 2-8 team riding a six-game losing streak just lost its best player for the next month. The Cavaliers struggled to win with Kyrie Irving, now they’ll be forced to play roughly the next 20 games without him as his fractured left index finger heals.
“Big part of what we do,” coach Byron Scott said. “We’re going to miss him.”
Irving was shooting around after practice Tuesday, his left index finger wrapped in a splint. Irving said when he caught his finger on Darren Collison’s shoe during the loss Saturday to the Dallas Mavericks, he feared it was broken.
Initial X-rays taken after the game didn’t reveal the break, so Irving tried playing through it Sunday. He was essentially relegated to playing with one hand, shooting 4-of-14 and finishing with a season-low nine points. The fracture was discovered in an MRI on Tuesday.
“I just knew it wasn’t a jammed finger,” Irving said. “I’ve jammed almost every finger on my hand, so I just knew when it started turning black and blue…”
Players have played with broken fingers previously, with Kobe Bryant famously playing through a gruesome knuckle fracture three years ago. Scott said Irving might be able to play through the current injury, but he risks further damage to the finger that could require surgery and keep him sidelined for longer than a month.
The Cavs would rather be cautious and shut him down now.
“If he really gets this thing hit again, then it requires surgery,” 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 said he felt like he was playing one-handed in the loss Sunday to the Sixers.
“I kind of knew I couldn’t play with it,” he said. “I had one hand and I couldn’t hold onto the ball. Especially at the end of the game in the fourth quarter, that’s when I’m at my best, and I just couldn’t put it in my left hand or make any moves. It was frustrating.”
Irving has been flattened with injuries throughout his brief career. He had a toe injury at Duke that sidelined him most of his only collegiate season, then dealt with a concussion and sprained shoulder last season. He fractured his wrist before summer league when he smacked it into the wall during practice and now he’ll miss time with the finger.
“Just watching him and talking to him briefly, he was a little frustrated, but he’ll get over it,” Scott said. “He understands right now we have to do the best thing for Kyrie. That’s getting this treatment, letting this thing heal and not putting him in harm’s way on the basketball court.”
Scott will start either Donald Sloan or Jeremy Pargo at point guard. That decision will come today, when the Cavaliers host the Philadelphia 76ers. He’ll also play Dion Waiters more at point.
Scott insisted during the preseason that he didn’t want to add any more pressure to Waiters by adding point guard duties to his list, but he has been pleased with the way Waiters has acclimated to the offense and has trusted him to bring the ball up more and initiate the offense — even when Irving was playing — in recent games.
The Cavs could conceivably get Irving back sometime around Christmas. It’s hard to tell what their season will look like by then.
“We’re just trying to take baby steps right now,” Scott said. “The record is not my main concern. The main concern is to continue to get better. If we continue to get better, the rest will take care of itself.
“We haven’t gotten off to the start we wanted to get off to. I think everyone in this room understands that. But you’ve got 72 games left in this season. We still have a lot of games to go.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.