A miserable start to the Cavs’ season just got a whole lot worse.
Kyrie Irving fractured the tip of his left index finger and will miss at least a month, leaving the Cavaliers without their leading scorer and best player. It’s another freak injury to a growing list for Irving, who has suffered a concussion, a separated shoulder, a fractured wrist and now a fractured finger since entering the league.
Irving, averaging 22.9 points and 5.6 assists, could miss the next 18 to 20 games for a team that already is struggling. The Cavs have dropped six straight, and their 2-8 start is their worst in 10 years, matching the 2002-03 team that began 2-8 and ultimately started 2-17 the year before LeBron James’ arrival.
The Cavs were struggling to win with Irving. Now they’ll have to figure a way to do it without him, beginning with Wednesday’s rematch against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Part of the reason coach Byron Scott kept both Donald Sloan and Jeremy Pargo on the final 15-man roster was in case Irving went down again. Pargo recently surpassed Sloan as the backup, but both should see extended minutes in Irving’s absence. Scott was hesitant to add point guard duties to rookie Dion Waiters’ list, but Waiters has initiated the offense frequently in recent games. Irving’s prolonged absence may force Scott to reconsider, although Waiters is mired in a deep 9-of-45 shooting slump since Scott benched him for the fourth quarter of a recent loss at Oklahoma City.
Irving initially injured the finger in Saturday’s home loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Irving believes the injury occurred when his finger smacked Darren Collison’s shoe. An initial X-ray didn’t reveal anything, and Irving played in Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia. He scored a season-low nine points and made just 4-of-14 shots. An MRI taken Monday morning revealed the non-displaced fracture. Irving will wear a splint and be re-evaluated in two weeks.
Compounding the Cavs’ injury problems was the fact Tristan Thompson was also injured in Sunday’s loss to the Sixers. Thompson was diagnosed with a nasal fracture Monday, although he isn’t expected to miss any time. He will be forced to play with a mask similar to the one Tyler Zeller is wearing to protect his fractured cheekbone. Zeller just returned to the lineup Saturday.
Within the last two weeks, the Cavs have suffered a concussion, a fractured cheekbone, a nasal fracture and now a hairline fracture of Irving’s index finger. In the day’s only good news, Daniel Gibson was cleared to return after missing Sunday’s loss with an injured right elbow. He hurt it during Saturday’s loss to the Mavericks and was forced to sit Sunday, but should be available on Wednesday.
Without Irving, the bulk of the Cavs’ backcourt scoring load will fall on Waiters and Gibson. Anderson Varejao, averaging 14.3 points per game, is now the team’s healthy leading scorer. Alonzo Gee is second at 13.7.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.