CLEVELAND: There are some Northeast Ohio sports questions that seem to concern me more than my media brethren.
Isn’t Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden’s penchant for getting passes batted down a problem?
How did Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti save himself after last season?
When will University of Akron 7-foot center Zeke Marshall become a consistent double-double threat?
But above all, I wonder about Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving.
I am mesmerized by his feats and dazzled by his abilities that befit an NBA superstar, yet I fear he will never reach his true heights because of his continuing injury history.
The fact that his bumps and bruises seem relatively minor is no consolation. The circumstances almost add to the troubling aura.
Irving played only 11 games at Duke because of a right big toe injury suffered on a routine play against Butler. That didn’t keep him from being the No. 1 overall pick.
But in 1¼ seasons with the Cavs, Irving has fractured the tip of his index finger, separated his shoulder, fractured his wrist and suffered a concussion. He believes the finger injury occurred when he smacked it on Darren Collison’s shoe in a Nov. 17 game against the Dallas Mavericks. A bone in his wrist was broken when he slapped a padded wall during a July summer league game.
Freak accidents, Irving believes. But freak has crossed the line into habitual, and expected is right around the corner. It’s enough to make me hold my breath every time an Irving appendage gets close to a backboard, a chair in the front row or anything resembling a stationary object.
Back on the court a week earlier than expected Tuesday night in a 100-94 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, Irving was as spectacular as ever.
He showed none of the rust coach Byron Scott feared as he poured in 28 points in 38 minutes. He made 11-of-21 shots from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and dished out 11 assists.
While the crowd was still gawking at Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, who received bigger ovations than any Cav, Irving used a nifty spin move to make his first jumper. Then he quickly fed C.J. Miles for two assists.
The Cavs’ sizzle was back.
Irving was spectacular out of the gate, scoring 14 points in 17 minutes, making 6-of-9 shots with six assists with 1:49 left before the first-half horn was to sound.
Irving was in full possession of all his tricks. He put another spin move on Chris Duhon for a jumper. He used his crossover dribble. He still had his timing with Anderson Varejao, even though he feared before tipoff it might take time to return. With less than four minutes left, he split a double-team and hit Varejao with a bounce pass for a layup.
In the third quarter, Irving’s defensive pressure on Bryant forced the Lakers star to dribble out of bounds.
Before the game, Irving said he had tried to convince the medical staff to clear him earlier.
“I was ready to play even when it was still broken, but the doctor told me to sit out,” he said. “There was a little bit of begging, but that’s a necessary thing to do, to watch out for my safety.”
An army of doctors and trainers wouldn’t be enough for that, especially when there’s an errant shoe floating through the paint.
Irving sat out 15 games last season, 13 with a concussion and right shoulder injuries. He was shut down and inactive for the final two. In games he missed, the Cavs went 4-11. This season, they were 2-9 in 11 games without him. (Does his bad karma come in 11s?)
Asked if he sent Irving to the court against the Lakers with any warnings, Cavs coach Byrion Scott joked: “I told him the left hand, the right hand, the big toe, he’s pretty much taken care of all four of those limbs. We just told him ‘Now you should be good.’ ”
Scott and the Cavs can only hope. Meanwhile, I will continue to fret.
Part of my anxiety likely stems from the fact that Irving is top dawg in Cleveland. (Sorry, Hanford). The Browns and Indians personnel departments have yet to stumble onto a superstar, although Browns receiver Josh Gordon could be on his way. Major injuries cut down Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore in his prime.
I want to marvel at Irving’s moves and watch his jumpers caress the net without month-long interruptions. I want to see more Kyrie vs. Kobe shows. I want to breathe every time Irving ventures into the stratosphere and not wonder what he’s going to hit on the way down.
The excitement Irving brings is too intoxicating to miss.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.