The Cavaliers have won two of their first 10 games, and that’s not even the bad news.
“They’ll be lucky to win two more before Christmas,” said a Western Conference executive.
The exec wasn’t picking on the Cavs. He was just making a prediction after learning that Kyrie Irving is expected to miss a month with a hairline fracture in his left index finger.
This is Irving’s second season and he’s only 20-years old. Yet he is the Cavs’ Mr. Everything, most definitely one of the league’s top-10 point guards and widely regarded as the franchise’s biggest reason for hope — both for the future and for the now.
If Irving truly does miss the next four weeks, as the Cavs project, it will mean about 16 games. That includes a three-game trip to the South that starts Friday at Orlando, continues Saturday at defending-champion Miami, and concludes Monday at Western Conference-leading Memphis. It would also mean no Irving for the L.A. Lakers’ lone visit to Cleveland on Dec. 11.
On the bright side for Cavs fans, the Cavs say they will re-examine Irving in two weeks and update his status then.
Irving is leading the team with averages of 22.9 points and 5.6 assists per game.
Despite their record, the Cavs have drawn praise from opposing coaches — both privately and publicly — for their execution of the pick-and-roll offense. That starts with the point guard, and Irving’s ability to step back and shoot, drive and score, or find the open man.
The Cavs have also gotten a bit of a pass around the league for their 2-8 record, simply because they’re very young and have started with a brutal early schedule that’s included just three home games. By comparison, the Lakers have played eight of their first 10 at home, including five in a row.
Regardless, that’s life in the big city, and Cavs coach Byron Scott will now have to find answers in a rotation that Scott already goes just eight or nine deep.
One solution may be to start veteran guard Daniel Gibson alongside rookie Dion Waiters, as both are capable ball-handlers and producers of points. Gibson missed Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia with a bruised right elbow, but was cleared Monday to return to action.
However, Gibson is the Cavs’ leading scorer off the bench (9.3 ppg). Putting him in the starting lineup may make an already weak reserve unit considerably shoddier.
Irving is backed up by Donald Sloan and Jeremy Pargo, and both have seen action this season. Sloan started 11 games last year when Irving went down with a concussion and shoulder injury — but has not stepped on the court in the previous two games.
Another potential option is turning Waiters into the primary ball-handler, and inserting swingman C.J. Miles to the starting shooting guard spot. Either way, Scott has a day to figure it out, if he hasn’t already, as the Cavs don’t play again until Wednesday (vs. Philadelphia at The Q).
Irving injured his finger during the third quarter in Saturday’s loss to Dallas. X-rays were negative, and he returned to play in the fourth. He also played 37 minutes Sunday, but scored a season-low nine points on 4-for-14 shooting.
An MRI and CT scan Monday revealed the extent of Irving’s injury. MRI and CT scans are known to provide more-detailed examinations of bone injures than what can be seen via normal x-rays.
Irving missed 15 games last season on his way to winning Rookie of the Year honors. He then broke his wrist in a practice with the Cavs’ summer team.
Also, the Cavs selected Irving with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011 after he played just 11 games in his lone season at Duke. A turf toe injury was what caused Irving to miss time in college.
In other news, Cavs second-year power forward Tristan Thompson suffered a nasal fracture in the Sixers game and will be fitted with a protective mask.
The Cavs now have as many players wearing protective masks as they do victories, as rookie center Tyler Zeller is also sporting one after suffering a fractured cheekbone in the fourth game of the year.