Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) tries to control the ball next to Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson during overtime of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 4, 2015. Irving left the game with an injury right after this play. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
OAKLAND – Late Friday (Saturday Manila time), it was announced that an MRI on Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving's left knee revealed a fractured kneecap. Irving will undergo season-ending surgery in the coming days.
In Game 1 Thursday, Irving collapsed as he was driving to the basket with two minutes left in the Cavaliers' 108-100 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors, grabbing his troublesome left knee. Initial tests done by the Cavaliers' medical staff revealed no damage to the ACL or MCL, but an MRI revealed the fracture.
Before learning about Irving's status for the rest of the NBA Finals, players from both teams gathered for practice and media day at the Oracle Arena on Friday. Players from both teams had Irving in their thoughts. The Cavaliers, especially LeBron James, looked at Irving's possible absence as a familiar situation where the next man on the team had to step up.
"The good thing about it," said LeBron, "(is that) we've been in this position before. If he's not able to go, it's something that's not new to us. So next man up, and guys will be ready for the challenge."
J.R. Smith agreed that if Irving was not healthy for Game 2, the Cavaliers would rally.
"We've got guys that can step up, guys who have done well. So hopefully their confidence is still where it was when Kyrie wasn't playing. At the end of the day, this is a league where the next man has to step up and play. Unfortunately, this is the Finals, so if you've got anything to prove, this is the place to do it."
Tristan Thompson indicated he did not feel the need to score more or change something offensively, given Irving's health. "I don't think I have to go out searching for areas for me to score. I think that just comes with the game. But the way I score is within the offense. I'm not the type of player that I need plays called for me to score offensively. I just do my job and the scoring will come."
Iman Shumpert had nothing but praise for Irving's ball handling abilities.
"Kyrie's one of those guys that's trying to get to the rim. You've got to stop him from getting to the rim. When you do that, he can still pull up off the dribble and make some."
The praise for Irving continued with James Jones.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) walks off the floor after being injured during overtime of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 4, 2015. The Warriors won 108-100. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
"He's low to the ground, but more importantly, he uses his body tremendously well. Once he doesn't have (Stephan Curry) to defend, and once he gets to the second level, his ability to move the ball, get the ball in and out of play and spaces, he uses his body to create separation. Kyrie's a little more compact. His handle in and out of attack mode is stronger (than Curry's)."
Even the Golden State Warriors had thoughts on Irving and his impact on the NBA Finals. When asked whether he hoped Irving could continue playing in the Finals, Warriors point guard Stephan Curry was diplomatic in his response.
"You always want to, whatever the challenge is in front of you, be able to conquer it. You can't help what happens along the way, and you hate to see a guy have to battle through injury. Because I've been through the same thing, and obviously the timing of it is not great. But our job is to go out and play and compete every night. It's not to say that whoever steps up in (Irving's) absence, if he can't play, whether it's Dellavedova, whether it's Mike Miller, whoever is going to play those minutes, they're going to come in and try to win the game as well and impact the game. So we can't assume that Kyrie plays or doesn't play that it's going to be a cakewalk for us to get a championship. It's still going to be a challenge. It's still going to be tough. We have to control what we control and do what we do."
Klay Thompson assumed Irving was still available for Game 2 and still saw him as a threat.
"Well, even if Kyrie was fully healthy, we want to make him work as much as possible on the defensive end, just because he gives them so much offense that you've got to make him work both ends. You've got to anticipate like he's fully healthy, because he's still one of the best guards in the league playing on one leg. Like you do have to attack him just like you have to attack any point guard you're playing. But whether he was fully healthy or at 50 percent, you've got to attack him the same way."
Andrew Bogut felt that the team prepared for both situations as to whether Irving would play.
"We've had those games before. In the series with (the Memphis Grizzlies) and (Mike) Conley, and there was Dwight (Howard) with the Houston (Rockets) series was questionable. So we don't read into what is reported or listed doubtful or questionable. We're preparing as if (Irving's) playing. So we're not going to talk about whether he's not playing."
Harrison Barnes echoed Bogut's sentiments.
"Yeah, you always approach it as if he's going to go. If he doesn't, I know it will change things a little bit just because you have to put a little more attention on Dellavadova and pressure him a little bit. But the focus is still on (Irving)."