OAKLAND — Just hours before the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that Kyrie Irving will miss the remainder of the NBA Finals because of a fractured left kneecap, head coach David Blatt did all he could to remain optimistic.
“It's our hope right now that the news we get back from the evaluation is good,” Blatt said at an interview session on Friday. “Or at least not bad.”
The news wasn't just bad — it was devastating.
Already staring at a 1-0 deficit in the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers now will have to make do without their star point guard who put up 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists in Game 1 before limping off the court with just over two minutes left in overtime.
Irving will have surgery in the coming days at the Cleveland Clinic. He is expected to miss three to four months.
From the moment that Irving crumpled to the floor while trying to drive past Klay Thompson, the outlook was ominous for him and the team. As he hobbled back to the locker room, Irving ripped off his jersey in dismay.
After the contest, while seated in front of his locker with a black towel draped over his head and a giant pack of ice wrapped around his knee, Irving didn't hide his concern.
“Obviously, you can see in the tone of my voice I'm a little worried,” said Irving, who didn't speak to the media on Friday. “I just want to make sure everything is OK. I'm going to take the necessary steps in order to see what's going on.”
Everything was not OK. After finishing his media responsibilities, Irving was joined in the locker room by his agent Jeff Wechsler and his father.
Irving's on-gong knee issues, which forced him to miss Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, have become a contentious topic for his family and agent after the team admitted that his severe case of tendonitis could lead to a more serious injury.
That fear appears to have been realized after Irving sustained his latest injury on a non-contact play. On Friday night, Irving alluded to that concern.
“All I know is that your body works in mysterious ways and when something gives out, a hip, right hip, it can lead to your left knee,” Irving said.
The loss of Irving not only seriously undercuts the team's chances of knocking off the Warriors in the Finals, but it also creates an uncomfortable situation moving forward. He has a player option for the 2019-2020 season and is still owed nearly $85 million.
Asked if there was any disconnect between Irving's camp and the organization about how his knee problems have been dealt with, Blatt said, “Absolutely no idea.”
With Irving out of the frame, the Cavaliers will call on Matthew Dellavedova to run the point and do his best to contain Stephen Curry at the other end. Blatt expressed confidence in the St. Mary's product and his ability to handle those daunting tasks.
“Well, you all saw he played terrifically. Matty has been a rotation player for us the whole year,” Blatt said. “He stepped in and did a great job, and the team believes in him and we believe in him.”
The team might believe in Dellavedova, but the numbers don't lie. In Game 1, Irving led the Cavaliers with a plus-minus of plus-5, while Dellavedova was last on the squad with minus-13 in just nine minutes of action. Dellavedova knows better than anybody that he's in for a monstrous challenge.
“[Curry] is tough cover, and it's not one person stopping him because he comes off a lot of screens,” Dellavedova said. “He's obviously the MVP for a reason.”