Protecting Kyrie

Kyrie Irving produces infinitely more smiles than he shares. It’s undeniably a tough number to top, but what the affable and accommodating Irving does on the basketball court makes the jaws of bystanders do unforeseen things. The twisting and turning, bouncing of the basketball before his body bounces off of a would-be defender, all of the sake of an attempts at two additional points under his team’s name.

During a stretch of the 2011-12 season that forced Irving to be relegated to street clothes due to one of his nagging injuries, and Lester Hudson was taking the world1 by storm, I asked the then rookie how it felt to have to witness all of the fanfare from afar. Expecting to hear a washed and waxed line about 110 percent or something akin, I was surprised when Irving shrugged it off, saying that he was used to cheering — he did, after all, arrive to the NBA having played a mere 11 games for the Duke Blue Devils. But as any competitor will tell you, there was a part of Irving’s inner sanctum that was not fully embracing his role as the suit-bearing spirit squad.

For this reason, coupled with the news of late Monday evening, that it becomes tougher to watch the recently-released video of Kyrie Irving taking to the popular Barrics skate park in Los Angeles, California while filming prmotional material this past summer. In the midst of his tour, filming another Uncle Drew spot for PepsiMAX and becoming the focus of a cinematic “dunk” for FootLocker, Irving’s affiliation with headphone manufacturer SkullCandy found him selecting his very own board, trucks and wheels. It wouldn’t be long before the 20-year-old point guard would be shirtless, taking to the mini half pipe and jumping off of small flight of stairs — a novice level trick to be sure, but also one that could easily result in mishap considering the whole combination of slick surface and spinning wheels. All, mind you, while having a cast on his right wrist from the injury sustained several weeks earlier.

“He’s skating more than anybody here,” said professional skater Chris Roberts. “It’s crazy.”

An interviewed bystander at the skate park dubbed Irving’s unannounced appearance as “awesome.” Indeed, for most people, seeing a national celebrity at any point in time draws an inkling of awe. But to see a professional basketball player, one who has remained relatively quiet in terms of his hobbies and past times, flawlessly gliding past on seven-plywood and polyurethane ranks even higher on the unexpected, awe-inspiring scale.

But at what point do we invest in economy-sized bubble wrap for our stars?

Certainly, we can’t protect them from the nagging injuries that can occur during the day-to-day grind that is professional sport. We can provide them with the best training facilities imaginable. We can surround them with the wonders of modern medicine. But in a day in age where Andrew Bynum can miss several weeks of an NBA season after sustaining an injured knee while bowling — a “sport” that is often done alongside pin-shaped Bud Lights — where does one draw the line on what players can and cannot do?

While contractual limitations can hinder some activities, the Cavaliers say that they trust Irving and his off-court decision-making.

“Does it make you nervous from a coaching standpoint, of course it does,” Cavs head coach Byron Scott tells WFNY. “Anything outside of basketball that you’re doing makes you nervous because you can get hurt. You can get hurt playing softball, you can get hurt bowling  — obviously.

I trust him enough that he’s not going to put himself in harm’s way.”

The team, in this same mind, will do what they can to limit the impact sustained by Iriving’s injured index finger. The “hard-headed” point guard could be found participating in light shooting activity on Tuesday afternoon at Cleveland Clinic Courts, all of which was being done with his right hand. The Cavs stated that Irving, if needed, could play in the near term, but would risk damage that would ultimately require surgery and a multiple-month absence from the playing floor. Allowing him to keep his conditioning up by practicing, the team hopes that low-impact shooting drills will allow his left hand to heal while the right one keeps doing what it’s done since he arrived in Cleveland.

The investment placed within a first-overall draft selection carries enough weight on the shoulders of the Cavaliers’ front office. Irving’s impact on the floor, both individually and what he does for his teammates, is beyond words. Posessing a 2-8 record with Irving in tow, what the future holds regarding the shape of this young Cavalier team remains to be seen, but the short-term outlook — as the magic 8-ball would say — is not so good.

Irving himself is thankful that the injuries that have sidelined him to this point have not been any that have kept him out for months at a time, or would potentially leave themselves for reaggravation like a knee or back. Adding muscle weight this summer, Irving planned on providing his body with an additional layer of protection, knowing full well what will be demanded of his body if he is to have sustainable success at the NBA level.

He reiterated to me that he, while frustrated with the outcome of another fluke accident, he will be the Cavaliers’ biggets cheelearder as he claims to be the same while on the floor, hip-bumps galore. While he’ll hope to bring smiles to his teammates with his trademark wit and candor on the sidelines and within the confines of practice, it will be up to Byron Scott and the Cavaliers front office to attempt to win games without their star. It will also be Scott and the front office who will gasp every time Irving takes a hit on the court upon his return. It’s the moments when Irving is off of the floor, however, as he becomes a bigger star with more people asking him for favors and promotional spots and air time, that will continue to grow in terms of risk. While the point guard has been lucky to have not sustained any injuries off of the playing court, minimizing the potential for such should remain imperative.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

  1. Or at least Cleveland, Ohio []

  • Stinks to see Kyrie go out, of course. I’m anxious, however, to see how Dion steps up as the likely focal point of the offense. I think this could be a chance for him to have a coming out and become a co-leader of this team with Kyrie.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Not really caring for the report on all of his skate boarding for me he’s playing with fire. The Cavliers have to find a way to bring in more talent for me this means trading Varejao.

  • ThatAlex

    Again…trade for who?! I presume we’re gonna want a young impact player, like MKG…but there’s a fat chance a team is willing to give a player like that back. And if we’re trading for a lottery pick, it almost assuredly will be protected. That seems counterintuitive because if we continue playing without Kyrie, we’re more than likely to earn a better lottery pick than the one we’d receive in a trade.

  • Steve

    We supposedly could have gotten #7 for him last draft. Why wouldn’t similar offers be on the table this time around?

  • porckchopexpress

    Last years 7th was Golden State, who had just traded for Bogut. I could be wrong, but I find it hard to believe they acquire Bogut, then give away such a high pick for another veteran.

    Even if they did offer 7 who would you have taken? Drummond? Leonard, maybe John Henson? What big man in that group could you say is a lock to give you Andy’s production in 3 years?
    My personal take, and I’m guessing this is where we disagree is that I believe you can get Andy’s current production (huge if on injury) for 3 years and get a similar effeciency – at reduced minutes – for 2-3 years after that.

  • porckchopexpress

    I’m going with the positive, as was said above he doesn’t have knee, back, or shoulder issues, which end careers. He’s 20 (21 now?) which means in a lot of ways his body still could be growing or at the least acclimating to whatever growth he did between 17-19. If he is still battling these things at 23-24 I’m concerned. Even at that the great thing about Kyrie is that his game is not predicated on speed and jumping. His exceptional body control, and elite dribbling are the best tools in his bag. Those are things that can survive an ACL – better then somone like say Derek Rose can anyway.

    I think the skateboarding thing is just the Basketball Gods mocking us. I can see them sitting on high laughing; “Okay Cleveland we’ll replace your once in a generation talent with a possible elite player, but we are going to give him an insatiable desire to skateboard”.