CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving could tell right away that this injury was different. He bumped knees with Warriors guard Klay Thompson in overtime of Game 1 of the Finals, and it turned out much worse than the knee tendinitis he’d been dealing with throughout the postseason. The Cavs announced on Saturday that Irving had a fractured left kneecap. Recovery time: three to four months. His first trip to the Finals: over.
“I kind of knew,” Irving said on Wednesday, addressing media for the first time since undergoing knee surgery last week. “The way it felt, it was something I hadn’t felt before. Walking to the bench, I looked at our trainer, Steve, and I’m just like, ‘Man.’ I’m walking around and I was like, ‘This doesn’t feel right,’ and I had to walk off the court and that was it.”
Irving has been in good spirits since the injury, posting encouraging messages to his teammates on Instagram and tweeting from the hospital bed. Now he’s home, wearing a full-leg cast and walking on crutches. Even though his team is up 2-1 in the Finals, it’s tough for him to watch from the sidelines. But he’s making the best of it.
“It’s a tough situation to be in, especially at the Finals on the biggest stage,” he said. “Dealing with injuries throughout the playoffs is definitely tough, and it’s a test of your will. But for me to go out like that, fractured kneecap, out three to four months, it’s tough to process. But having the teammates that I have and the coaching staff and the organization I’m part of, it makes that process a lot easier, just being at home watching these guys play and texting all the guys and FaceTiming all the guys as much as possible.”
Irving insists that his previous knee troubles had nothing to do with the injury, and nor did his heavy minutes load in Game 1.
“I was not any more susceptible,” he said. “My knee in terms of the stability was great. Obviously there was a risk going out there and playing anyway, no matter what. But in terms of everything that was inside of my knee, stability-wise, everything was fine.”
In fact, Irving was excellent in Game 1 before the injury. After a frustrating playoffs, it looked like the week of rest between the Eastern Conference Finals and the Finals was paying off.
“That’s probably the thing that hurts the most is how great I felt going into that game, and then one freak moment, how it could all kind of end for three to four months. I mean, I wouldn’t do it any different. Like I said on my Instagram post or on Twitter, I don’t have any regrets for the decision I made. I trust our organization, and I trust our training staff to the full extent.”
Next up for Irving is a long recovery, which he hopes will follow a championship that he had a substantial role in winning, even if he wasn’t able to be there at the end.