When LeBron James faces his former Heat teammates for the first time as a member of the Cavaliers on Saturday, he’ll be doing it with a squad that is at less than full strength.
Kyrie Irving suffered a sprained ankle at practice a couple of days ago, and was seen wearing a walking boot as the team toured various parts of Brazil. X-rays and an MRI showed no real damage, but with this being the preseason, there’s no real reason to press the issue.
From The SportsXchange (via Basketball Insiders):
Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving will not play in the Cavaliers’ preseason game Saturday against the Miami Heat in Brazil. …
He told the Cleveland Plain Dealer the ankle is “good” and insists this isn’t anything to worry about.
“It’s about the bigger picture,” Irving said Friday afternoon. “If this were a regular-season game, I’m pretty sure I would play. It’s the preseason, there’s no reason to chance it.”
Despite what some may believe, the desire to win this game is likely significantly diminished on both sides. The game doesn’t count in the standings, and is being played in a foreign, unfamiliar atmosphere that will take much of the emotion out of the equation.
There may be some real tensions that exist between James and the Heat at this early stage of their recent breakup, but we’re unlikely to see that affect an ultimately meaningless exhibition contest. Things won’t get serious on the court until the two teams meet in Miami for a nationally televised regular season reunion on Christmas Day.