Kyrie Irving left Game 1 of the NBA Finals due to injury.
Afterward, he pointed to his shaky voice as evidence he’s worried.
Really, the concern has existed for weeks.
Irving has played through the knee injury. He also missed two games in the Eastern Conference finals because of it.
Everyone – Irving, his agent (Jeff Wechsler), his father and the Cavaliers – has been trying to find the best way to handle this.
There’s been some tension between these two sides for weeks now. Irving’s father and Wechsler, sources said, have been preaching caution with Irving and this knee issue. Naturally, they are focused on his long-term health and have concern that playing on a weakened knee — what the Cavs have said publicly was a bad case of tendinitis — could put him at risk of suffering a greater injury. Going to see Andrews was part of the entire group’s efforts to get a full handle on what Irving was facing and get independent advice on the situation.
Of course on the other side, the Cavs want Irving to play as long as he’s not seriously hurt. As Irving was limping through the start of the conference finals against the Hawks, it was easy to identify some mild friction. As Irving was preparing to get a second opinion, there was a sense he was being challenged to play through it.
Irving, just 23, has a bright career ahead of him. Nobody wants to jeopardize that by causing serious damage to his knee now.
But the Cavaliers also want to win a championship, and in the NBA Finals, their goal is right in front of him. This is the moment they save him for.
It’s a difficult line to walk, especially because nobody outside Irving knows exactly how he feels. He could be pushing himself through more pain than anyone else would, or he could have been letting mild discomfort get the best of him.
It’s all about finding the right balance for everyone involved.
Did Cleveland push Irving too far with a heavy load in Game 1? On one hand, Irving played great for more than 43 minutes, looking supremely athletic. On the other hand, he went down in his 44th minute.
There’s a right answer. It’s just unknowable.
Now, unless an MRI makes the problem crystal clear, comes another decision on how to proceed.
I go back to Irving asking Mike Miller whether an October Cavaliers-Bulls game was what the playoffs were like.
No, Kyrie. For better or worse, THIS is what the playoffs are like.