Cavaliers focus on Game 2 as Kyrie Irving has surgery on knee

ByDave McMenamin via ESPN logo
Sunday, June 7, 2015

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kyrie Irving underwent successful surgery Saturday morning at the Cleveland Clinic to repair his fractured left kneecap.

Shortly thereafter, some 2,500 miles away, Irving's Cleveland Cavaliers teammates and coaches were left to ponder their NBA Finals fate without the All-Star point guard.

"You'd love to see us at full strength, obviously, for the Finals," coach David Blatt said. "The situation as it is is what it is, and we're going to come out and play and play to win. Request no quarter and no sympathy. We've got to come out and play and play to win. That's it."

Added LeBron James: "[I] understand that we were the underdog coming into the series, and with Kyrie being out, people are writing us off. So, I mean, that's fine. That's fine. I'm motivated to get our guys ready to go tomorrow [for Game 2], and we will be ready.''

Blatt, who initially characterized Irving's injury as being of the noncontact variety shortly after Cleveland's 108-100 overtime loss in Game 1 on Thursday, now believes it occurred as a result of a collision with Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors that night. Blatt said Irving playing 44 minutes was not a factor in weakening his knee and leaving him susceptible to injury.

"There were no minute restrictions coming into Game 1," Blatt said.

That was a change from the last game Irving had played, the Cavs' closeout win against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals, when he played 22 minutes and was limited to short bursts of action in between rest periods. There was an eight-day break between the series.

"There were no minutes restrictions in Game 4 against Atlanta, although we did want to, as you mentioned, play him in short periods of time. That was not the case coming into Game 1," Blatt said.

"My take on the injury was that he got kneed in the side of his knee. It was a contact injury, and the result was a fracture of the kneecap."

Cavs general manager David Griffin told that the team administered several tests on Irving's knee in the days leading up to Game 1 and that both his strength and range of motion had shown considerable improvement. Blatt added that he believes Irving's persistent tendinitis was not the direct cause of the fractured kneecap.

"You know, that's a doctor's question, but in my opinion, absolutely not," Blatt said. "It has nothing to do with it."

The Cavs now must try to crawl out of a 1-0 hole without Irving.

"It's a tough pill to swallow," James said. "Obviously, we've been in this situation, but we always knew at some point he'll come back. Now that he's out for the rest of the Finals and out for a period of a long time, first of all, it sucks for him personally. It's a huge blow for our team, especially at this stage.

"You want to try to be as close to full strength as possible throughout these games, especially when you're going against a worthy opponent like we're facing. So it's a tough situation for our team, and guys have to pick up in his absence."

Two players needed to step up will be Matthew Dellavedova, Irving's likely replacement in the starting lineup, and Iman Shumpert, who played point guard in college and could fill in at the position, according to Blatt.

"We got to continue on," Shumpert said. "Kyrie wouldn't want us to just fold now. We got to make sure that we go out there and get Game 2."

Several players said the fact that Cleveland won Games 2 and 3 of the Atlanta series without Irving has calmed their nerves about their current predicament.

"There is a level of understanding for us in the group that we've followed, I think, especially over the playoffs and just that sense of team that you always have, but I think when you go through some adversity, it builds it stronger and stronger," Dellavedova said.

Irving is the third Cavs player, along with Kevin Love (shoulder) and Anderson Varejao (Achilles), to suffer a season-ending injury.

"It's just tough. I don't know if you can say bad luck," Varejao said. "It's a physical game, and injuries are going to happen. I'm just glad the team is responding very well to all the injuries we've had throughout the season. It's a big coincidence I would say though. It's tough."

The Warriors remained wary of the Cavs, despite their depleted state.

"They're still a great ballclub," Draymond Green said Saturday. "You know, they have a lineup that's pretty good even without Kyrie. So they'll still come out and play. We'll see a lot more Dellavedova and probably Mike [Miller]and some other guys. But they're going to come out and compete the same way they always compete, and we have to make sure we come out with an even better focus level than we did in Game 1."

Stephen Curry said the last thing the Warriors want to do is have James pick them apart while playing point forward.

"We have to stay disciplined on the other guys around him knowing that they're talented, knowing that they can make plays, make shots, and we have to be as focused on them as we are on LeBron," Curry said. "But they play a different way without Kyrie. We've seen some footage of that in the last series that they played against Atlanta. So we've just got to be ready and stay locked in and focused on guarding everybody on the floor and stick to our game plan."

Information from's Ethan Sherwood Strauss was used in this report.

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