Cleveland Cavaliers star point guard Kyrie Irving has been dealing with injuries for most of the playoffs, including nagging knee tendinitis since the second round against the Chicago Bulls. Irving missed two games in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, and even with the long break before the NBA Finals, he’s still not that close to 100 percent.
Despite this, Irving isn’t going to let the knee pain stop him from suiting up in his first Finals, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“It’s an adjustment, but it’s what it is at this point,” Irving said at Finals media day on Wednesday. “But I’m just going to go out there and will myself to play.”
Irving has seen his role in the offense decrease by transitioning to more of a spot-up player so he doesn’t have to do too much. LeBron James has taken over more of the ball handling duties and is taking more shots than he ever has during any of his postseason runs.
Irving looked solid in his last game when he scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the series-clinching victory over Atlanta. If the Cavaliers are going to beat the high-powered Golden State Warriors, the point guard will need to play with that type of efficiency.
Irving’s defense will also be something to watch in this series. It’s not that great to begin with, but a hobbled Irving trying to guard Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson could be a real problem. Cavaliers head coach David Blatt may look to hide Irving on some of the Warriors’ lesser players when he can.
While Irving is hurting, it’s better to have him out there as opposed to not having him at all. If he can play even close to his usual self, Cleveland will have a much better chance of pulling off the upset.