INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Kyrie Irving‘s status for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday remains up in the air, as the All-Star point guard continues to deal with tendinitis in his left knee and a strained right foot.
Irving sat out the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ practice Saturday, a day after visiting with Cavs team doctors for re-evaluation on his left knee, which he aggravated in the second quarter of Cleveland’s 94-73 closeout victory over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.
“He’s going through a lot of treatment, and we’re monitoring and just hoping that he progresses from here until game time,” Cavs coach David Blatt said Saturday.
After the Bulls game, Irving was optimistic he would be ready for the start of the next series, but Blatt could not say with certainty that Irving would be in the lineup come Game 1.
“For sure, no,” Blatt said. “But we hope so.”
Fortunately for Cleveland, it will have five full days off between the second round and the conference finals. It’s a break that LeBron James said his team can certainly use.
“It goes without saying that we’re banged up right now,” James said Saturday. “One of our best players [Kevin Love] is out for the season. Our All-Star point guard has been banged up since Game 2 of the Boston series. You see a guy like Tristan [Thompson], a guy who hasn’t missed a game in 19 years, probably since he’s been born, falls on his shoulder like that, you kind of get a little scared about it. Then myself, I have my nicks and bruises throughout the season and also in the postseason. Then you have Shump [Iman Shumpert], who has a partially banged-up groin that he’s playing with.”
Thompson was able to practice with his bruised left shoulder Saturday, as was Shumpert. James said he used Friday to get away from the stress of the playoffs and eased back into basketball Saturday with the plan to fully immerse himself in Hawks preparation starting Sunday.
“I’ll lock in tomorrow and be ready for the next series,” James said. “Yesterday I took the day off. I did absolutely nothing but play with my kids, did whatever they wanted to do yesterday, including basketball, which I did not want to do, but they made me go out there on the court. Today I was able to get some work in, but I’m not where I would like to be.
“I’m not going to lock in this early, but I will be back to my normal form tomorrow.”
Atlanta won the season series against Cleveland 3-1, but Blatt said that doesn’t mean much when it comes to their upcoming series.
“Three out of four of those games we were not the same team we are right now,” Blatt said. “We played obviously with different units the first two games, which were blowouts one way or the other, and one game Bron didn’t play, and in the fourth game in Atlanta, we played with the full squad more or less at the end of a very tough stretch. But the Atlanta Hawks are in the Eastern Conference finals not by surprise.”
Despite the Cavs’ spotty record against the Hawks and litany of injuries they are going through, James said Cleveland will give itself a chance against Atlanta.
“To be able to overcome everything we’re going through internally, to put it out on the floor and just say, ‘No matter what we’re going through, we’re going to continue to play for one another and whatever happens happens,’ that’s all we can give,” James said. “We can give our maximum effort, what we’ve been doing, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day.”
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