Storyline: Kyrie Irving Injury

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On one brutal Friday night in November, all of Australia smacked Kyrie right in the face. The Melbourne native caught an errant elbow from Far East Queensland native Aron Baynes and suffered a small fracture in his face below his right eye. But the blows didn’t stop on the floor, as he was given an unfortunate welcome home from his young daughter. “My daughter hit me in my face the other day and, that right there, I almost teared up,” Irving said. “I did my absolute best not to cry in front of her. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, baby.’ She hit me right on that spot. Like, literally right after. I came home and I was trying to put her to bed and she hit me right on that spot by mistake.”

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Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving will likely miss Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors because of a facial fracture but plans to get fitted for a mask and play through the injury, league sources told The Vertical. Irving suffered the minor facial fracture in the first minute of Friday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets when he was inadvertently hit in the face by teammate Aron Baynes. Irving is expected to have to wear the protective mask for two weeks, sources said.

Kyrie Irving will again sit out Tuesday’s game at the Denver Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back, but he is preparing as if that’s the last game he misses this season. Irving will return to the starting lineup tonight when the Cavs play at the Phoenix Suns. “That’ll be the last time I sit out back-to-backs,” he said, “and hopefully the last two games I miss for the rest of the season.” The Cavs don’t have another back-to-back scheduled for more than two weeks when they play at the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets in mid-January.

The stage is set for Kyrie Irving to make his long-awaited season debut Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia 76ers. Although nothing is official, Irving, 23, has done all that’s asked of him. The team continues to say he needs to pass a few more tests, but sources say the fifth-year point guard has been ready, and his teammates have played a major role to get him there. The Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of their last four games and sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference, executed their plan to perfection during Irving’s recovery from knee surgery: They have played well and kept unnecessary pressure to return from creeping into Irving’s head.

There is a chance he could play Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, although it seems more likely at this point the Cavs will hold him out until Sunday against the Sixers, one team source said. Irving practiced with the second team Sunday and participated in multiple shooting drills with LeBron James following a lengthy practice. He seems ready to play now, but the Cavs don’t see a need in rushing him back. He certainly seems on track to be in the starting lineup for the Christmas Day game against the Golden State Warriors.

Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert could play on the team’s upcoming two-game road trip, which starts on Friday against the Orlando Magic and finishes Tuesday in Boston. “There’s a chance that one or two or both will play on the trip, but there’s also a chance they don’t,” head coach David Blatt said Thursday. “We’ll see how they’re feeling.” Both Irving and Shumpert went through a full practice on Thursday, the final workout before the team left for Orlando, and both made the trip.

Irving, who hasn’t played since breaking his left kneecap in the NBA Finals, is finally fully cleared to practice and said Thursday that he’s moving toward his return. But Irving would not commit to exactly when he’ll make his season debut. “You’re not getting anything out of me,” he said, smiling. “No percentages, no target dates, nothing. I’m feeling good. Personally, I’m in a great place just being able to be out here and practice with the guys, being able to go up and down and continuously, as well.”

Kyrie Irving returning soon?

Kyrie Irving played a set of modified 1-on-1 games against LeBron James after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ shootaround Saturday and “destroyed him,” a team source told ESPN.com. They weren’t true games of 1-on-1 in the sense that only one dribble was allowed per possession, thus rendering James’ significant size advantage moot as he couldn’t simply back Irving down with his dribble and post him up. Games finished with the first player to score three baskets.

“Everyone’s going to formulate their own opinions based on injuries,” Irving said. “You think about injuries whether they have them when they’re young, or old, or in the middle, it’s part of the game. For me, I know exactly what I’m doing in the weight room and exactly what I’m doing to prepare myself for the court, and if something happens, that’s just part of the game. If I go out there and bump knees with someone and get a knee contusion and have to miss a game, and then I sprain my ankle, those aren’t things that can be planned. You just do the best you can to prevent it. For me, everyone putting in the notion of breaking down, I’m nowhere near close to breaking down I can be completely honest with that. I’ll just let my game on the court and my work ethic speak for all that. I’ll never not put myself in a position to be successful for my teammates and for my organization. I could see if I wasn’t putting in 100 percent effort in doing everything possible to prevent injuries, then cool, everyone can have their opinion and I’d start believing it. But no way will I start believing that my body will break down and I can’t be better every single year.”

Nearly two months after Kyrie Irving left Oracle Arena on crutches, his season coming to a dejecting end because of a fractured left kneecap, Irving was back on a basketball court. “Great,” Irving said when asked how he is feeling following surgery in early June. “Taking it one day at a time. It’s a process getting back to where I want to be. But I’m doing what I can here with the kids and that’s all that matters. I started walking about a week ago so whether I was on crutches or not I was still going to be here for the kids.”
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November 21, 2017 | 10:00 pm EST Update
Damian Lillard says that teams can no longer face the Sixers without expecting a fight. “I think in the past we took them lightly. They kind of jumped out and played hard and they beat us,” Lillard said following a Tuesday-evening practice at the Sixers training complex in Camden. “This year, you have no choice but to respect what they’ve done and how they’re playing. They’re not doing it like it’s luck, they’re out there hooping.”
Despite the rolled ankle, noticeable discomfort, and around-the-clock treatment, Lillard seems determined to face the Sixers. Lillard, who did not participate in practice, said he is looking forward to the matchup. “I told y’all that yesterday,” Lillard said, referring to previously saying he planned on playing in Philadelphia. “I pretty much got babied last night so it was good…I feel good.”
Storyline: Damian Lillard Injury
November 21, 2017 | 9:18 pm EST Update