Programming note: "Warriors NBA Finals Central" airs Thursday night at 5 p.m., and immediately after Game 1 on CSN Bay Area. Both shows will be streaming live right here.
OAKLAND – All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving has certainly not gotten any worse since he sat out two games and hobbled through the Cleveland Cavaliers’ close-out game against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But, it seems, he has not gotten significantly better, either.
Irving sustained a right foot injury during the Cavaliers’ playoff-opening sweep against the Boston Celtics. Then, he was diagnosed with tendinitis in his left knee while clearly being bothered by the injuries in the next series against the Chicago Bulls.
He will be on the court Thursday night for the opening game of the NBA Finals against the Warriors – at something less than 100 percent.
“Whatever he can give us is going to be great for our team,” LeBron James said. “Kyrie at 50 (percent), Kyrie at 60, Kyrie at 70 is better than Kyrie at zero. His presence on the court when that ‘No. 2 Irving’ steps on the court, he’s a presence and the defense has to be aware of him and account for him because of his ability to make plays.”
Irving said he faces the question repeatedly – and not just from the media – about the state of his knee and foot.
“I'm just asked all the time whether it be the regular person walking around in Cleveland or someone here in San Francisco, I'm walking down the street and they ask me how's my knee doing,” Irving said on Wednesday. “I'm like, ‘I'm fine. Thank you. My knee is OK.’ It's like, ‘Are you playing? Are you playing Game 1?’ I'm like, ‘Yeah, I'll be playing.’
“It's an adjustment, but it's what it is at this point. But I'm just going to go out there and will myself to play.”
Backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova, a second-year player from Saint Mary’s, said Irving will find a way to play at a high level. Irving scored 16 points in 22 minutes to complete the sweep against the Hawks on May 26.
“He’s always tough to stop,” Dellavedova said. “I don’t know what percentage he’s at, but he’s always a dangerous player.”
Irving was held out of parts of practice on Monday before the team’s trip to the Bay Area. Head coach David Blatt is likely to keep Irving on the floor for shorter bursts of action against the Warriors.
“Just to try to maintain his health and to allow him to progress in a solid fashion,” Blatt said.
Irving averaged more than a minute less playing time in his 12 playoff games this postseason than in the regular season. His scoring average is down from 21.7 in the reguar season to 18.7 in the playoffs. His assists are also down 5.2 to 3.7.
“Without having Kyrie at full strength for quite some time now, preparation wise, and game wise, playing, not playing, number of minutes, ability to perform at the level he normally does, and most importantly for him to be able to function without furthering injury, those are things that are constantly under consideration, and constantly on our minds as a staff and as a team,” Blatt said. “It's made it difficult.
“But that is the situation. You know, as we have in every other case this year, faced that with the same resolve and the same no quit attitude and have made it our model for no excuses. We play, and we play to win regardless of the situation.”