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It was announced on Monday that Kyrie Irving would miss 3 to 4 weeks with a sprained shoulder. What does this mean for the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers' season?
On Monday afternoon, we found out just how badly Kyrie Irving was hurt after his collision with Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas. It wasn't the worst news possible, but it certainly wasn't the best news. It was somewhere in the middle: Kyrie would miss 3 to 4 weeks with a sprained shoulder. Surgery hasn't been completely ruled out, but it's likely that rest and rehab should be enough to get him healthy over the next month. So where do the Cavaliers go from here? Let's break down what it means in the long and short term.
Short term impact:
It likely means that the Cavaliers will lose a couple more games than they would have otherwise. When Kyrie first went out this year, the Cavs were beyond terrible without him. But when he missed a few games this month with a sore knee, the team actually held up decently well. Midseason trades and waiver wire pickups have substantially improved Cleveland's depth and an improved Dion Waiters has the ability to run the offense to a certain degree. The Cavs have a pretty tough schedule for the next few weeks, so not having Kyrie will obviously hurt. But it's really only going to be a couple more losses than they would have had normally.
Long term impact:
There really shouldn't be any long term impact. That's the goal. That's why the Cavs have been so cautious with every little injury that Kyrie sustains. This season is a lost season as far as wins and losses go, so why risk something that could have a long term impact down the road? Just let Kyrie get healthy and start a serious playoff push next year.
Who steps up?
Byron Scott said that Shaun Livingston will assume the role of starting point guard with Dion Waiters taking a lot of secondary ball handling duties. Taking Livingston out of the second unit is a pain. That unit has been so good together and breaking it up isn't ideal, but that's the situation that they're in.
There's some debate about whether or not the increased role for Dion while Kyrie is out will be a good thing for him or not. On the one hand, we really want those to be able to play together and they need as much time as possible to develop that chemistry. I really want to see Dion develop his game off the ball and he'll be doing much less of that now that Kyrie is out. But on the other hand, it will give Dion a lot more reps against NBA defenses. He'll get a chance to see how guys are going to be guarding him. He's already become much more efficient in the latter parts of the season, so he'll get the opportunity to improve that even further.
If you're concerned about the fact that Kyrie carries such a huge burden for this team and think it contributes to his numerous injuries, it's definitely a good thing to develop Dion as another guy who can initiate offense. We want somebody to take some of the load off of Kyrie's shoulders, so we might as well let Dion get the reps and playing time to work on that skill set.
Should the Cavaliers just shut Kyrie down for the season?
This is the big question. Including tonight, the Cavs have 19 more games this season. They have just around 5 weeks left season and Kyrie is expected to be out 3-4 weeks. Byron Scott hasn't made a decision on whether or not we've seen the last of Kyrie in 2012-13. Smartly, he left it kind of up in the air. He basically said that it just depends on when Kyrie is feeling 100% again. If his shoulder heals faster than expected and he's fine in 2 weeks, then Kyrie will play again. But if it's more like 4 weeks, then it seems silly to bring him back for the final week of the season.
It's also probably important for Kyrie's psyche that Byron Scott doesn't say that he's done for the year. I'm sure Kyrie wants to be playing and by taking away the chance that he could come back, you probably take some of the wind out of his sails. Psychologically, if you know that you aren't going to come back within the next 5 weeks, would you work as hard rehabbing to get healthy as fast as possible? Maybe, maybe not. It's best to leave it open-ended and leave some hope that Kyrie will be able to rejoin his teammates again this year.