The Cleveland Cavaliers probably came into camp expecting a few road bumps. Such is life when your All-Star, All-NBA point guard is being coy about just how healthy or unhealthy he is after a knee surgery. I should qualify, of course, that the Cavs probably know a lot more about Kyrie Irving's knee than he has been willing to say publicly. That said, the Cavs aren't any closer to giving any of us a timeline than what we were given in June.
And aside from Irving, the team knew they were also going to be working back Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov from injury. The team seems optimistic about Kevin Love, which is a very good sign. Love seems to be in great spirits, and is committed to Cleveland for the long term. Again though, there's no clear timeline, and it doesn't seem that he's been cleared for full contact. Will we look at it as a big deal in March? Maybe not. But the games start mattering in three weeks.
Mozgov's procedure was relatively minor, though any time you mess with a 7 footer's knees it's far from a walk in the park. He says he will be ready for opening night, though he isn't 100%. The projected frontcourt, should the season start today, would include the less than 100% Mozgov, Sasha Kaun, Anderson Varejao, and James Jones. The season doesn't start today, and that probably won't be the opening night frontcourt, but the Cavs are having to make practices and training camp work with it all the same.
It's not a disaster, but it's not ideal.
The Cavs knew those injuries would be a part of the equation going into the season. They did not know they'd also be looking at losing Iman Shumpert - before the first practice of the season - for three months. But that's exactly what has happened, and after Shumpert's wrist injury, which seems to be an almost unprecedented basketball malady, we can't really expect to see him before the clock strikes 2016. Cleveland brought back J.R. Smith, and has capable backup guards, but it's a tough pill to swallow after investing $40 million. It's unclear if there will be difficulty for Shumpert in regaining an already mediocre shooting stroke once his shooting wrist is healthy enough to get back to work. He plays a physical brand of defense to earn his money, and it won't be pretty if he is unable to use his hands in the manner in which he has made a livelihood.
Cavs fans seem to have a practiced calmness about them as the injury bug persists and ensnares new players. They watched this team languish playing sub-.500 ball all the way into mid-January just to turn on the jets and come within two wins of an NBA title. Could the first couple months really be all that important? It's in many ways the correct view: the sky is not falling, and there is no reason to believe that the Big 3 will be affected long-term by injury. LeBron James himself appears focused and in great shape.
Well, focused to a point. He has been distracted by his friend and teammate Tristan Thompson's ongoing contract negotiations that appear to be going nowhere at all. Those negotiations are being headed up on one side by the Cavs, and on the other by his friend and agent Rich Paul. I can imagine why it might be a little distracting. I'll admit that when I wrote this summer that it made some sense for the Cavs and Paul to be at a bit of a stalemate over Thompson that this was far from what I had in mind.
To recap: Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are working back from injuries and neither has been cleared for full contact. Timofey Mozgov isn't 100%. Iman Shumpert is out for three months due to a serious injury to his shooting wrist. Tristan Thompson is nowhere to be found, and the franchise foundation LeBron James is distracted by it. The season is three weeks away.
The good news? Joe Harris is ready to break out.
Griff JUST SAID MORE JOE HARRIS THIS YEAR AND HE WAS BEST PLAYER IN GYM IN SEPTMEBER ITS SO LIT— Dillon Holt (@Dillmatic_6) October 1, 2015