Capitals

Cavs guard Irving frustrated by latest injury

201211181828665327858-p2.jpeg

Cavs guard Irving frustrated by latest injury

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) Kyrie Irving couldn't handle playing with just one hand. Now, it's the Cleveland Cavaliers turn.

Irving will be sidelined for the next month with a broken left index finger, the latest injury to the NBA's reigning rookie of the year and a devastating blow to the rebuilding Cavs, who have lost six straight and must face playing without their talented star point guard.

``It's frustrating,'' Irving said Wednesday. ``But we're just going to get through it and just gotta stay positive.''

Right now, that's about all the 20-year-old can do.

Irving suspected his finger was hurt badly on Saturday, when he inadvertently struck the foot of Dallas' Darren Collison while trying to swipe the ball from the Mavericks guard. Irving returned to the game after X-rays came back negative. He played the rest of the game with his finger heavily taped and again on Sunday night at Philadelphia.

But Irving wasn't the same, and he struggled handling the ball while scoring a season-low 9 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

``I couldn't hold onto the ball, especially at the end of the game when I'm at my best,'' he said. ``It was frustrating.''

An MRI taken Monday revealed a hairline fracture, an injury he could play through but at the risk of doing more damage and missing several months.

The Cavs aren't taking any chances.

``If he really gets this thing hit again, then it requires surgery and then instead of weeks, you're talking about months,'' Cavs coach Byron Scott said. ``I don't think we're being overly cautious by saying, `Let's shut it down and see how it looks in a couple weeks and go from there.'''

The broken finger is the latest medical setback for Irving, who dismissed the idea he was injury prone when the Cavs opened training camp in October. Back then, he was returning from a broken right hand he sustained when Irving slammed a padded wall in frustration during a summer league practice.

Last season, Irving missed 15 games with a shoulder sprain and concussion. His college career at Duke was limited to 11 games because of a serious foot injury that took nearly one year to completely heal.

``I'm just glad it's not injuries, knock on wood, such as something that could keep me out for six months,'' Irving said. ``I'm going to miss a few games, I'm aware of that but you just gotta stay positive. Things happen in the game of basketball and obviously I can play, but I'm just being cautious right now.''

As soon as he hurt his finger, Irving sensed it was serious.

``I just knew it wasn't a jammed finger,'' he said. ``I've jammed almost every finger on my hand, so I just knew when it started turning black and blue. I just thought it was a bad sprain, but it turned out to be broken.''

After sitting and watching practice, Irving, with his index and middle fingers taped together and braced by a splint, stayed on the floor and shot jumpers. Scott would prefer if Irving would stay off the court completely, but he knows better than to ask.

``He's hardheaded,'' Scott said.

Irving and Scott have formed a close bond that goes deeper than player and coach. Scott feels Irving's disappointment and he's doing all he can to keep his best player's spirits high.

``This morning just watching him and talking to him briefly he was a little frustrated,'' Scott said. ``But he'll get over it. He understands right now we have to do the best thing for Kyrie. That's getting this treatment, letting this thing heal and not putting him in harm's way.''

The Cavs are just 2-8 with Irving, who entered the season intent on improving his already superb game and hopefully bringing his team along for the ride. Cleveland will be without him for as many 20 games, and Scott has no idea if the Cavs can improve without Irving leading them.

``It's always one of those things where one of your best players goes down, it's an opportunity for other guys,'' Scott said. ``That's how our guys have to look at it. We haven't changed our outlook going into games. The main thing is to go in there, try and compete and win.''

``Now that he's out, we're still trying to focus on those little things we're trying to improve on.''

Scott has not decided if he'll start Donald Sloan or Jeremy Pargo in place of Irving, whose 22.9 points, 5.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game will be tough to replace. Rookie Dion Waiters, who starts at shooting guard, will continue to play some point.

As difficult as it might be, Scott knows there's no sense in dwelling on Irving's injury. With 72 games left, the Cavaliers must move on.

``We still have a lot of games to go and we have a long ways to go to where we want to get to on both ends of the floor,'' Scott said. ``The biggest thing is, we still know we can win. We've just got to play a little bit of a different style on the offensive end, but we still feel we've got enough guys in this room capable of winning.''

Just not the most important one.

Quick Links

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Let’s get one thing straight: There are no easy roads to a Stanley Cup. Capitals fans know that better than most after seeing their team dominate the regular season just to get upset in the first or second round of the playoffs for several years. Having said that, seeing Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose in the first round, it seems like things are setting up very nicely for Washington.

The Caps should have one thing and one thing only on their minds on Monday and that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington still needs one more win to advance and they should not catch themselves looking ahead to possible future matchups.

But we can look ahead.

The top seeds in both conferences have been eliminated in the first round for the first time. Long-time nemesis Pittsburgh is out. Either Boston or Toronto will soon be joining them plus there is a possibility that both Nashville and San Jose could still lose as well.

This is not meant to discount any of the teams the Caps could still play. Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders swept the Penguins and earned a spot in the second round. He has proven his worth as a coach and his team is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to score on, let alone beat. The Columbus Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on Washington last season and got better this year as they showed Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep. Whoever comes out of the West no doubt will be a great team as well.

But if you were to draw up the best-case scenario for the Caps through the first round, having Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose would likely be part of that scenario.

The Cup is truly up for grabs. This is true every year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it is especially true this year. If the Hurricanes find a way to win Game 6 and shock the Caps in Game 7, we are going to look back at this season as a missed opportunity considering the number of contenders ousted in the first round.

SEE THIS WEEK’S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps are, at their core, a physical team. That is how they ultimately find success and they went away from that earlier in the series, especially in Games 3 and 4. When they reestablished it in Game 5, they blew the Hurricanes away. Any team can play well for one game. Any team can respond after losing a really good player for one game. The real test is to see how they play in Raleigh where they were beaten so thoroughly and the offense was held to only a single power play goal and zero 5-on-5 production.
  • If you want to know why physical play still matters in today’s NHL, watch Brett Connolly’s Game 5 goal again. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is in a footrace with Alex Ovechkin to get the puck behind Carolina’s net and he completely gives up on the play. He does not go into the boards and put himself in a position to get checked by Ovechkin. It looked like he thought the play would be called icing, but if you’re not 100-percent sure you need to get to that puck even if it means taking a hit. Hamilton looked like he wanted no part of that which allowed Ovechkin to get the puck and set up a goal.
  • The Caps may finally have settled on defensive pairings. The defense has been a work in progress ever since Michal Kempny’s injury, but Todd Reirden may have finally found three pairs he can stick with. After making his playoff debut in Game 4, Jonas Siegenthaler played on the top defensive pair with John Carlson on Saturday. We have seen Reirden mix and match his defensive pairs throughout games, but things stuck in Game 5 as Siegenthaler and Carlson played 11:19 together at 5-on-5. The most Carlson played with any other defenseman at 5-on-5 during the game was 51 seconds. I asked Reirden afterward if he felt he had found his top defensive pair and he remained non-committal saying he still would mix and match as needed depending on the situation, but the numbers speak for themselves. Siegenthaler is a defensively responsible player, he has not looked rattled at all by the forecheck and, perhaps most importantly, he’s a left-handed shot allowing Carlson to play on his natural right side. I like the look of this pair a lot.
  • Nick Jensen has had a rough series. In fact, it looks like it has been a rough transition from Detroit to Washington since he was acquired. That’s OK. Sometimes players take time to adjust to a new team and a new system, but because of that, it benefits the Caps more to have him play on the third pair than the top, especially if moving him up means playing with Carlson on the left. That’s a lot to ask. With Siegenthaler up top, Jensen moved back down to the third pair on Saturday and it was easily his best game of the series. Pairing him with Brooks Orpik allows Jensen to step more into the offense, an area of the game in which his skills are greatly underrated. Jensen looked good on both ends of the ice in Game 5 and was particularly strong on the penalty kill. He can be a top-four defenseman, but I am not sure he is ready for that type of role in Washington yet. He is a definite asset on the third pair, however, and he showed that on Saturday.

The Caps are one win away from advancing to the second round. Here is where they stand among the other playoff teams in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: 

Quick Links

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

We've made in to NFL draft week. Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The 2019 NFL Draft is Thursday night in Nashville, Tn. While the chances of pundits predicting each team's first-round pick accurately is about the same as picking the Powerball numbers, we can't seem to stop ourselves from looking at them. Here's a look at 20 prospects mocked to the Ravens at No. 22, courtesy of the Ravens' website.  


2. One of the many exciting parts of the NFL draft is waiting to hear which organizations trade forward or backwards to acquire a pick. Just last year, the Ravens traded back from their No. 16 pick several times to select Hayden Hurst at No. 25, before trading back into the first-round to pick Lamar Jackson at No. 32. But which trade in Ravens history was the most impactful? ESPN's Jamison Hensley selected the Ravens' trade for running back Jamal Lewis.


"In 1999, the Ravens traded their second-round pick (No. 43) for Atlanta's first-round pick in 2000, which they used to land running back Jamal Lewis," Hensley wrote. "The Falcons selected tight end Reggie Kelly, and the Ravens got what turned into the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Baltimore drafted Lewis, who carried the offense during the team's 2000 Super Bowl championship season and recorded the NFL's fifth 2,000-yard season in 2003."


3. As Marlon Humphrey enters his third year in the league, the cornerback will not only be expected to take on a leadership role within the Ravens' new look defense, but top his impressive sophomore season. In 2018, Humphrey contested 35% of targets thrown into his coverage marking the second-best rate in all the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

MORE RAVENS NEWS: