Kyrie Irving produces infinitely more smiles than he shares. It’s undeniably a tough number to top, but what the affable and accommodating Irving does on the basketball court makes the jaws of bystanders do unforeseen things. The twisting and turning, bouncing of the basketball before his body bounces off of a would-be defender, all of the sake of an attempts at two additional points under his team’s name.
During a stretch of the 2011-12 season that forced Irving to be relegated to street clothes due to one of his nagging injuries, and Lester Hudson was taking the world 1 by storm, I asked the then rookie how it felt to have to witness all of the fanfare from afar. Expecting to hear a washed and waxed line about 110 percent or something akin, I was surprised when Irving shrugged it off, saying that he was used to cheering — he did, after all, arrive to the NBA having played a mere 11 games for the Duke Blue Devils. But as any competitor will tell you, there was a part of Irving’s inner sanctum that was not fully embracing his role as the suit-bearing spirit squad.
For this reason, coupled with the news of late Monday evening, that it becomes tougher to watch the recently-released video of Kyrie Irving taking to the popular Barrics skate park in Los Angeles, California while filming prmotional material this past summer. In the midst of his tour, filming another Uncle Drew spot for PepsiMAX and becoming the focus of a cinematic “dunk” for FootLocker, Irving’s affiliation with headphone manufacturer SkullCandy found him selecting his very own board, trucks and wheels. It wouldn’t be long before the 20-year-old point guard would be shirtless, taking to the mini half pipe and jumping off of small flight of stairs — a novice level trick to be sure, but also one that could easily result in mishap considering the whole combination of slick surface and spinning wheels. All, mind you, while having a cast on his right wrist from the injury sustained several weeks earlier.
“He’s skating more than anybody here,” said professional skater Chris Roberts. “It’s crazy.”
An interviewed bystander at the skate park dubbed Irving’s unannounced appearance as “awesome.” Indeed, for most people, seeing a national celebrity at any point in time draws an inkling of awe. But to see a professional basketball player, one who has remained relatively quiet in terms of his hobbies and past times, flawlessly gliding past on seven-plywood and polyurethane ranks even higher on the unexpected, awe-inspiring scale.
But at what point do we invest in economy-sized bubble wrap for our stars?
Certainly, we can’t protect them from the nagging injuries that can occur during the day-to-day grind that is professional sport. We can provide them with the best training facilities imaginable. We can surround them with the wonders of modern medicine. But in a day in age where Andrew Bynum can miss several weeks of an NBA season after sustaining an injured knee while bowling — a “sport” that is often done alongside pin-shaped Bud Lights — where does one draw the line on what players can and cannot do?
While contractual limitations can hinder some activities, the Cavaliers say that they trust Irving and his off-court decision-making.
“Does it make you nervous from a coaching standpoint, of course it does,” Cavs head coach Byron Scott tells WFNY. “Anything outside of basketball that you’re doing makes you nervous because you can get hurt. You can get hurt playing softball, you can get hurt bowling — obviously.
I trust him enough that he’s not going to put himself in harm’s way.”
The team, in this same mind, will do what they can to limit the impact sustained by Iriving’s injured index finger. The “hard-headed” point guard could be found participating in light shooting activity on Tuesday afternoon at Cleveland Clinic Courts, all of which was being done with his right hand. The Cavs stated that Irving, if needed, could play in the near term, but would risk damage that would ultimately require surgery and a multiple-month absence from the playing floor. Allowing him to keep his conditioning up by practicing, the team hopes that low-impact shooting drills will allow his left hand to heal while the right one keeps doing what it’s done since he arrived in Cleveland.
The investment placed within a first-overall draft selection carries enough weight on the shoulders of the Cavaliers’ front office. Irving’s impact on the floor, both individually and what he does for his teammates, is beyond words. Posessing a 2-8 record with Irving in tow, what the future holds regarding the shape of this young Cavalier team remains to be seen, but the short-term outlook — as the magic 8-ball would say — is not so good.
Irving himself is thankful that the injuries that have sidelined him to this point have not been any that have kept him out for months at a time, or would potentially leave themselves for reaggravation like a knee or back. Adding muscle weight this summer, Irving planned on providing his body with an additional layer of protection, knowing full well what will be demanded of his body if he is to have sustainable success at the NBA level.
He reiterated to me that he, while frustrated with the outcome of another fluke accident, he will be the Cavaliers’ biggets cheelearder as he claims to be the same while on the floor, hip-bumps galore. While he’ll hope to bring smiles to his teammates with his trademark wit and candor on the sidelines and within the confines of practice, it will be up to Byron Scott and the Cavaliers front office to attempt to win games without their star. It will also be Scott and the front office who will gasp every time Irving takes a hit on the court upon his return. It’s the moments when Irving is off of the floor, however, as he becomes a bigger star with more people asking him for favors and promotional spots and air time, that will continue to grow in terms of risk. While the point guard has been lucky to have not sustained any injuries off of the playing court, minimizing the potential for such should remain imperative.
(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
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