Kyrie Irving Injury: Updates on Cavaliers Star's Knee and Return

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving grimaces as he holds his knee following an injury in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving in June underwent surgery on the knee he injured during the 2015 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, and he is finally ready to return to the court.

Continue for updates.

Irving Announces Return

Saturday, Dec. 19

Irving said: "I'm back." Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer noted the Cavaliers' next game is against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.

Prior to the announcement, there was speculation Irving was set to return earlier in the week. On Dec. 16, Irving denied reports he would return against the Oklahoma City Thunder:

Earlier on Dec. 16, ESPN's Dave McMenamin reported Irving would make his season debut against the Thunder:

Irving, sidelined for the first 23 games of the Cavs' season while recovering from surgery in June to repair a fractured left kneecap suffered in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, was cleared for full contact more than a week ago and has been through a handful of practices since without any setbacks.

Irving's final hurdle before the team approves of his intention to play will involve a series of physical tests to measure his body's strength and responsiveness, a team source told

Blatt Comments on Irving's Recovery

Thursday, Dec. 10

"There's a chance they play, there's also a chance they don't," Cavs coach David Blatt said when asked if Irving or Iman Shumpert would play on the upcoming road trip through Orlando and Boston, according to McMenamin.

Blatt said on Nov. 21 that Irving is participating in five-on-zero offensive drills and light one-on-one, but he still doesn't have a definitive timetable to return, per McMenamin.

"[We're] not rushing things and not letting up from the day-to-day work, but still a ways to go," Blatt said on Nov. 12, per Haynes. "And how much, I can't honestly tell you, but he's working at it every day."

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Irving Cleared for Weight-Bearing Activity

Saturday, Nov. 14

Haynes reported Irving has been medically cleared to begin unrestricted weight-bearing activities: 

From here, the team's training staff can intensify his leg-strengthening assignments as it sees fit, I'm told.

This is a significant hurdle Irving has cleared in his recovery. The three-time All-Star is progressing, but this new phase in his rehabilitation from fracturing his left kneecap in Game 1 of the Finals still doesn't grant him freedom for on-court work.

Irving Comments on Potential Return Date

Wednesday, Nov. 4

"There's light at the end of the tunnel," Irving said, per McMenamin. "In terms of a date, I do have one in my head, but obviously, I'm not going to share it for a little bit. I think all the rumors that everyone said in terms of [a] January [return] or whatever, I'll let them stay out there. But for me, I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and I'm just continuing the process." 

Irving went on to say the hardest part of his rehab has been not pushing too hard, per McMenamin:

The biggest thing now is just not trying to overdo it. Just trying to maintain the same consistency and get back into game shape. I think that's the biggest thing. I haven't been cleared for contact yet, but there's nothing stopping me right now from fully sprinting and doing basketball game things. There's no drills that I'm not able to do right now in terms of my own workouts that's limiting me. It's just about getting stronger in the weight room, strengthening my leg up again and getting back into game shape.

Irving Traveling with Team

Monday, Nov. 2

Haynes noted that Irving traveled to Philadelphia to attend tonight's game against the 76ers.

Jason Lloyd of noted that Irving "didn't do anything today we haven't seen him do after many home practices. Still not cleared, just traveling now."

Cavaliers' Depth Was Tested Prior to Irving Return

Irving's health problems are even more worrisome since Shumpert needed wrist surgery in the offseason that was expected to sideline him for more than three months. The status of Cleveland's backcourt has been tenuous at best early on this season.

LeBron James is Cleveland's top option, but Irving is one of the best players in the league and averaged 21.7 points and 5.2 assists per game last season. He takes some pressure off James on the offensive side with his electric ball-handling and silky-smooth shooting, and the Cavaliers are nowhere near as dangerous when he is not on the floor.

At least Cleveland has proven backcourt depth. James suggested as much last month, per McMenamin: "We have depth. And if it's one position we have it, it's at the guard spot. Bringing back Delly [Matthew Dellavedova], re-signing J.R. [Smith], bringing in Richard [Jefferson], bringing in Mo [Williams], we have depth at the guard spot, so with this injury, guys should be able to step in."