(AP) INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - Kyrie Irving’s dazzling skills as a point guard are undeniable. Kid can do it all.
His durability is debatable.
Irving could miss the next month _ and maybe the rest of this season _ with a sprained left shoulder, the latest injury to sideline the Cavaliers’ All-Star guard who has missed 29 games in his first two NBA seasons with injuries and could sit out 19 more in 2013.
Irving got hurt in a loss at Toronto on Sunday night, when he collided with Raptors rookie forward Jonas Valanciunas while trying to drive the baseline in the third quarter. Irving slammed his shoulder into the 257-pound Valanciunas and was knocked out of bounds.
X-rays following the game were negative, but an MRI taken Monday in Cleveland revealed a left AC (acromioclavicular) sprain. The Cavs project Irving to be out 3 to 4 weeks, but with just a little over a month left in the season, it’s more likely the team will protect its best player and sit him the remainder of the season.
"We just have to wait and see what happens," Cavs coach Byron Scott said following practice. "I don’t want to speculate and say, `Hey, if he can get back he’ll get back. If he can’t, he can’t.’ We’re just going to have to wait until it’s completely healed and go from there."
This is nothing new to Irving or the Cavs. The 20-year-old missed 14 games _ 11 with a broken finger and three with a hyperextended knee _ earlier this season, and there was a point last week when Scott said it was possible the team would shut down Irving for the remainder of this season after he said his knee was still sore.
Last season, Irving missed four games with a concussion and 11 with a sprained right shoulder, but was still named the league’s top rookie. During the summer, he broke his right hand when he punched a padded wall in frustration during a practice in Las Vegas
And while he has been somewhat brittle, Irving has also displayed some toughness by playing with a broken jaw this season. He wore a protective mask over the injury he sustained in a hard fall and didn’t miss one game.
Despite the injuries, Scott doesn’t believe his young star is fragile or injury-prone.
"He’s still very young and his body hasn’t fully developed," Scott said. "I’m just not that concerned about it, to be honest with you. All the injuries that he has gotten have been legitimate injuries. It’s not something that keeps recurring over and over again.
"From just what I saw last night with the little hip check, it was just an unfortunate foul that hit him right on the spot. "
Irving’s injury should heal with rest, but if it doesn’t, surgery would be an option.
On Sunday, Irving went down after running into Valanciunas, who was called for a blocking foul. Irving was examined on the bench by trainer Max Benton and stayed in the game to shoot free throws. Wincing in pain, he couldn’t raise his left arm to take the foul shots, and after splitting a pair while using just his right, he headed to the locker room.
Irving was not available after practice. He was not seen at the team’s training facility after the session was opened to media members.
Irving entered the league with some concerns about his health after he played just 11 games as a freshman at Duke because of a toe injury. Still, the Cavs selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft and he has been even better than expected.
Irving’s fearlessness with the ball makes him vulnerable, and Scott said it’s imperative that he gets stronger to better absorb some of the contact he’ll receive on drives to the basket. Irving added some muscle last offseason and is listed at 191 pounds.
"He’s still a very young man," Scott said. "He has a long ways to develop his body. This summer the one thing he and I already talked about was getting in the weight room even more so, trying to get stronger. That will help him in an 82-game season as well. But he recognizes that at 20 years old, soon to be 21, that he has to continue to get stronger. Not necessarily bigger, just stronger."
Scott dismissed his young star’s new injury as a result of his playing style.
"Just a big guy that stuck his hip out because he was beat," he said. "He doesn’t avoid contact. That’s how he gets to the free-throw line so much, too, because he seeks it out at times. He’ll continue to develop. Once he gets stronger and his body matures, he’ll be fine."
The Cavs have lost four of five and will again be without their leading scorer and playmaker. Shaun Livingston will start for Irving with rookie Dion Waiters getting some time at the point. Scott said Daniel Gibson will return to the rotation with Irving out.
"The last time that we lost him, we lost him for three games and we won two out of the three and played pretty well so everybody understands that each guy has to pick it up a little bit more," Scott said. "It’s not going to be one guy that can take over all the things that Kyrie brings to the table so we’ll have to do it by committee _ simple as that."
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