INDEPENDENCE — LeBron James is arriving and Kyrie Irving is exiting.
With James and the Miami Heat visiting Quicken Loans Arena this evening, the Cavaliers face the distinct possibility of playing the rest of the season without their best player.
A two-time All-Star and the All-Star Game MVP this season, Irving suffered a left biceps injury late in the first quarter of a 102-80 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday and left Staples Center with his arm in a sling.
The Cavs did not practice Monday, but Irving was examined by team physician Dr. Richard Parker at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, where imaging revealed a strain in the long head tendon of his biceps.
The Cavs said Irving will undergo a two-week period of inactivity, after which the injury’s response will determine the most appropriate course of treatment.
Cleveland plays eight games in the period Irving will be inactive.
There are approximately 4½ weeks left in the regular season, and it’s highly unlikely Irving will play immediately after the two weeks of inactivity, so the third-year pro could miss the rest of the year.
“I’ll be good everyone…thank you for the support and prayers,” Irving posted on his Twitter account Monday evening.
At 26-41 with 15 regular-season games remaining, the Cavs are five games back of the Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“Seeing anybody go down is tough,” veteran guard Jarrett Jack said after the loss to the Clippers. “I don’t want to speculate the extent of the injury. Hopefully, we can get him back healthy as soon as possible.”
Irving, who will turn 22 on Sunday, suffered the injury with 2:20 left in the first period when Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin came down on Irving’s arm while the Cleveland guard was attempting to go up. The team’s leading scorer at 21.2 points per game, Irving had two points on 0-for-5 shooting and two assists against the Clippers. He did not talk to reporters following the game.
“(Irving) is our key guy leading the team, fueling the break,” Jack said. “A number of us have to step up in his absence.”
Jack has been starting at point guard for the Cavs, with Irving moving to shooting guard. In Irving’s absence, coach Mike Brown could start undrafted rookie Matthew Dellavedova, especially since the coach seems to prefer having Dion Waiters come off the bench.
Ninth-year pro C.J. Miles had been starting at shooting guard, but he has missed the last 12 games with a sprained ankle. The veteran may be ready to play soon, but it’s doubtful he would go right back into the starting lineup.
Irving’s latest injury adds to an already long list as a pro. He has missed games due to a shoulder injury, concussion,
illness, fractured index finger, hyperextended knee and bruised knee. Irving also played for the Cavs while wearing a mask to protect a fractured jaw and broke his hand in summer league action.
In addition, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft suffered a shoulder injury in high school and played in only 11 games in his one season at Duke due to an injury to his big toe.
The 6-foot-3, 191-pounder has already missed 41 games for the Cavs — 15 as a rookie, 23 last season and three so far this season. If Irving misses the rest of the season, he will have sat out 56 of 230 games (.243) as a pro.
Cleveland is six games behind the Hawks in the loss column. After taking on two-time NBA champion Miami tonight, the Cavs host league powers Oklahoma City on Thursday and Houston on Saturday.
The Cavs fell behind Golden State 20-4 on Friday before rallying to win on the road. The Clippers jumped to an 11-0 lead — they were up 9-0 before the Cavs hit the rim with a shot — and stretched it to 21, but Cleveland got within seven in the fourth period before Chris Paul and Co. pulled away.
“As long as there is time on the clock, we always feel like we have an opportunity to be successful,” Jack said after the Clippers game. “We just can’t come out and start games like that. We just had a lull period for almost a quarter and a half where we didn’t go out there and compete. When we did (compete), the game started to kind of turn in our favor, but fighting an uphill battle against a team like that is a very tough task.”
Center Spencer Hawes added, “When you dig yourself that big of a deficit, you waste too much energy just trying to get back in the game.”
Hawes got his 10th and 11th technical fouls of the season Sunday. He got the first for hollering and punching the air and the second for yelling at an official. The technical fouls and automatic ejection that came with the second cost him a total of $7,000 and raised his fines for the season to $29,000. Hawes will receive a warning letter from the league if he gets another technical.
“I have given up enough money tonight, so I won’t say anything more beyond that,” Hawes said after the Clippers game.