INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is planning to alter his game in an attempt to reduce the injuries that so far have been a defining part of his career.
Recovering from a broken kneecap suffered during the NBA Finals, Irving said Monday that he spent part of the offseason reviewing film and looking for ways to avoid the hard falls that have contributed to a string of injuries over the first four years of his career.
“For me it’s about … staying off the floor a little bit more,” Irving said. “It’s how can I be better in terms of avoiding injuries going to the basket and falling on the floor. I enjoy finishing around the big men, but honestly I’m trying to stay off the floor. I’m trying to get better in that aspect.”
Irving has missed an average of 14 regular-season games per year due to injuries to both shoulders, both knees, his right foot, a broken right hand, a broken left index finger and multiple facial fractures. In the playoffs for the first time last season, he missed seven games and was unable to finish two others because of foot and knee issues.
Part of the reason for his long injury list is his willingness to attack the basket and finish in traffic, two areas at which he excels. Irving shot 53 percent on shots within 10 feet of the basket last season and 50 percent with defenders within two feet of him, according to the NBA.
“I don’t play above the rim. I’m not a lot faster than anyone else,” Irving said. “I’m not going to stop trying to get to the basket. I don’t want to stay away, but in terms of going in there every single time — especially with the centers and power forwards we have — I don’t have to do it every single time.
Irving had surgery in June to repair the knee injury he suffered when he collided with Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson in Game 1 of the Finals. Irving was projected to be out three to four months.
He has been running for three weeks, he said Monday. He is not fully cleared to practice, but the Cavs expect him to be able to take part in aspects of training camp.
The team is not putting a timetable on his return, and general manager David Griffin cautioned Monday not to read into it if Irving doesn’t play much or at all in the preseason.
When he does return, though, his play may look a little different.
“It’s being more technical with my footwork and limiting the amount of dribbles per possession in order to get more shots off,” Irving said. “That’s what it’s been about this entire offseason.”