CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is grateful for a lot of things, but a second chance at the postseason, and to do so healthy as opposed to last year injury-shortened run to the NBA Finals is at the top of the list right now.
After missing half of the Cavaliers’ games in a sweep of the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals and five contests against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, and having to rehabilitate from a fractured kneecap last June, Irving enters this year’s postseason healthy.
“Going into the playoffs last year, I think I was going into my eighth or ninth straight month of playing basketball, so it was different,” Irving said. “I’m at a high level of playing, and going through the rigorous season and coming into the playoffs, I felt just really, really good.
“Coming into this season, I think I’m going on four, four-and-a-half months of playing basketball. The amount of more preparation I had to have coming into the playoffs is a lot higher. It’s nothing I didn’t expect, that I had to put myself in a position in order to be great in these playoffs.”
While watching his team battle the Warriors in the NBA Finals from his hospital room following surgery to repair his fractured kneecap and missing the first 26 games of this season because of his rehab work, Irving learned an important lesson about embracing every opportunity to compete.
“You don’t want to take it for granted, just living in the moment and taking advantage of every opportunity we have to come into this series all healthy and feeling good about ourselves,” Irving said.
“I just had to be patient, understanding that I had to take it one day at a time. Being injured and going into the playoffs injured, I got a chance to play 53 games, which I’m grateful for and thankful that we have a good medical staff. They did an unbelievable job getting me prepared to come into the postseason healthy, and I just feel like I’m in a good place. Last year, going into the playoffs injured, obviously, it’s still in my head, but I’m way past that point, which I’m happy for, happy about.”
Although Irving’s first go-around in the playoffs was injury-shortened, he is using the experiences he did gain in order to help in preparing for the Cavaliers’ first-round matchup against the Detroit Pistons, a Central Division foe that took three of the four regular-season meetings.
“I’m just preparing for the intensity level of everything and getting locked in, as everyone would say,” Irving said. “It’s just basketball, but it’s obviously going to be at a high level and it’ll be really skillful. People have to think the game, and that’s what the playoffs are all about, high-level basketball and being prepared for that.
“It doesn’t change our respect that we have for them. They can have their own attitude. We just have what we have going on here in our locker room. We’re going to take care of business.”