Before he even could don a Nets' jersey officially for the first time at Friday’s scheduled media day session, point guard Kyrie Irving was diagnosed on Wednesday with a left side facial fracture and his status is described as day-to-day, the team announced.
Irving suffered the injury during a voluntary scrimmage on Tuesday approximately half an hour before general manager Sean Marks held his annual pre-training camp news conference. Coach Kenny Atkinson opted out of the media session in order to accompany his new All-Star point guard to the hospital.
Asked during the news conference about the severity of Irving’s injury, Marks admitted he had witnessed the incident during the scrimmage, but he downplayed it. “I think this is a case of us being cautious with all our guys,” Marks said. “A stray, inadvertent elbow playing pickup games — those type of plays happen frequently in the same game. This is just a case where he caught the elbow, and now, we’re going to do our due diligence to check him out.”
The diagnosis of a left side facial fracture hinted at the possibility that Irving might not be available to practice fully when training camp sessions begin on Saturday at the team’s practice facility in Brooklyn. That would be a setback for a team that signed free agent forward Kevin Durant to a four-year deal worth $164 million despite the fact he is recovering from right Achilles tendon surgery that Marks said might rule him out for the entire season.
Irving, who signed a four-year deal worth $141 million, is being counted on to lead the revamped Nets and keep them in playoff contention in Durant’s absence. But he has a long history of injuries that have hampered his career, including a facial fracture suffered during the 2012-13 season, another facial fracture in 2017 and an eye injury last season. Irving also suffered a fractured left kneecap in Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals that required surgery, and he underwent related surgery during the 2017-18 season. Irving has played successfully in the past while wearing a mask to protect his facial injuries, and that likely will be the case again. The Nets’ season opener is against Minnesota Oct. 23 at Barclays Center.