NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been sidelined since Nov. 14 with a right shoulder impingement, and it remains unclear when he will return to the court. Irving said Saturday that he chose to get a cortisone shot on Dec. 24 instead of having surgery, and he will have to see how his body responds to it -- if he does eventually need surgery, it would mean being sidelined for three to four months, all but certainly costing him the remainder of his first season in Brooklyn.
"I tried to go without any anti-inflammatories, which is why it took so long," Irving said. "And now I'm at a place where the next step was to either get a cortisone shot or get surgery. So that was the ultimatum I was fixed with. So now I'm just doing to best I can to live off this cortisone and move forward if I need surgery in the future."
While Nets coach Kenny Atkinson previously said that Irving first injured his shoulder against the Utah Jazz on Nov. 12, Irving said that it "actually started after we played the Pelicans" on Nov. 4. Irving played in Brooklyn's next four games, all on the road, wearing tape on his shoulder, only sitting out after a 101-93 loss in Denver.
"After that game (against the Pelicans), before the road trip, I felt decent," Irving said. "I'd been shooting every single day. I'd been making sure I was lifting, making sure I was taking care of my body. And it got to the point where I had overused it."
Irving said he was shooting at night after games and after practices, partially in an effort make up for the time he missed with a face injury in the preseason. He acknowledged that playing on the road trip "probably made it worse," but he wanted to throw himself into his new environment, get to know his teammates and coach and get the team on the right track after an uneven start.
"It just sucks, man," he said. "It really is disheartening when you know you're working your tail off to be at a certain level and your shooting shoulder just starts to give out on you a little bit. You're looking at it like let me ice this thing, let me just get back out there, and you keep feeling something in your shoulder, and you're trying to explain it to the medical staff, you're trying to explain it to all these experts out there. I'm going to see shoulder specialists; I'm in Phoenix, Arizona, trying to see shoulder specialists. I'm seeing the shoulder specialist for a week and two weeks. I'm doing all these exercises. Still, nothing is happening to get me back on the court, so it's definitely frustrating."
Irving said that he is in a better place now, however. In the next few weeks, he said, he will see where he ends up with the cortisone treatment.
"It's just been a lot of questions I have for what would be best-case scenario for me to go out there and play, and what can I possibly play through with this shoulder injury," he said. "It's very unique because it's the first time I've ever had such a significant feeling in my shoulder where I'm going up to shoot jump shots and I can't really lift my shoulder to get up in that jump shot position and it's impinging. There was some bursitis in there that was really, really impacting me."
The Nets were 4-7 when Irving's absence began and are now 16-17, but were on a four-game losing streak heading into Saturday's game against the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center. Irving's injury coincided with Caris LeVert missing 24 games with a hand injury; LeVert returned to the lineup against Toronto.
Without Irving, Brooklyn has relied on Spencer Dinwiddie to carry the load offensively. Dinwiddie has averaged 25.7 points, 7.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds as a starter, and has a compelling case to be named an All-Star. Irving spoke glowingly of his teammates' competitiveness while acknowledging that the season has not gone the way the Nets hoped.
"I'm nothing but proud of the guys for holding the fort down," Irving said. "And I kept telling them, when I was injured, 'Keep this boat afloat for as long as we can. When I'm back, then we make a push for the playoffs and we see where we go from there.' But we've got to be realistic with what's going on here. Guys aren't healthy. Me and [Kevin Durant] obviously came here to play together and lead these guys to a championship in the next few years. And right now, we're just not in a position to do so, but we're going to do the best we can for this season."