By now the abnormal is becoming so very, very normal. Iman Shumpert will miss three months because of wrist surgery, recovery and rehab. His 12 weeks out of the Cavs lineup will be a significant loss for the team and for the defender himself who just signed a new deal with the Cavs- $40 million for four years. But the Cavs are so used to injuries by now they just grin and bear it and emphasize next man in the rotation is up, a tired a cliche as ever there was one. The truth is, the Cavs, though stacked with offensive players, have very few dominant defenders so it’s a huge loss regardless of the Cavs spinning it as better now then later.
What it ultimately means is more work for LeBron James early in the season. His defensive help on the perimeter will be required now despite how achy his body still is.
As for Shumpert, in his 38 games for the Cavs last year, he shot 48% on two-point shots, 59% at the rim, 56% on mid-range jumpers and 44% on long two’s while guarding the best scorer on the perimeter. Those were the good parts of his game. But in the Finals he was absolutely horrible, not able to make a shot from anywhere, saved only by the occasional long jumper he drained. Overall, he shot a cover your eyes 36%.
Shumpert ruptured the Extensor Carpi Ulnaris sheath in his right wrist which translated means that tendon you pay no attention to that runs from the forearm to the wrist to the bone connecting your pinky finger. It’s damaged enough for a doctor to cut and reconstruct.
While the NBA has had players over the years- Kobe Bryant, LaMarcus Aldridge- who played with wrist and tendon injuries, Cavs GM David Griffin said, “in a situation like this, when the tendon’s out the sheath, it’s not optional to just wait.”
The injury occurred in an innocuous way, while training for the season. Shumpert told the Cavs top brass that he banged his wrist on the rim while in the midst of a lob dunk. It hurt, of course it did, but he played through it. The pain continued to get worse and he was shuttled to a specialist who confirmed the injury and the necessary surgery. He’ll miss about 30 games or so.
Lebron James was aware of the impact.
“It’s a big blow for our team. He’s a guy that we wanted around long term, and he still will be around here long term obviously but the next man up will be ready to go until he gets back.”
What it means is that defensively challenged and sometimes in the midst of brain freezes, J.R. Smith will return to his favorite role as a starter. It thrusts 35 year old Richard Jefferson into ample minutes as a back-up. Last year with Dallas he played 17 minutes and averaged 6 points.
“Tough day”, Shumpert wrote on Instagram, “but I’ll be back better than ever.”
Disappointment aside, it’s something Shumpert is used to- injuries go hand in hand with his brief basketball career. He missed part of his rookie year because of torn ligaments in his knee. Then he dislocated his shoulder. He had a groin strain. It’s all something the Cavs know a little bit about with Kyrie Irving’s annual injury hiatus, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao and Timofey Mosgov also going through their own physical battles. Add Shumpert to the list.
“We look at this as a very similar situation to what we went through in the playoffs last year. Next man up. We have a roster we feel is deep enough to withstand one injury like this and so we’re going to give people a chance to kind of absorb it from within. But obviously, we’ll be paying a lot of attention to opportunities that we may be able to improve the group. We’ll just play it by ear.”
photo via Wikimedia.org