Duke's Kyrie Irving, center, and his teammates celebrate a 3-point shot by Seth Curry in the second half. Irving says there is a chance he may return to the lineup in the NCAA tournament. ROBERT WILLETT - firstname.lastname@example.org
GREENSBORO – Duke freshman guard Kyrie Irving said Sunday afternoon that there is a chance he will return from a toe injury to play at some point during the NCAA tournament.
“I can’t really put a percentage on it,” Irving said. “It all depends on how I feel, and if the medical staff feels good about it.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was more cautious, saying Irving’s enthusiasm might have been fueled by the emotion of missing out on the Blue Devils’ 75-58 ACC tournament defeat of North Carolina.
Irving worked out Friday and Sunday on the Greensboro Coliseum floor during pre-game, but was not in uniform.
“We’re far away from that decision,” Krzyzewski said. “But he’s doing well. He’s worked out here every day and we’re not trying to hide anything. We tried to show that first of all we do have a guy named Kyrie and secondly that he’s progressing well.”
Irving was made available to the media for the first time since he injured his right big toe on Dec. 4 against Butler. In the locker room after Duke’s win, Irving explained the details of his injury.
He said the sesamoid bones on his right big toe were injured when he bent the toe back too far during the Butler game. He said the tissue connecting the bones was damaged and needed time to heal.
“This is where I get all of my power from, and this is the way I move as fast as I can,” Irving said. “When it did happen, when I looked at the X-rays, it was a lot more complicated than I thought it was.”
Irving, who has worked out twice during pre-game at the Greensboro Coliseum this week, said he is cleared for 5-on-0 drills but is awaiting word from the medical staff on when he will be ready to scrimmage at full speed.
He said Nike has constructed a special shoe for him to prevent his toe from bending back in the future, so he is not afraid of re-injuring it. He said his conditioning is not where it needs to be yet, but said he has been running on a treadmill in the pool for about a month to build his stamina.
His conditioning might be lacking, but he said his understanding of the game will be better after watching from the bench for all but the first eight games.
“I think I had a high basketball IQ when I was playing,” Irving said, “but now it’s increased, tremendously.”