Cavs' Kyrie Irving kept replaying injury before deciding to 'let it go'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- In the six months that Kyrie Irving was sidelined after suffering a fractured left kneecap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers' All-Star point guard found himself looking back at tape of that game, time and time again.

"I rewatched the play eight times, and the eighth time I promised myself that I would never watch it again. And that was a span over the six or seven months," Irving said after practice Tuesday. "The eighth time, I was like, 'F it, I'm done watching this B.S.' I had to let it go."

The overtime play ended Irving's season and spoiled a masterful night -- he had 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks -- as Cleveland's bid to steal home-court advantage from the Golden State Warriors fell short.

The injury kept Irving out of the Cavs' lineup until this past weekend, when he made his debut against Philadelphia, scoring 12 points along with four assists and two steals in 17 minutes.

Barring any setback against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Irving will return to the scene of his injury when the Warriors host the Cavs on Christmas Day.

"No, there's no extra incentive or any extra emotions," Irving said. "It's just getting back out there and playing. It'll be a high-level game going against them. ... Obviously the way I went out is definitely a tough one to get across in my mind and accept, but it is what it is. Going against a great Warriors team will be a good test for us."

Irving was critical of his play against the Sixers after starting the game 0-for-5 from the field.

"Just a lot of rust, man," Irving said. "Looked awful at times, but I kind of expected that."

He will remain on a minute restriction moving forward, gradually increasing his playing time from the four-minute-per-quarter mark he was limited to against Philly. While the Cavs beat the 76ers by 22 points, Irving admitted that it could be more difficult for him to be relegated to the bench in a close game.

"That's kind of a hard concept to get over right now, just being on that minutes restriction," Irving said. "Obviously as a competitor you want to be out there in the fourth quarter. ... I let go of my selfish emotions awhile back. It's about what's best for the team and myself and my health.

"Obviously it'll be a little frustrating going into the fourth quarter, third quarter when games are close and I got to sit on the bench. But it's not anything I'm worried about. Our team has been great about it thus far and we'll adjust."

Limited playing time is better than no playing time, of course, and Irving admitted he wondered during his rehab process if he would ever return to his previous form.

"I wouldn't have normal human emotions if I didn't think that I would ever get back to where I was," Irving said. "You have a significant injury -- any significant injury, whether it be two months, three months, four months, five months, in my case six or seven -- you're just constantly a prisoner of your emotions and your thoughts.

"Those days where you're contemplating getting up and working out and every single day you're wondering, 'Will this be the turn? Will this be the day where I make the turn to be back on the floor?' ... I never took it for granted before, but when you're out for that long and not being with your teammates, not being able to compete out there, it's a little tough. The great ones have withstood it and, for me, I just try to reach out to a lot of people, ask for help and from a mental standpoint just never lose my edge."

The need for the Cavs to rely too much on Irving could be lessened with Mo Williams' return to the lineup. Williams, who has missed the last two games with a sprained right thumb, went through part of practice Tuesday and could play against the Knicks, depending on his progress, Cavs coach David Blatt said.