NBA playoffs: Cavaliers banged up, Bulls in limbo with coach

Kyrie Irving skips practice Saturday to rest is injured left knee and sore right foot

LeBron James should have had a stethoscope hanging around his neck as he reeled off the latest medical updates on him and his teammates.

"It goes without saying that we're banged up right now," the pseudo Dr. J said Saturday.

As they prepare to meet the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals, the Cavaliers are hurting.

Kyrie Irving has a tender left knee and sore right foot, James played the past two games on a sprained left ankle and has "other nicks and bruises," guard Iman Shumpert has a strained groin, forward Tristan Thompson a bruised shoulder and Kevin Love is out for the postseason following shoulder surgery.

Fortunately for the Cavs, they've got time to ice those injuries and heal before Game 1 on Wednesday night in Atlanta.

Of all Cleveland's aches and pains, Irving's knee injury is the most significant and bears watching. The All-Star point guard has been dealing with tendinitis in the knee for several weeks, and he aggravated the condition on Thursday in the first half of Game 6 in Chicago. He sat out the final 33 minutes as the Cavs closed out the Bulls by getting a huge contribution from Irving's backup, Matthew Dellavedova, who scored a team-high 19 points.

Irving was seen Friday by team doctors, who prescribed rest and Cleveland's playmaker did not participate in Saturday's workout at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

Cavs coach David Blatt said Irving's status for the series opener remains in question. At this point, all the team can do is hope he gets better.

"We sat Ky out and he's going through a lot of treatment and we're monitoring and just hoping that he progresses from here until game time," Blatt said. "We're very much on top of this obviously and Ky is doing everything he possibly can to get well."

Blatt could not guarantee Irving will play.

"For sure? No," Blatt said. "But we hope so.

--Associated Press

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Knowingly or not, Tom Thibodeau issued the first salvo late in what promises to be an intriguing, sometimes messy game of chicken.

"Until they tell me I'm not, I expect to be here," Thibodeau said after the Bulls' season-ending loss to the Cavaliers. "That's the way I approach it."

The executives, coaches and agents at Quest Multisport Complex for the NBA draft combine Friday who weighed in on the subject were in nearly unanimous agreement that the Bulls and Thibodeau are headed for divorce. How that is achieved is where things could get complicated.

With two years remaining on Thibodeau's deal, management views him as an asset. It will seek compensation for him, although with the rest of the league mindful of how badly the relationship has deteriorated, leverage for high - if any - compensation would seem to be minimal.

The other option is to fire him over philosophical differences, assume he lands a job in which the offset in his Bulls contract would be utilized and try to lure Fred Hoiberg from Iowa State. That's no lock given Hoiberg's happiness coaching his alma mater in his hometown, according to sources.

Websites Bleacher Report and Basketball Insiders reported Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry also is a strong candidate, though the Tribune couldn't confirm that.

--K.C. Johnson

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For the first time, the Hawks are headed to the Eastern Conference finals, just one step away from playing for the first championship since the franchise moved from St. Louis to the Deep South in 1968.

"They deserve it," said Wilkins, a Hall of Famer and probably the greatest player in team history. "They really just came together as one."

Wilkins was part of another memorable era in Atlanta history, the leader of a high-flying team that, until now, came the closest to advancing past the second round.

The Hawks were up 3-2 on Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in 1988 but squandered a chance to wrap up the conference semifinals in Atlanta. Clinging to a two-point lead in Game 6, the Celtics double-teamed Wilkins on the final possession, forcing Levingston to put up an awkward left-handed shot with one second remaining.

He missed, of course, and the Celtics wrapped up the series in the deciding game, an epic duel between Wilkins and Bird in which Boston held on for a 118-116 victory.

--Associated Press

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