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INDEPENDENCE — The new center’s season is over, cruelly ended by a shocking injury. One injured shooting guard has returned from a broken thumb while another is limping around on a sore foot.
Oh, the coach is still sick, too.
And so it goes for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the star-crossed champions who can’t seem to get completely healthy.
The Cavaliers got some expected news Wednesday when Andrew Bogut was ruled out for the remainder of the season — including the playoffs — after breaking his left leg on Monday night just 58 seconds into his debut with Cleveland. Bogut, who typically defends near the basket, rushed out to guard Miami’s Okaro White and the two had a knee-to-shin collision that ended the 7-footer’s season.
Bogut’s injury is just the latest setback for the Cavs, who lost center Chris Andersen to a season-ending knee injury in December, played without J.R. Smith for three months and are still waiting for All-Star forward Kevin Love to return from knee surgery.
If that wasn’t enough, Kyle Korver, the team’s dead-eyed 3-point specialist, will miss at least one game with an injured left foot, and coach Tyronn Lue hasn’t shaken an ear/sinus infection that kept him home during Monday’s game and out of practice Wednesday.
“I talked to him last night,” said associate head coach Larry Drew, filling in for Lue. “He sounds a little bit better, but still he’s a little bit under the weather. We hope he can get well as soon as he can.”
The Cavs could use a collective dose of good medicine.
They were happy to learn Bogut won’t need another operation on his broken tibia but won’t be able to help them try and win a second straight title. He’s expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of next season, but that’s little consolation for the 32-year-old Australian who was so excited about the chance to get back to the NBA Finals.
“It’s extremely unfortunate for both parties,” said Smith, who practiced for the first time since undergoing surgery on his right thumb in December. “For us, obviously, because we needed a big, but more importantly for him because he’s looking at a potential title run and he can’t compete. For you to get hurt at any point in time it’s really tough. But for you to get hurt in 58 seconds, it’s like probably the freakiest thing ever.”
It’s not that the team can’t win it all without Bogut, but he gave Cleveland frontcourt protection and a massive body to combat some potential mismatches in the postseason when it could face Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka, Miami’s Hassan Whiteside or Washington’s Marcin Gortat.
General manager David Griffin, who has masterfully strengthened Cleveland’s roster with the additions of Korver, Derrick Williams and Deron Williams since the start of 2017, will likely add another big man to replace Bogut. The Cavaliers aren’t in any rush to bring in a new player, so it’s unlikely any moves will be made until Cleveland returns from a three-game road trip that starts Thursday in Detroit.
While Bogut’s loss keeps Cleveland’s interior vulnerable, Smith’s return will give the Cavs more outside firepower.
He’s been out since Dec. 20, but Smith has ramped up his activity in recent weeks and finally took part in a full practice Wednesday for the first time. It’s been a challenging season professionally and personally for Smith, whose daughter, Dakota, was born five months early and remains hospitalized. Smith said his baby has gained some weight and is doing better.
“This has probably been one of the tougher years, if not the toughest year for me, on and off the court,” he said. “Just part of the process I guess. I think it will just make the story better.”