CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers’ surprisingly strong start has hit a sudden snag.
Rookie forward Evan Mobley will miss multiple weeks with a sprained right elbow, an injury that threatens to stall Cleveland’s early season momentum and will test the young team's depth up front.
The No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft, Mobley got hurt in Monday night's 98-92 loss to Boston. He was battling for position under the basket late in the third quarter when his arm got tied up with Celtics big man Enes Kanter.
The Cavs said an MRI taken Tuesday confirmed the original diagnosis of a sprain. Mobley will begin treatment and rehab, and the team estimates his return to the court in “approximately 2-4 weeks.”
“We play this game for a certain reason, for the love and compassion you have for it and it’s always frustrating and disappointing when it’s taken away from you when it's an injury and it’s out of your control,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We want to make sure he’s OK and we want to make sure he’s in good spirits.”
Mobley's loss is a major blow to the Cavs, who weren't expected to do much, but are 9-6 after winning just 22 games last season. The 20-year-old from USC has been perhaps the biggest reason behind Cleveland's quick turnaround.
He's averaging 14.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while displaying a calm, on-court demeanor that belies his age.
Bickerstaff called Mobley's injury “a freak thing” because it happened on a common play.
“Guys get tangled up going for rebounds, competing for loose balls and things,” Bickerstaff said on a Zoom call. “It wasn’t a dirty play, nothing like that — two guys playing basketball and this happens.”
Mobley's injury is just the latest one for the Cavs, who have been without leading scorer Collin Sexton for a week because of a knee injury and just got back forward Isaac Okoro after he missed seven games with a hamstring issue.
Also, starting center Jarrett Allen missed Monday's game with an illness and will not make the trip to play at Brooklyn on Wednesday.
Forwards Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen recently cleared the NBA's health protocols and are working on their conditioning before playing. Bickerstaff said it's possible Love could return against the Nets.
After Mobley got hurt, the Cavs finished with just nine players against the Celtics.
“Everybody has got to do their part,” Bickerstaff said. "We’re obviously down him (Mobley), but we’re down other bodies. It’s the NBA, with 82 games, at some point in time everybody is going to get an opportunity. And everybody has got to take a step up and do a little bit more.
"We can’t expect one person to replace Evan or Kevin or Lauri or any of the guys who have been out. We’ve got to be a group where everybody does a little bit more and try to fill that gap.”
Bickerstaff said Ed Davis and 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall could get additional playing time. After facing the Nets, the Cavs host the Golden State Warriors on Thursday before getting a welcomed three-day break.
“We just need to get through these next couple games and get the three-day break to kind of get healthy, but our identity shouldn’t change,” Bickerstaff said. "We should still scrap the same, compete the same. None of that should change.”
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