The most perplexing aspect of Kyrie Irving's injured right toe has always been that Duke wouldn't release any concrete information regarding the diagnosis of the injury or the possible timetable for the freshman point guard's return.
Thanks to Duke assistant Chris Collins, however, we now have at least a few specifics that help paint a clearer picture.
Collins provided The Fayetteville Observer's Dan Wiederer with a detailed description of the exact nature of the injury on Thursday morning. According to Collins, Irving sustained both bone and ligament damage when he injured the toe against Butler last month, making it an especially unusual injury that has been hard to accurately diagnose.
"It's a form of turf toe but it's a little more severe than that. It's been hard to explain in layman's terms. But because it's in the ball of his foot, that's a really dicey area. That's where you do all your cutting and your jumping. And that's where you do all of your pushing off from. That's what's made this all the more delicate. I don't know that the injury has an exact label. If it has a name, I don't know what it is. But it's something that we need to make sure gets healed correctly before Kyrie even thinks about playing. Because otherwise he could have more problems down the road."
The key to Irving's hopes of returning this season is avoiding surgery, a possibility that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski appeared cautiously optimistic about after a win over Alabama-Birmingham on Wednesday night.
If Irving ever underwent surgery, his season would definitely be over. If he continues to let the foot heal without surgery, Collins said Irving's potential return will simply depend on how much progress the foot makes.
"It's not like where if you break your foot, you can say ‘OK, we know in six-to-eight weeks, he'll be back.' This is truly a unique case where you have to go by feel. And that's made it hard to say, ‘Hey, if all goes perfectly, he's back in a month or six weeks.' We just don't know. That's why we're always talking about having the toe reevaluated. Every week we're checking it out, seeing what the progress is. And the main thing right now is that we're on a course that's non-surgical. And as long as we see good progression, we'll stay with that."
The good news for Duke remains that the rest of the ACC appears so weak that the Blue Devils should be able to contend for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament even without Irving's services.
As long as he could return in time to regain his confidence and jell again with his teammates prior to the NCAA tournament, that's probably the best-case scenario for Duke.