Duke mulling Kyrie Irving's options

Updated: December 10, 2010, 11:27 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Duke is reviewing all its medical options during the next few weeks before making a final decision, in conjunction with star freshman Kyrie Irving and his family, about whether the point guard's season is over because of ligament damage in his right toe.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation said Thursday that Duke is exploring various courses of action, from surgery to rest to other forms of treatment for the freak injury that Irving suffered in the second half against Butler on Saturday.

Sources said the injury isn't being categorized as simply a torn ligament or ligaments -- it's "more complex than that" -- but that there is ligament damage.

Earlier Thursday, Irving tweeted, "Situation not looking good and I'm not feeling good...smh worst thing ever."

The question is whether there is a risk of doing more damage if he were able to play through the pain. A representative of the Duke medical staff was expected to meet with other foot specialists during the next week to discuss a course of treatment.

Situation not looking good and I'm not feeling good...smh worst thing ever.

-- Kyrie Irving's tweet

At this point, there are no plans for Irving to leave Duke to see any specialists while doctors review his medical tests.

"It's a serious injury," coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a postgame news conference Wednesday night. "I can't say anything more because we are learning information, but it is serious, and whatever final decision is made will obviously be in what's in his best interest and his career. Not to save him for any period of time or whatever, but he could be out for a long time."

Asked if Irving will be out the rest of the season, Krzyzewski said: "He could be, he could be."

Irving told ESPN.com after the game Saturday, at the Izod Center at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, that he had sprained his toe, and he was noticeably limping.

Duke is a national title favorite with Irving in the lineup. Without him, the Blue Devils lose their primary creator and penetrator, and the race for the title would be more open. Nolan Smith would have to serve that role in Irving's absence. Guards Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry are more shooting guards than playmakers.

Duke also used Tyler Thornton for eight minutes against Bradley. Thornton, a 6-1 freshman guard, had played a total of seven minutes in the previous five games.

If Irving is unable to return, he faces an interesting situation. He is widely considered to be a top-three pick if he declares for June's NBA draft, according to a number of NBA personnel.

But if Irving doesn't play the rest of the season, he would have to weigh the possibility of an NBA lockout after he declares.

Irving could receive a medical redshirt. The NCAA states a player can't play in more than 30 percent of his team's games in order to redshirt, and Irving has played in only eight games. Duke has 31 games on its regular-season schedule.

But it's also unlikely Irving would need to redshirt, because he likely wouldn't be at Duke for four seasons.

If Irving returns next season, the Blue Devils would be even tougher to guard off the dribble on the perimeter with the arrival of two guards from Duke's Class of 2011: top shooting guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park High, Fla.) and fifth-rated point guard Quinn Cook (Oak Hill Academy, Va.), according to ESPNU's recruiting rankings. Rivers is expected to supplant Smith, who is a senior.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Katz on Twitter: @ESPNAndyKatz

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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