Kyrie Irving has cast removed

Updated: February 4, 2011, 6:01 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving had the cast removed from his right big toe Friday, two months after he damaged ligaments on a drive to the basket in a game against Butler.

A Duke spokesperson said the removal of Irving's cast will allow Duke's medical staff to start evaluating the player's progress. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said two weeks ago after a win at NC State that Irving probably would not return this season.

Irving tweeted Friday afternoon that the "Cast retired...now walking boot and rehab!!! Feels good to see my leg again lol"

The Blue Devils aren't going to jeopardize Irving's potential NBA career by pushing him back to the court too soon.

Duke's medical team opted against surgery for Irving -- he was injured Dec. 4 -- instead keeping the toe immobile for months. Now the challenge is to see how the toe is doing now that it is free of the cast.

But even if Irving does have mobility, he would need quite a bit of time to be evaluated before it's determined whether he could return to the court in March. Nolan Smith has handled the point in Irving's absence, and guards Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton have received additional playing time.

Irving was projected to be out for the season after being injured, but there is always a chance he could come back if his family and Duke's coaching staff and medical team decide this is in his best interests.

Irving is projected as the possible No. 1 pick in the draft if he were to declare for the NBA draft in June. If he were to return to the court, then he would play with his friend, Austin Rivers, in the backcourt next season; Rivers will replace Smith, a senior.

Irving averaged 17.4 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 45.2 percent on 3s, 53.2 percent overall and 89.6 percent at the line in eight games. He led the Blue Devils with 31 points in a win over Michigan State in December and would have been in a tight two-man race with Jared Sullinger of Ohio State for national freshman of the year had he not been injured.

Senior writer Andy Katz covers men's college basketball for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com