Kyrie Irving's left knee matters. A lot.
He tweaked it during the third quarter of what was then a close New Year's Eve game against the Indiana Pacers, and he immediately knew something was wrong.
The 21-year-old scoring phenom went over the details with NBA.com's Conrad Brunner:
I thought the worst happened. I continued to play but I felt something pop in my knee and I was falling down around all over the place. I'm going to have an MRI tomorrow and we'll see how it goes. But it was a painful experience. When I went back out it still didn't feel right.
B/R's Tim Keeney summed up everyone's thoughts when he wrote, "This is about the last thing the Cavs—or really, NBA fans in general—want to hear right now." Fortunately, the MRI seems to be more precautionary than anything else.
Not only does the knee impact Irving's immediate future, as a major knee injury would be a devastating blow to the burgeoning career of a young point guard who is already dangerously close to adding the dreaded "injury-prone" label, it would also throw the emergency brake on any trade discussions between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.
"If Irving is out for a substantial length of time," ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne report, "it's believed that the Cavaliers' appetite to take on additional salary in pursuit of a playoff push would inevitably be diminished."
The Cavs were looking to rid themselves of Andrew Bynum, swapping his non-guaranteed contract for a player who can actually stay healthy and wants to play basketball.
That comes in the form of Pau Gasol, who the Lakers may be willing to part with as they seek to lessen the amount of talent on the current roster—all for the purpose of making the future easier on Kobe Bryant. Doing so would save the Lake Show upwards of $20 million when both salary and luxury-tax implications are taken into account.
Why spend money when you don't have much hope at playing winning basketball?
That's the question at the heart of both sides of this potential deal.
For the Cavaliers, it doesn't make sense to take on extra salary if Irving is going to be out for extended time. For the Lakers, it would be nonsensical to continue rostering a coveted player during a season that is spiraling downward—especially when there's an opportunity to save money.
First, however, Irving's knee has to be figured out. The pending MRI results, scheduled to come out on Wednesday, will inevitably be the first chip to fall.
The NBA world has its collective fingers crossed.