Speaking with reporters for the first time since initially injuring his right shoulder in mid-November, Irving, who was diagnosed with a shoulder impingement, said he got a cortisone shot on Dec. 24 in an attempt to postpone or eliminate the need for surgery.
"I am in a better place now that it has been a significant amount of time," Irving said. "The next step in any progression was to either get a cortisone shot or to get surgery. That was the ultimatum I was fixed with. Now, I'm just doing the best I can to live off this cortisone and move forward if I need surgery in the future."
Irving said he and the Nets' medical team will reevaluate in a month or two whether arthroscopic surgery will be needed.
"A cortisone shot lasts as long as it can. You either continue to get cortisone shots, which is obviously detrimental to your health and your muscles, or you go get arthroscopic surgery," Irving said. "For me, it's just about being able to go back out there after the right amount of rehab, the right amount of rest and recovery and see what we can do for the rest of the season and then reevaluate after a few months."
Irving said he thought about undergoing surgery during the season. With Kevin Durant already out for the year and the Nets hovering around .500, Irving said, "It's definitely crossed my mind."
Irving said that the pain first appeared when the Nets played the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 4.
After that game, Irving said that he notified the team's medical staff. For the next four games, he was diligent about icing, taping his shoulder and doing physical therapy, but the pain persisted. After the Nov. 14 game against the Denver Nuggets, Irving said, the pain got worse.
"It just sucks, man," Irving said. "It really is disheartening when you are working your tail off to be at a certain level and your shooting shoulder just starts to give out on you a little bit. You are looking at it like, 'Hey, it's just a shoulder. Let me ice this thing and get back out there.' But you keep feeling something in your shoulder and you're trying to explain it to the medical staff. You're trying to explain it to all these experts out there ... I'm doing all these exercises and still nothing is happening to get me back on the court."
Initially, Irving said that he tried to rehabilitate without using any anti-inflammatory medications. He saw specialists in Arizona.
According to Irving, trying to get healthy without any injections was one reason the recovery has taken so long. Still, 8½ weeks since he initially felt the injury, Irving said he still experiences pain when he lifts his right shoulder to take a jump shot. He is still unable to do any contract drills.
One of the 23 games that Irving has missed this season was when the Nets traveled to Boston to face Irving's former team, the Celtics. Irving's face was printed out on flyers and taped to the outside of TD Garden with the word "coward" written across his eyes and nose. During that game, fans repeatedly chanted, "Where is Kyrie?"
Irving said that he watched that game from home with his family. Afterward, he wrote a lengthy post on Instagram responding to fans.
"It wasn't about the players on the floor during that day -- it became about me and where I was and what I was doing. I got nothing but love for Boston," Irving said Saturday. "I appreciate everyone standing up for me and speaking on my behalf, telling [people], it's not my fault and, 'It's not all on him.' I'm a man. I'm able to take criticism. I haven't taken it well in the past, but at this point in my career, the big picture is I need to focus on winning a championship here."