Kyrie Irving close to playing again

kyrie-irvingThe Cleveland Cavaliers are off to a very solid start in 2016, currently leading the Eastern Conference with a 13-5 record. However, one can’t help but wonder if they’d be doing even better with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving on the floor. And the good news is that he’s now much closer to returning to action.

Irving hasn’t played a game since breaking his left kneecap in the 2015 NBA Finals. But he’s now practicing with the Cavaliers again and told the media that he should be suiting up in the near future. As for exactly when he’ll play a game, the 23-year-old isn’t offering up much.

”You’re not getting anything out of me,” he said half-jokingly. ”No percentages, no target dates, nothing. I’m feeling good. Personally, I’m in a great place just being able to be out here and practice with the guys, being able to go up and down and continuously, as well.”

Despite the good news that he’s practicing again, Irving has some work ahead of him to return to a high level.

“Today, there was a lot more up and down,” he explained, “being able to test my wind, being able to test my knee, going from offense to defense and translating and being able to get out in the fast break and being able to try my moves that I’ve been practicing, kind of knock off most of the rust I’ve had.”

If there’s been any solace about Irving missing almost 20 games for the Cavs this season, it’s that offseason acquisition Mo Williams has played very well in his place. The 12-year vet has averaged 14.5 PPG, 4.5 APG and 3.1 RPG. But it’s obvious that Cleveland would also love to have a 3-time All-Star back at the position.

kyrie-irving-2016-returnIrving certainly can’t wait either as he’s a fierce competitor. However, he also doesn’t want to step onto the court unless he’s fully ready to go.

”If I’m putting myself in a position to be out there and I’m 100 percent, then I’m going to go out there and I’m not going to take any extra days off or take a week off just because erring on the side of being cautious,” he said. ”Anything can happen at any given moment, and I still have no regrets from what I did last year, going out there, and even playing injured.”

Aside from getting Irving back, the Cavs would love to have shooting guard Iman Shumpert and center Timofey Mozgov as well. Shumpert broke his wrist in the offseason and has been sidelined ever since. Mozgov played in the early going, but he’s had trouble with the knee that was operated on in the offseason.

Considering that these are three key players who’ve been missing, it wouldn’t be a shock if Cleveland plays even better when everybody is healthy.

Not surprisingly, LeBron James and Kevin Love has been leading the way in the first part of the season. Love is averaging 19.2 PPG and 11.6 RPG while James is tallying 25.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 6.4 APG. Williams, J.R. Smith (10.3 PPG), Matthew Dellavedova (7.9 PPG, 5.6 APG) and Tristan Thompson (7.8 PPG, 10.3 RPG) are also having strong seasons. It’ll be interesting to see if Cleveland can finally put their core together and run away with the East.

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Kevin Love set for Stardom in Cleveland?

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland CavaliersLast year was a strange one for forward Kevin Love, as he struggled to find his role in a Cleveland Cavaliers offense that already had two superstars. But this season, it looks like Kevin Love might just be THE man in Cleveland.

There have only been three games so far in the 2015-16 season, but Love seems far more involved in the offense than he was last year. He’s second on the team in points (19.7), first in rebounds (11.7) and second in field goal attempts (15.3). Compare this to the previous season, when Love averaged 16.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 12.7 shot attempts in roughly the same number of minutes (32.8).

As if the numbers aren’t evidence enough, Love has a vote of confidence from his world-famous teammate, LeBron James.

“We’ll use Kevin however he wants to be used,” he said. “I told you Kevin is going to be our main focus. He’s going to have a hell of a season. He’s going to get back to that All-Star status. He’s the focal point of us offensively. I know I can go out and get mine when I need it. But I need Kev to be as aggressive as he was tonight, and when he rebounds at the level he did tonight, the shots will automatically fall for him.”

There were a lot of offseason questions surrounding whether or not Love would even be back in Cleveland. He had trouble fitting into an offense that already included Kyrie Irving and James. Furthermore, there were some awkward moments during the season where LeBron and Love had minor public feuds. Much of this was brought on by James’ comments that Love needed to be more aggressive when looking for his own shot.

kevin-love-staying-clevelandPerhaps a poolside chat between Love and LeBron during the offseason helped clear up the matter.

“He showed why he’s one of the best power forwards in our league,” said James. “We need to continue to ride his coattails.”

Perhaps LeBron’s words mean something here because Cleveland looks like they’re at least treating Love as an equal to James in offensive sets. Head coach David Blatt has also done a better job of helping Love succeed by letting the power forward play in the post more.

“I knew I’d be looking at different spots on the floor,” Love said. “I welcome that.”

Now the big question is if things will remain this way or if they’ll change as the season moves along. James is still the lead dog on the Cavaliers and will take over whenever he feels like it. Then there’s Irving, who will be back from injury and command the ball quite often too.

But then again, last year was LeBron’s most-punishing season as he carried Cleveland through the playoffs and into a Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs predictably lost since injuries to Love and Irving proved too much. Now that the team is healthy again, Cleveland has other players who can carry the load. So it’s very possible that Love could remain the Cavs’ top scoring option throughout the 2015-16 season. Then…when the playoffs begin, expect James to take over again.