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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Cleveland Cavaliers gearing up for 2014 NBA Finals Run

lebron-james-benchMuch has been written about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ sluggish start, which saw them at just 19-20 at one point in the season. Analysts talked as if the sky was falling since the trio of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love wasn’t living up to the expectations set forth. But it turns out that the supporting cast was what needed upgrading, with Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov all making significant contributions to Cleveland after coming over in trades this season.

Since that low point when Cleveland was 19-20, they’ve gone 32-7 and have locked up the Central Division title along with the East’s number-two seed. Now sitting at 51-27 with just a handful of games left in the regular season, the Cavs will be gearing up for the 2015 NBA Finals run that they were expected to make. But James, who knows a thing or two about winning championships, isn’t expecting anything to be handed to his team.

“We’re a championship contender, but we’re not there yet,” LeBron told Cleveland.com. “We have the talent, we’ve had the process so far, but we still have some time left. We won’t take those days for granted.”

With four regular-season games remaining, it’s likely that Cleveland will try to get their stars some rest and prepare for the 2015 NBA Playoffs. There are four different teams that they could face in the opening round (Brooklyn, Boston, Indiana or Miami), but none of these clubs figure to offer a serious challenge.

kevin-love-staying-cleveland-1What could be challenging, though, is if they have to face a bruising Chicago Bulls team in the second round. Their division rivals aren’t scared of Cleveland, and Chicago and should have Derrick Rose back by then.

Assuming Cleveland can get by their second-round opponent, whoever it should be, they might have a date with the Atlanta Hawks, who’ve been this season’s biggest surprise. Atlanta (59-19) has won a franchise-record number of games and has the East’s top seed all locked up. They boast four All-Stars, have home court advantage (throughout the East), went on a 19-game winning streak and play excellent team ball.

The Hawks won’t go down easily, but if the Cavs can get by them (or another team in the Eastern Conference Finals), they’ll face whichever club comes out of the loaded Western Conference. One could play roulette to figure out which team this will be, although the 63-15 Golden State Warriors certainly have a good shot at emerging.

But for right now, like LeBron said, the mission remains using these last few games to improve and get ready for the postseason. The road to the Finals will be steep for Cleveland since two of their stars – Irving and Love – have never even logged a postseason minute. That said, it will be up to championship-seasoned veterans like James, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion and James Jones to explain to the other players how intense the postseason can be.