For most basketball fans, Tuesday night's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers registered as yet another demoralizing defeat for the widely publicized preseason favorites in the West. Of course, it helps that head coach Mike D'Antoni put a rotten cherry on top of the slightly metallic-tasting sundae with his peeved postgame remarks to not-exactly-sympathetic L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers.
However, there was another big story to come out of this contest, one that speaks to the joy and positivity of watching a budding star return to the court without missing a beat. After missing 11 games with a fracture in his left hand, Irving immediately reestablished himself as one of the two or three most promising youngsters in the NBA, totaling 27 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds. In a game that found Kobe Bryant needing to score 42 points to give the Lakers a chance, Irving was the most dynamic force on the court.
The clear highlight was this drive in the fourth quarter. After a pick from Tyler Zeller near the end of the shot clock, Irving ran around Chris Duhon, sized up Dwight Howard, froze him with a ridiculous inside-out dribble, and scored through Antawn Jamison to get two points and the foul. It was Irving at his best.
The Cavs aren't a particularly good team even with Irving, and at 4-17 they currently rank as one of the worst squads in the NBA. But, at just 20 years old, he shows enough star power to give the franchise and its fans reason for optimism every time he plays. He's a must-watch talent, and we're glad to have him back.