Irving back for Cavs, Smith in uniform against Rockets

CLEVELAND (AP)—Kyrie Irving has returned to the lineup for the Cavaliers, who will have one of their newest guards on Wednesday night as well.

Irving will start against the Houston Rockets after missing one game with a sore lower back. Irving took part in Cleveland’s morning shootaround and said afterward that a few days of rest and rehab helped.

“Obviously, it’s not going to go away in two days,” he said. “But we did the best we could do with rehab and a lot of treatment.”

The Cavs, who have dropped six of eight and lost to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, are still without superstar LeBron James. He’s missed the past five games with a knee and back strain and may be out at least another week. James was not at Quicken Loans Arena for the shootaround.

As the Cavs wait for the game’s best player to get healthy, the team welcomed newly acquired guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, who were acquired from the New York Knicks a three-team trade that sent guard Dion Waiters from Cleveland to Oklahoma City. Both Smith and Shumpert, who is currently sidelined with a dislocated left shoulder, were present at the shootaround but were not allowed to participate.

The Cavs said after the shootaround that the deal was made official and Smith would be available against the Rockets. Shumpert is still out with his shoulder injury and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, the team said.

The team was also closing in on another deal before tipoff to acquire Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets for two future first-round draft picks, a person familiar with the trade told The Associated Press. The teams agreed in principle on the deal Wednesday, said the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the NBA had not yet approved the trade.

Irving said he has not yet spoken to Waiters and felt bad he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to his teammate. Irving did not make the trip to Philadelphia, where Waiters took part in pregame warmups before he was pulled from the starting lineup while the Cavs tried to complete the trade.

“To see one of my brothers go like that, it’s heartfelt,” said Irving, who spent two-plus seasons with Waiters. “I wish him the best. He’s truly a talent and I’m just happy he’s in a situation he can thrive on. I’m happy he’s happy and I hope he does well in OKC.”

The Cavs acquired Smith to help their bench production. The league’s Sixth Man of The Year in 2013, Smith will provide scoring and another weapon to put around James.

“He’s a guy that can supplement into the lineup whether it’s starting or coming off the bench,” said Love, who said the deal gives the team tremendous firepower.

Shumpert, whose defense is his calling card, will be out at least two more weeks, but the Cavs are excited about what the duo can bring.

“Shump, when he gets healthy, he can give us another dynamic, especially on the defensive end,” said center Kevin Love. “He’s a guy who has size and you can match him up with several different players out there on the perimeter.”

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AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.


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Updated Jan 7, 5:23 pm EST