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Cleveland’s not hurting. The expected (relatively) slow start most expected from them has not materialized, they’ve won eight of nine to begin 2015-16, and the team hasn’t been hamstrung by lingering offseason injuries to LeBron James and Kevin Love.
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The squad is still missing another superstar, however, in the form of Kyrie Irving. The point guard fractured his left kneecap in Game 1 of last June’s NBA Finals, and it was reported that he’d be knocked out for 3-4 months as a result. Five months and 10 days later,
Irving has finally been cleared to resume activities that would only allow him to maybe be cleared for practice. It’s clearly been a long haul.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving was recently cleared for intensive weight-bearing activities, league sources informed Cleveland.com.
From here, the team's training staff can intensify his leg-strengthening assignments as it sees fit, I'm told.
This comes on the heels of Cavaliers coach David Blatt telling like it should be, regarding the recovery process for his All-Star guard:
"[We're] not rushing things and not letting up from the day-to-day work, but still a ways to go," he said. "And how much, I can't honestly tell you, but he's working at it every day."
"We're just taking small steps," Blatt said. "Small and sure."
When you’re gifted the talents of players like James and Love, you’re allowed to take the small steps.
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The work of Irving’s replacements, however, has allowed the Cavaliers much more leeway.
The Cavs were ready to sit Irving into 2016 well before the season started, but point man Mo Williams and reserve Matthew Dellavedova have been absolutely fantastic for the league’s third-ranked offense. Williams is having a career year thus far, at age 33, which is saying something for a man that made an All-Star team back in 2009. Dellavedova has built upon the pub afforded him from his heavy minutes during last year’s Finals, growing into a replacement-level player and one of the league’s better point man reserves.
Williams, acting as starter, averages nearly 17 points per game and 5.2 assists, and he makes 40 percent of his three-pointers. The presence of Dellavedova allows the veteran to only play 31.8 minutes a game. The Australian-bred backup plays 27 ticks a night, averaging 8.2 points per game as the Cavs’ fourth-leading scorer alongside 5.1 assists. LeBron’s talents (he leads the team at 6.6 assists per game, and topped the Cavs in assists per game last season with Irving around) clearly helps take a load off, but the contribution is mutual.
For the next three weeks and ten games, the Cavaliers get to stick with Eastern Conference opponents save for one visit to the badly-hurting New Orleans Pelicans. The expected Eastern mainstays like Atlanta, Toronto and Chicago have built up a series of wins but none have impressed as much as these Cavaliers. If any team was hoping to take advantage of an autumnal Cavalier swoon, as Irving sat while Love recovered from a shoulder injury and LeBron took his time working for back woes, they’ve fallen short of the mark.
Irving does have a way to go. He isn’t anywhere near practice condition, and he’ll still need weeks and weeks of reps before he can be counted on to work at NBA shape. This is a man that hasn’t been able to put any significant basketball-styled weight on that kneecap since the first day of June, and he’ll be playing his way back up to speed for possibly a month past his return date.
That’s just fine, though. The Cavaliers expect their season to extend deep into June yet again, with Irving as an All-Star mainstay. The expected recovery timetable has gone on far longer than expected, but these things happen. Just as long as Irving isn’t ruing a too-quick return to action in autumn next spring, this is all gravy.
And 8-1 helps.
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