INDEPENDENCE: A team desperate for good news finally received some Monday when Kyrie Irving returned to practice and was cleared to play in Tuesday's home game against the Los Angels Lakers.
The Cavaliers went 2-9 without their star after he fractured his left index finger against Dallas on Nov. 17. He played in one more game before the fracture was discovered. Now he's returning a week earlier than expected, although he still must wear a protective splint over the finger.
He said it doesn't affect his dribbling or his shot, and it certainly didn't look like it had an impact watching him whip the assistant coaches in recent pickup games.
"Now it's time to whip some other teams," Irving said.
The Cavs are still without Dion Waiters, who has not been cleared following a sprained left ankle. The Cavs were 0-4 with both Irving and Waiters out of the lineup.
Irving leads the team in scoring (22.9 points) and assists (5.6). He returns just in time to face Kobe Bryant, with whom he made a friendly bet during Team USA practices over the summer regarding a one-on-one game between the two stars. Neither player is certain when, or even if, the game will actually take place. Irving wasn't even thinking about it on Monday.
"I'm just trying to get a win, man," Irving said. "That's for the offseason."
Cavs coach Byron Scott learned on Sunday he would have Irving back. It turned out to be the best part of his day, since Scott was also fined $25,000 by the league for remarks about officiating he made following the Cavs' loss at Minnesota on Friday.
In mock protest of the fine, Scott brought assistant coaches Jamahl Mosley and Nate Tibbetts to stand on either side of him for the first few minutes of his post-practice interview session with reporters.
"They’re here to grab my mouth in case I say something," Scott said, "because you can’t say anything in this league without getting fined."
Despite the fine, Scott was elated to learn he'd have his point guard back in time for the Lakers. Irving's scoring average would rank sixth in the league, but he hasn't appeared in enough games to qualify.
"I think all the guys are looking forward to having him back out there because he does make most of our guys' jobs a lot easier," Scott said. "He can create so much for himself and for his teammates. I'm sure the guys will be happy to have him back out there."
Irving is likely to start Tuesday, but Scott wasn't ready to commit to that yet. He said he hasn't made up his mind yet on his starters.