INDEPENDENCE: Byron Scott lost $25,000 on Sunday, but he gained back his point guard. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad day after all.
A team desperate for good news finally received some when Kyrie Irving returned to practice on Monday and was cleared to play in tonight’s home game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Cavs went 2-9 without their star after he fractured his left index finger against the Dallas Mavericks 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 while he was tormenting assistant coaches in pickup games the past few weeks.
“Now it’s time to whip some other teams,” Irving said.
He 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 during the summer regarding a one-on-one game between the two stars. Neither player is certain when, or even if, the game will actually occur. Irving was more concerned Monday with ending the Cavs’ five-game losing streak.
“I’m just trying to get a win, man,” Irving said. “That’s for the offseason.”
The news isn’t as good for Dion Waiters, who has missed 10 days with a sprained left ankle. He did some light running after practice on Monday, but Scott said a bone bruise on the ankle is hindering progress. The Cavs lost all four games that both Waiters and Irving missed.
“I think Dion is still a little ways away,” Scott said. “If it was a regular ankle sprain, he probably would’ve been able to practice today. But the bone bruise obviously makes it a little more difficult for it to heal. It’s going to take a little time.”
Scott learned Sunday morning Irving had been cleared. It was 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 the Minnesota Timberwolves 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 on Monday.
“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.”
Scott hardly said anything inflammatory, but he was asked about the Timberwolves shooting 35 free-throw attempts compared to the Cavs’ nine. It was a fair question and Scott paused 11 seconds before responding.
“I’m trying to figure out a way to say this without getting fined. It was that bad, it really was,” Scott said. “I understand we’re playing in Minnesota, but 35-9? We went to the basket just as much as they did.”
The league believed that warranted a $25,000 fine, the same amount they hit San Antonio Spurs guard Stephen Jackson with after Jackson threatened on Twitter to punch Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the mouth.
“I should’ve got my money’s worth,” Scott said.
He hasn’t determined yet whether Irving will start or come off the bench for his first game back. With both Irving and Waiters sidelined, the Cavs averaged 83.5 points and shot 37 percent. 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 tonight, but Scott wasn’t ready to commit to that yet.
He said he hasn’t made up his mind yet on his starters.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.