INDEPENDENCE: Kyrie Irving was back in a Cavs uniform on Monday, back laughing with teammates and practicing in a limited capacity.
For a team reeling from the loss of Anderson Varejao, the sight of Irving nearing a return was good news at a time when it was badly needed.
Irving participated in all of the noncontact portions of practice and there appears to be a strong chance he could be medically cleared from his concussion in time to play Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.
“I’m hoping I get him back Wednesday, but if not, I’m also trying to prepare for the worst,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “If he doesn’t, we know we’re going with Sess (Ramon Sessions) and the other guys we have and we’ll go from there.”
Irving rode a stationary bike Saturday, the first step in the NBA’s new concussion reinstatement program. He jogged, performed agility drills and completed noncontact exercises during practice Monday.
Now he must be examined and cleared medically before he can return to a full contact practice. That could happen this morning. After practice, he will be examined again and need another clearance before playing. Barring any setbacks, all of that could be concluded before the game Wednesday against the Pacers.
“To me, he seems normal,” forward Antawn Jamison said. “I think we’ll have a better gauge of his progression after practice [today] with some contact. He’s not going to be on the court unless he is 100 percent. Until he gets back, Sessions and Gib [Daniel Gibson] just have to continue to pick up the slack and do the things they’ve been doing.”
As for Varejao, Scott offered no update on his fractured right wrist or when the Cavs can expect to have him back. Varejao needs more tests on the wrist, but team doctors wanted to give his body a couple of days to heal itself before further examinations. Scott said he hasn’t heard the word “surgery” yet.
“All I’m doing is asking them to tell me a time frame when they get a time frame,” Scott said. “I’m not trying to get all the particulars. Just let me know if he’s going to be out a week, two weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, just let me know.”
The injuries have piled up already this season, from Irving’s concussion to Varejao’s wrist, Gibson’s neck and Anthony Parker’s back. Scott said last week that Parker has reached a plateau in rehabbing his back but doesn’t sound as if he is close to returning. The injuries piled up last year as well and played at least a small role in the team’s miserable 26-game losing streak.
Irving’s return should help morale. The goal is to prevent it from decaying as it did last season.
“Those things always play in the back of your mind,” Jamison said. “You just have to think positive that we won’t have a repeat of last year. Just go out and play with the type of passion that you normally play with and just hope for the best.”
Scott picked on newly signed point guard Ben Uzoh during the film session Monday for getting three shots up in his first 14 seconds on the court Saturday night, but has otherwise been impressed with his ability to pick up the Cavs’ system.
While his playbook is condensed, Scott said, Uzoh already knows what he has been given much better than four or five Cavs players who have been with the team all season.
“It’s either that he is very, very smart or we’ve got four guys that are very, very dumb,” Scott said. “It’s one of the two or a combination of both.”
Uzoh is on a 10-day contract with the Cavs.
Jamison and Gibson didn’t do much at practice Monday. Jamison has logged heavy minutes lately because of all the injuries, and Scott had planned to rest him during practice days this week to give his body a break and give more reps to the young players.
Gibson twisted his ankle in the loss Saturday, although it’s not believed to be serious. Scott said Gibson could’ve played if the Cavs had had a game Monday night.
Scott is sticking with Semih Erden as his starting center for Wednesday, even though Erden was scoreless in 14 minutes, with three rebounds and four fouls against the Sixers.
When told that Erden didn’t play well on Saturday, Scott replied, “That’s an understatement.”
But he’s staying with Erden for his size against Pacers All-Star center Roy Hibbert, who is also 7 feet tall.
“I gotta give him a chance,” Scott said of Erden. “I think [Hibbert] is a great challenge for him. I’m hoping that last game was one of those where he felt [depressed] for Andy, because a lot of our guys did. And this game he’ll look at as ‘I’ve got a golden opportunity here. I better try and take advantage of it.’ ”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://cavs.ohio.com Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.