INDEPENDENCE: Kyrie Irving had a good day on Monday despite not being able to do much on the court.
Irving was a limited participant in practice because of his sprained right shoulder, and remains questionable for tonight’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, but he won the Eastern Conference’s Rookie of the Month award again for March and is one month away from sweeping the honor for the season.
Irving wore a protective sleeve over the shoulder and took part in the noncontact portions of practice on Monday. He shot around after practice, did a few jumping jacks to show his shoulder was fine and even stopped by to run a television camera for a few minutes while coach Byron Scott addressed reporters after practice.
The Cavs, however, prevented Irving from talking to reporters as part of their rule that injured players are off-limits for interviews.
The decision over whether Irving will play ultimately rests with Scott, who will ask the rookie how he feels and must trust Irving to be honest with him. Irving admitted before Saturday’s game at the New York Knicks that the shoulder was a little sore, so Scott sat him.
He’ll do the same tonight if the shoulder is still sore.
“He’s been honest with me the last couple of times and I’ve sat him,” Scott said. “I don’t know if he’ll continue to be honest. All I can do is trust what he tells me and we’ll go from there.”
The Cavs have lost seven in a row and 10-of-11 and now get the division-leading Spurs. Beating them would be difficult enough with Irving, but without him, Scott conceded the Cavs will have to play a nearly perfect game.
The Cavs haven’t shot better than 40 percent in any of their past six games. They slowed the tempo Saturday against the Knicks without Irving and remained competitive until the game’s final minutes. Scott said they’d have to play the same way against the Spurs if Irving isn’t available.
“We have to change the way we play,” Scott said. “We have to value the ball a little bit more. We can’t be reckless as far as really trying to get up and down the floor. We want to try and control the tempo of the game a little bit more. That’s probably the blueprint if he doesn’t play. We really try to come down and run plays every single time and use the clock as much as possible. Make the [opponent] play defense for 20 seconds at least.”
Irving averaged 19.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists in March. He led all rookies in scoring, 3-point percentage (.413), free-throw percentage (.881) and assists.
He leads all rookies in scoring at 18.9 points and his 5.7 assists rank second. He already won the award for January and February and appears to be the runaway leader for Rookie of the Year.
“If he’s not, I don’t know who is,” veteran forward Antawn Jamison said. “I know I’m biased, but look at the body of work and things he’s done. Game after game, opponents are trying to do everything possible to stop him. To be 19 points a game, I don’t see him not being rookie of the year.”
Gibson has surgery
Daniel Gibson had surgery Monday to repair the torn tendon in his left ankle and likely will miss the rest of the season. The Cavs’ medical staff recommended the surgery and Gibson spent the last week traveling the country in search of more opinions.
He visited the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., before electing to have the surgery done by renowned foot and ankle specialist Dr. Richard Ferkel at the Southern California Orthopedic Institute in Van Nuys, Calif.
Gibson tore the tendon two weeks ago in a win at the New Jersey Nets, which remains the Cavs’ most recent victory. He averaged 7.5 points, but shot a career-worst 35 percent this season. He is under contract to the Cavs next season for about $4.8 million, but it is only partially guaranteed.
Anderson Varejao did some running at practice Monday and rode an exercise bike, but Scott said there still isn’t a date for him to return to the court. He is expected to return sometime in the next two weeks, but nothing is firm.
The Cavs have only 16 games remaining and Varejao is intent on returning for at least a few of them. But if the Cavs have just a handful of games left when he is cleared, Scott said he would have a conversation with Varejao before determining whether to play him.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.