BROOKLYN, N.Y.: Kyrie Irving believes he is ahead of schedule in recovering from an injured left biceps muscle and is hopeful he can return for next week’s road trip to Orlando and Atlanta.

Irving said he expects to be re-examined after Sunday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, which marks two weeks since he strained the biceps muscle in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. If all goes well, Irving is hopeful he’ll be cleared to return after the exam.

“Something to look forward to,” he said.

Irving has been shooting around for the past week and said he feels good. The injury wasn’t as serious as originally feared, he said, which adds to his optimism he’ll be back sooner than later.

The upcoming road trip could be huge, particularly next Friday’s game in Atlanta against the Hawks, which could go a long way in determining the final playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

Mike Brown refused to speculate when Irving might return.

“Is he closer today than yesterday? Yeah, but I can’t put a timetable on it,” Brown said. “Every day he’ll probably get a little closer.”

Praise for Gee

While the Cavs were concluding an off-day practice at Houston last month, Luol Deng was sitting in the first row of seats in Toyota Center watching Alonzo Gee participate in a scrimmage that included members of the support staff.

“I love Zo,” Deng said unprovoked. “Winning teams need guys like him.”

The recent rash of injuries has allowed Alonzo Gee to resurface in the Cavs’ rotation. He has bounced in and out of Brown’s lineup throughout the season, but usually does something positive whenever given the chance.

He hasn’t developed as a 3-point shooter as Brown had hoped, but he’s still an above-average defender and has come up with big plays at big times. Brown singled him out as one of the keys for the Cavs’ comeback victory against the Pistons on Wednesday.

“Zo is a guy who will not complain about anything,” Deng said Friday. “Some games he will play, some games he won’t, but the best thing about it is he never complains. I think every team needs a guy that just comes in, plays defense, plays hard, doesn’t complain about anything and is just a positive guy. Guys on his team love him, but your opponent doesn’t because of how hard he plays. Every team needs that.”

Gee has fought to stay sharp by getting in extra work whenever possible. He can often be spotted in the back hallways of Quicken Loans Arena following home games, headed up to the little-used practice court to get extra shots on nights he doesn’t play much.

“Zo has been tremendous. Whether he’s started and I took him out [of the rotation], or he’s played some and I took him out, he’s been the same guy every day,” Brown said. “He’s a professional, comes to work, he’s always ready when we call on him. Guys like that are invaluable. Not only because they help the team, but they help set the tone for the culture of the team.”

Popular guy

Dion Waiters’ buzzer-beater Wednesday was the top play of the night on ESPN, but anyone wanting to call and congratulate Waiters had a hard time delivering the message. Waiters doesn’t have voice mail set up on his phone. He does, however, get text messages.

“There were a lot of them,” he said.

Reminded that Brown said the game-winner couldn’t give Waiters more confidence because he can’t get any more confident, Waiters thought about it for a moment, then looked up and simply grinned.

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at https://ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.