All of 20 years old, Irving appears fated to be a top five player in the NBA at some point. Already, he’s one of just four players in the league averaging at least 20 points and fives assists per game while shooting 40 percent or better from deep.
The other three? Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James himself. Not bad company for the sophomore to put himself in.
Almost needless to say (though not quite) Irving means everything to Cleveland’s future. Not just in their second pursuit of LeBron in 2014, but in general. He’s already re-instilled hope into an otherwise pessimistic franchise. And he’s not even close to done.
But Irving can’t do any more for the Cavaliers this season. Cleveland is 21-40 and 10 games back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Which doesn’t surprise us. Talented as the roster was at full strength (Anderson Varejao, anyone?), this season wasn’t supposed to culminate in a playoff berth. Cleveland just wasn’t at that point yet.
Soon enough, the Cavs will be, which is why it’s important for them to remain cautious with the fragile Irving. With nothing really left to play for this season then, it would only seem prudent of the team to shut an ailing Irving down for the rest of the year.
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com though, that’s not happening:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are always careful with young franchise player Kyrie Irving, but the latest concern regarding his lingering knee injury may be more false alarm than fact.
Cavs coach Byron Scott seemed to drop a bit of a bombshell Thursday at practice when he said he’d consider shutting down Irving after the All-Star guard told reporters the only way he could get better is if he sat out the rest of the season. Irving recently missed three games with a hyperextended right knee.
“If Ky is hurting, I have no problem sitting him down,” Scott said.
But team sources told ESPN.com there was a miscommunication between Irving and Scott. The team will continue to monitor Irving’s knee and he’ll continue to get treatment on it, but there are no plans of sitting him down for this injury.
False alarm or not, Irving’s ailing knee is unnerving, as is his previous assertion that the only way he could get better is by sitting out the rest of the season.
And yet, you can’t help but trust him and the Cavaliers here. They know what’s at stake and neither they nor Irving is about to jeopardize his well-being. Knees are fickle when you play in the NBA. Just ask Derrick Rose. But you can’t live in fear of them, even if your a lottery-bound team with seemingly nothing to lose, save for some meaningless games.
Sitting him really shouldn’t be an option then if he himself doesn’t believe it necessary. More likely than not his comments were taken out of context and blown out of proportion. He could just feeling the effects of a long season. The schedule will do that to you.
Should Irving’s knee worsen, of course he should sit. And I’m sure the Cavs would agree.
Right now, though, they need him on the floor directing a young team to a strong finish. Because while a playoff berth is out of reach, providing Cleveland with a glimpse of what they have to look forward to isn’t.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.