Irving back with Cavs, but team missing 2 starters
CLEVELAND (AP) — All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving returned after missing three games, but the Cleveland Cavaliers were without two starters — and their trainer — for Monday night’s game against the New York Knicks.
Irving returned to the lineup after sitting out the past three games with a hyperextended right knee he injured in practice. He tried to play in road games at Orlando and Miami, but wasn’t himself and the Cavs decided to rest him for a week.
“I landed awkwardly,′ said Irving, explaining the injury for the first time since it happened. “It was just a deep bruise. When I was playing in Orlando and Miami I could feel it, and obviously I was just trying to play through it but it was really limiting to my ability to go to the basket and jumping off my right leg.”
Irving said he’s not yet 100 percent, and Cavs coach Byron Scott said he’ll closely monitor the 20-year-old, “more for fatigue than anything.” Scott, though, said Irving will likely play in the “mid 30s (minutes)” against the Knicks. He scored a career-high 41 against them in New York on Dec. 15.
While Irving returned, the Cavs were without rookie guard Dion Waiters and center Tyler Zeller, who both became ill during the weekend and had to be taken to the hospital. Also, trainer Max Benton missed Monday’s game because he’s sick.
“It’s some type of virus that hit those guys,” said Scott, adding that team family members have also been stricken with the bug. “It’s something with the stomach. It’s just something going around.”
Scott said Waiters and Zeller are both resting at home.
Wayne Ellington started for Waiters and Marreese Speights filled for Zeller. Waiters was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for February after averaging 15.8 points.
The Cavs went 2-1 last week without Irving, who has missed 14 games in his second NBA season because of injuries. He banged knees in practice last month with teammate Omri Casspi. Irving missed 11 games with a broken index finger earlier this season, and played several weeks wearing a protective mask after breaking his jaw.
He also missed games last season with assorted injuries, and Irving played in only 11 games as a freshman at Duke because he tore a tendon in his foot.
Scott dismissed the notion Irving is injury prone.
“He’s 20 years old and his body hasn’t fully developed,” Scott said. “He’s got a long career ahead of him and the injuries he’s getting are just unavoidable. It happens in the flow of a basketball game or practice. He’s not injury prone. It’s no big deal.”
The NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 2012, Irving is averaging 23.3 points, 5.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds.