Kyrie Irving (left biceps) cleared to return to practice as Cavaliers eye late playoff push
The Cavaliers announced Monday that Kyrie Irving has been cleared to return to full-contact practices after missing two weeks with a left biceps injury.
It's not yet clear when Irving will be cleared to return to the court. Cleveland is idle until a Wednesday night game in Orlando.
The two-time All-Star point guard sustained the injury during a 102-80 loss to the Clippers on March 16. With a little more than two minutes remaining in the first quarter and the Clippers leading 23-12, Irving swiped upwards at the ball to prevent Blake Griffin from attempting a putback shot in the paint, knocking the ball out of bounds. Immediately after the play, Irving began favoring his left arm and he quickly checked out of the game to receive medical attention. He would not return, departing with two points (on 0-for-5 shooting), four rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes.
Cleveland initially announced that Irving would miss at least two weeks to rest, and it was assumed that the Cavaliers might shut him down for the season in preparation for a fourth straight lottery trip. Instead, Cleveland (30-45) has gone 4-4 since Irving went down, clawing to within 2.5 games of Atlanta (21-41), losers of six straight games, for the East's No. 8 seed. To reach the playoffs, which was owner Dan Gilbert's goal entering the season, the Cavaliers will also need to surpass the Knicks (31-43) to crack the East's top eight.
However, the Cavaliers do have a favorable stretch the rest of the way, as just one of their seven remaining opponents (Brooklyn) has a record over .500. Cleveland also gets a head-to-head game against Atlanta and has four games against the East's bottom-five teams (Orlando, Detroit, Milwaukee and Boston). Sneaking into the playoffs would make the Cavaliers easy pickings for either the Pacers or the Heat, but it would help salvage a strange and disappointing season for the Cavaliers, who fired GM Chris Grant, traded away center Andrew Bynum and acquired Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes in midseason moves as they chased a return to the playoffs.
The injury bug has repeatedly bitten Irving during his three-year NBA career. Back in March 2013, he missed multiple weeks with a shoulder injury, and he suffered a hairline fracture in his finger back in November 2012. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft missed 15 games for the Cavaliers during his rookie season and sat out for an extended period of time due to a concussion. He also broke his hand during the summer of 2012, an injury that prevented him from participating in the Las Vegas Summer League. A toe injury also caused him to miss a majority of his one and only season at Duke.
Coach Mike Brown has turned to Jarrett Jack as his starting point guard while using rookie Matthew Dellavedova off the bench during Irving's absence. Irving, 21, is averaging 21.2 points, 6.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game this season.