Kyrie Irving’s return from injury to close out season adds value moving forward

You probably heard about how Kyrie Irving only played eleven games at Duke last year, so I won’t bother mentioning that. What I will point out, however, is that if Kyrie did not return to the Cleveland Cavaliers line-up last week, to play in these last handful of meaningless games, that would’ve marked the second straight season he was unable to complete due to injury.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving, right, and San Antonio Spurs' Gary Neal, chase a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 22, 2012, in San Antonio. The Spurs won 114-98.
It’s that trend of being technically unable to finish two seasons of basketball in a row that I’m glad Kyrie was able to break before it ever actually started. I’m not sure there’s anything remotely positive about the possibility of that thought having to hang anywhere in, around, or near his head moving forward either. Which is all why I’m more encouraged than I otherwise would be with the fact that he’s back playing right now, even if it means the Cavs might lose a ping pong ball or three in the process.

That win against the Knicks on Friday might’ve pushed the Cavaliers out the top-five-worst-records in the League category for good maybe, but I’m okay with that even if it did. I’d much rather see Kyrie’s season come full-circle here in year-one out on the court, than to watch him sidelined in an overly cautious and tanktastic manner, for example, in response to the threat of injury. I also like the fact that Irving worked himself back into shape, and wanted to close the year out on the floor, even though his team had nothing left to play for and he already won the ROY. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been too frowned upon either if Kyrie had decided to just pack it in last week and get ready for the off-season instead, but he didn’t do that. 
 
Since missing the nine straight previous games heading into last Wednesday, Kyrie has now played in two more since returning for that home loss to the Sixers. He went for 21-3-3 in 26 minutes on Friday against the Knicks, and then for 19-2-3 in the loss last night to San Antonio. The Cavaliers are 1-2 overall in those last three, heading into the Memphis game tonight, and Irving has averaged 16.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.3 assist in 25.3 minutes per night since his return. His minutes have increased from 20 on Wednesday against Philly, to 26 on Friday, and then 30 last night too.

From here, it will be interesting to see how much he ends up playing tonight on the second night of a road back-to-back against the Grizzlies, but I’m just glad he’ll be out there ready to play regardless. Even if he ends up doing the unthinkable, and helps the Cavaliers actually win another game or two before this week concludes.

Derrick Rose vs. Kyrie Irving to close out season: I’m looking forward to this match-up specifically to close out the season later this week too, because these two guys never actually did end up playing against each other this year. The previous times the Cavaliers and Bulls have met this season neither Rose nor Irving were both in their respective line-ups at the same time, but on Thursday in Chicago they both should be. There’s a chance Chicago may sit Rose in that last game, but there’s also a chance Chicago may need to win that game too for the 1-seed. Or maybe Coach Thibs decides to play him anyways to keep up their edge or whatever. However it happens though, hopefully it does because I’ve been waiting to see this match-up for the first time all season.

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.

Quantcast