Irving back for tired Cavaliers
By TOM WITHERS
CLEVELAND (AP) Kyrie Irving wanted to finish his rookie season on the floor. Despite some worry, the Cleveland Cavaliers will let him do it.
The NBA's presumptive rookie of the year returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday night against Philadelphia after missing nine straight games with a sprained right shoulder.
Irving, who hasn't played since April 3 when he re-injured his shoulder against San Antonio, will play limited minutes.
Cavs coach Byron Scott said the team considered shutting Irving down for the final six games of the season, but decided to let him play after he was given a clean bill of health by trainer Max Benton and team physician Dr. Richard Parker.
"We wouldn't do this if we thought there was a big-time risk," said Scott, who said he having some apprehension about playing Irving. "I gotta go with my gut and I've got to trust my guy Max and Dr. Parker, who really think he's 110 percent better than when he came back the first time.
"I gotta trust Ky."
Irving initially hurt his shoulder on March 30 against Milwaukee and tried to come back four days later, but aggravated the injury running into a pick.
Scott said Irving has been itching to play after missing 10 of Cleveland's past 11 games.
"Kyrie and I talked the other day a bunch via text and he kept telling me how much it was eating him up sitting on the bench," Scott said. "He's a competitor. He wants to play. He wants to be out there with his teammates."
Irving scored seven points in 12 first-half minutes against the Sixers. He passed a physical test with his shoulder when he took a hard foul on a layup attempt. Irving finished the game with nine points.
Scott said if Irving comes out of the game OK that his minutes may increase for Friday's home game against New York. However, Scott told his young star that it's possible he may sit out one or more of Cleveland's last five games.
"There are still some games I might shut him down," Scott said. "But I do want to see him get out there and enjoy being with his guys, his teammates and continue to get better as a basketball player. I think him sitting and watching has helped as well."
Irving was not available for interviews.
Scott said having Irving back will be a boost for the Cavs, who were beaten by 39 points on Tuesday night and have been playing nearly every night.
"It's a little bit of a shot in the arm," Scott said. "The seventh game in nine nights has taken its toll, but I do think having him back in the lineup will energize the guys a little bit as well. We're out of the playoff picture, we know that. But seeing a kid like that that wants to play helps everybody else realize that every game means something."
Irving is averaging a team-leading 18.8 points and 5.7 assists. The No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft has been everything the Cavs had hoped.
Updated April 18, 2012