The Cleveland Cavaliers are one step away from Kyrie Irving joining the active roster and logging his first minutes of the 2015-16 NBA season.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the point guard is planning to make his debut on Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, though he needs team clearance.
“Irving’s final hurdle before the team approves of his intention to play will involve a series of physical tests to measure his body’s strength and responsiveness.”
McMenamin notes Irving was cleared for full contact more than a week ago and has practiced multiple times without a setback, denying a return to the court seems overly cautious.
But it’s easy to be an Internet doctor. At worst, the signs are encouraging.
Irving has been sidelined since fracturing his left kneecap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, missing a total of 28 playoff and regular-season contests.
Matthew Dellavedova and Mo Williams have shared the starting job in Irving’s place, helping Cleveland to a 16-7 record so far this year. Irving’s return would relegate them both to the bench, but they’ll likely share the floor because Iman Shumpert recently sustained a hamstring injury.
Although Irving’s role will probably — and should — be limited, he’ll return to his spot alongside LeBron James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov. The unit logged a 116.1 offensive rating and 96.8 defensive clip in a team-high 481 minutes last season, per NBA.com.
The Cavaliers shouldn’t expect a stellar performance from Irving right away, considering his opponent will be All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook.
However, the challenge will show exactly how far Irving is from his normal style. Fans must be patient with the next step of recovery, especially since he’ll enter the gauntlet for his first game of 2015-16.
Sorry to dwindle the news, but I won't be returning tmrw. It was wrongfully reported. When I do come back you'll hear it directly from me.
— Kyrie Irving (@KyrieIrving) December 16, 2015