In a game where knee injuries can shorten careers, general manager David Griffin and the Cavaliers’ coaching staff are making the right decision with Kyrie Irving.
It’s not easy to make a tough call to sit a player for an extended period in the NBA.
It’s even harder to do it when it’s a superstar whose career is as decorated as Kyrie Irving’s.
In a report by NEOMG on Wednesday, sources told Cleveland.com the Cavaliers have been pleased with the three-time All-Star point guard’s rehab process with his left knee — which of course was injured in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Yet the Cavs want to be watchful, meaning Irving will most likely miss the season opener and could possibly be out of action until early 2016.
Though not the popular choice, it would be the right one. Too many times have the careers of superstar-caliber players been shortened or ended due to returning from injury too quickly. And with the oft-injured Irving, this is the first serious concern in his soon-to-be five-year career.
Just by listening to the radio and reading some tweets and other social media, it seems uncertainty and panic have been instilled in Cleveland fans’ minds.
Now, it’s obviously a difficult task to fill Irving’s shoes and make up for his production on both sides of the floor. In fact, it’s near impossible. But what this does is allow others to contribute and gain experience during crucial in-game situations early in the season.
Take, for example, Mo Williams — a man who hasn’t donned the Wine-N-Gold since February 2011, Williams returned to Cleveland on a reported two-year deal. A fan favorite similar to the likes of Anderson Varejao, “Mo Gotti” will reunite with “the Wild Thing” and, of course, LeBron James.
Though under unfortunate circumstances with Irving’s absence, Williams will likely get the opportunity to be the Cavs’ everyday starting point guard. This prospect, in turn, will give him a chance to get re-acclimated with not only his former teammates, but also the rest of the starting lineup and roster.
A trip down memory lane surely awaits Williams, especially if he and James can establish the same chemistry that the two had in their first stint together in Cleveland — two years of which were the best regular seasons in franchise history.
Another beneficiary from this would be Kevin Love.
Last season, because of his pending free agent status, Love was all kinds of distracted by rumors throughout the year. Still, the dominant power forward pushed through the initial hardships, and really hit his stride in February and all the way to the playoffs. Then, the tie-up incident with Kelly Olynyk happened and his season ended with dislocated shoulder.
In July, Love signed a five-year contract extension, ensuring that Cleveland’s “Big Three” will be together for the foreseeable future. With his setbacks behind him, Love will be primed and ready to make a statement.
With Irving potentially out of the picture for a few months, Love will no longer play third fiddle and will become the Cavs’ second scoring option behind James. This will immediately slide Love into a role that he’s been used to in years past in Minnesota and should make him feel comfortable right out of the gate. It will allow him to work out any kinks and shake off any rust as well.
Irving’s presence will surely be missed, and it may be at the cost of some regular season wins. But prioritizing his long-term health should be at the top of both Griffin’s and head coach David Blatt’s list.
But when that knee and the rest of Irving’s body finally gets the proper treatment and rest it deserves, he and the Cavs will have nowhere to look but up, because the sky will be the limit.