INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Kyrie Irving was on the court after Cleveland Cavaliers practice Sunday, whipping passes to teammates who were participating in a shooting drill and later tossing up a few shots of his own.
Before reading too much into that news, consider for a moment that while Irving was making those passes he was wearing ice compression devices on both of his knees, and when he was shooting he was wearing pants — and not sweats or warm-up pants, either — along with casual sneakers.
It’s coming up on five weeks since the Cavs opened training camp and five months since Irving underwent surgery on a fractured left knee cap he suffered in Game 1 of the NBA Finals in June, and the team continues to maintain there is no timeline in place for the three-time All-Star’s return.
Following the Cavs’ road game in Philadelphia on Monday, the team comes back to Cleveland for a 10-day stretch with only four games in that span. It’s a light part of the schedule after the season opened up with three games in four nights and will allow coach David Blatt to hold several practices. However, Blatt isn’t ready to begin talking about working Irving back into the mix just yet.
“He’s gradually increasing his workload, but I can’t say that particular period (after the Sixers game) will be significant in terms of his on-the-court work with the whole team,” Blatt said Sunday. “He’s gradually increasing his workload, and we’ll take him through the process necessary to get him back on the court with everybody.”
When asked for specific examples of Irving’s advancement, Blatt replied, “Right now, I don’t have any. I don’t.”
According to a Cavs spokesman, Irving’s big-picture improvement has been in the areas of strength, conditioning and rehabilitation. At the Cavs’ media day in late September, Irving told reporters he had been running for three weeks. For what it’s worth, Irving will make the road trip to Philadelphia with the Cavs on Sunday after staying behind last week when the team went to Chicago and Memphis
A source familiar with Irving’s rehab process told ESPN.com the point guard could ramp up his rehab and play in a week “if it was a Finals game on the line,” but obviously that is an unrealistic hypothetical. There are still five and a half months until the playoffs begin, let alone the Finals nearly two months after that.
Meanwhile, the Cavs have gotten off to a 2-1 start to the season without Irving. His understudies at point guard, Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova, have filled in admirably in Irving’s absence. The pair have combined to average 19 points, 10.7 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and just 1.6 turnovers per game. The numbers compare favorably to Irving’s personal averages of 21.7 points, 5.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.5 turnovers per game last season.
“We’re starting it off with those point guards,” Kevin Love said. “The ball is in their hands and I know it’ll be the same when Ky comes back, but we’re trying to keep our turnovers down. We’ve done a good job of that. … We have a great game plan and we’ll just keep this thing rolling.”