The NBA Central is loaded with talented players that will not lull any avid fan.
That’s a big reason why the division is such a joy to watch in today’s world. Take a second and run down the list of teams: Indiana Pacers (Paul George), Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose), Detroit Pistons (Andre Drummond) and Milwaukee Bucks (Jabari Parker). These were the names dominating early NBA Central talk—and rightfully so.
Each player or team has a compelling case based on performances (Bucks stifle Warrior streak), irrefutable production (Andre Drummond on Pistons), defying expectations (George and Pacers) and past production (Rose and the Bulls).
But there is one player constantly spoken about for every apparent reason—one player who can make fans jump out their seats with every move he leaves on the floor—one player who is in the conversation for best handle in the NBA—and that’s none other than Kyrie Irving.
This is a trendy topic. With a healthy Kyrie, this team has a legitimate shot to win the NBA championship. But despite the Cavs being the best team in the East, again, this team has three reasons that tell fans all they earnestly care about is Kyrie’s health for the playoffs.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Cavs are once again playing in June, but this time, if healthy, they will have a legitimate shot for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Here are three reasons the Cavs are monitoring Kyrie’s health despite the magnitude of the situation:
Limited minutes for Kyrie Irving:
Irving made his coveted return against the Sixers a few months ago, which suggests the Cavs wanted to give Irving three games to establish a rhythm before playing the NBA champs in the Warriors. After major knee surgery, in three games, Irving was averaging 10 points, 3.3 assists, and 1.6 turnovers in 20 minutes per contest.
Taking Kyrie out of crunch time:
These are not gaudy numbers and will not embolden Cleveland faithful, but this was Irving’s first three games since being out six months. It’s clear the Cavs organization want to ensure Irving is brought back sparingly, a normal practice used by most teams in the history of the game unless it’s Derrick Rose or Kobe Bryant.
A clear indicator the Cavs care more about health than winning big games is when Irving was yanked during the crucial moments of the Cavs/Warriors contest on Christmas day. The Cavs lost 89-83 because of missed free-throws, inability to hit point-blank shots down the stretch and turnovers; however, Irving not playing in the biggest moments was a big reason the Cavs lost too. The icing on the cake was Irving not playing in the following game against Portland.
In his first two seasons, Irving played 110 games out of 162 games; conversely, in his last two seasons, Irving has played a whopping 146 games out of 162 games according to bkref.com. These games have Irving playing 34 minutes a game, his career average.
However, he is averaging his lowest playing time since his rookie season at 31 minutes a game, which has equated to 19.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 rebounds, his lowest production since his first year.
For the season, the Cavs have a good record at 52-21, putting up some nice win streaks. But they have dropped some games to some teams they shouldn’t have lost to. These are all clear indications that the team is gearing up for the playoffs.
This year they hope to avoid a cataclysmic deterrent by ensuring Kevin Love’s arm doesn’t get ripped out of his socket or Irving’s kneecap doesn’t buckle so hard that it cracks.
Where there is smoke there is fire, and the plumes of dust will settle once one of the greatest showstoppers in the game plays the game at peak form in the playoffs, and maybe the finals. A healthy Cavs team with a hungry mentality can beat anybody in this game.
The Quintessential Gentleman