HANG TIME, Texas — You certainly can’t blame Byron Scott for keeping one eye on the future.
After all, it’s now less than two years until LeBron James can pull back on that Cavaliers jersey and run the floor on a fast break in the same lineup with Kyrie Irving.
Yes, yes, we know it’s just rank and scurrilous speculation (the best kind) that The King would return to the Cleveland throne he abdicated. But we’re more concerned right now anyway with Irving, the 20-year-old wunderkind and his own future.
After Irving mentioned the other night that the only way his sore right knee could get better was to sit out the rest of the season, the coach caused a stir by saying he’s open to the possibility.
“If Ky is hurting, I have no problem sitting him down,” Scott said.
According to the indomitable Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the alarm bells were ringing prematurely and it was simply a case of lines getting crossed.
But team sources told ESPN.com there was a miscommunication between Irving and Scott. The team will continue to monitor Irving’s knee and he’ll continue to get treatment on it, but there are no plans of sitting him down for this injury.
Irving is expected to play against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
The 20-year-old Irving played almost 38 minutes against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, and didn’t seem to be slowed by the knee, which he banged against teammate Omri Casspi’s knee in a practice two weeks ago.
That being said, one does have to wonder if the Cavs wouldn’t be wisest to at least consider putting the 2012 Rookie of the Year on the shelf. They’re a 21-40 team going into tonight’s game against the Grizzlies and going nowhere except back to the draft lottery.
It is understood that virtually everyone in the NBA is playing at this time of the year with bumps and bruises, aches and pains. It is also admirable that Irving wants to be out there on the court every night battling with his teammates, further establishing his credentials as a leader down the line.
But there are times when the head must rule over the heart and competitive instincts and it is a hyperextension of the knee, that most critical body part for any player. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf still shudders at memories of the time back in 1986 when Michael Jordan talked his way back onto the court prematurely after a broken foot. Nothing happened, but it could have. And you can be sure it’s rolling around inside Reinsdorf’s head now about Derrick Rose.
Contrast that with one of the best decisions that Gregg Popovich has made in his illustrious coaching career. After Tim Duncan tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee in the 78th game of the 1999-2000 regular season, he was still champing at the bit to go in the playoffs. The Spurs were defending champs, a 53-win team. They had a chance to go back-to-back. Duncan was running up and down the floor every day at practice, trying to prove that he was capable and ready.
Yet Popovich shut him down and the Spurs were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the Suns. Then, of course, they came back to win three more titles in ‘03, ‘05 and ‘07.
Don’t simply conclude that Scott might have been overreacting. It’s what you do with a franchise player, think long term.
And remember, you’d want Kyrie in tip-top shape when LeBron comes back in two years.