Kyrie Irving is ever thankful for his rejuvenated health to begin this post-season run. Following an injury-ravaged 2015 playoffs, Irving has managed to regain All-Star form since returning to Cleveland’s lineup January 20. The elite floor-general was hampered by nagging injuries before ultimately suffering a fractured patella in Cleveland’s NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors.
In addition to missing his team’s final five games in the championship round, Irving spent all summer arduously rehabbing his knee. Irving’s long recovery cost the three-time All-Star 24 contests to open the 2015-2016 campaign. However, with Kyrie Irving back in stride, the Cavaliers have produced another elite season.
Irving — and his fully rehabilitated knee — were able to hold off the upstart Detroit Pistons (44-38) in Game 1 of the teams’ opening round playoff series Sunday. The #1 seed, 57-win Cavs surprisingly struggled all season against Detroit. In fact, the Pistons owned the powerhouse Cavaliers during the regular season, besting Cleveland in three of four match-ups.
This dominant performance spoke volumes to the bounce-back season the former Duke Blue Devil has enjoyed. In 53 contests, Irving has averaged 19.6 points, 4.7 assists and 1.1 steals. With Irving in tow, Cleveland sports a robust 37-16 record.
Concerning his return from severe injury, a thankful Irving had this to say to WKYC.com regarding his health:
“I just had to be patient, understanding that I had to take it one day at a time. Being injured and going into the playoffs injured, I got a chance to play 53 games, which I’m grateful for and thankful that we have a good medical staff. They did an unbelievable job getting me prepared to come into the postseason healthy, and I just feel like I’m in a good place. Last year, going into the playoffs injured, obviously, it’s still in my head, but I’m way past that point, which I’m happy for, happy about.”
Undoubtedly, Irving’s fortuitous return is something both he and the Cavaliers organization can feel good about. Last season’s playoff run was greatly hindered by setbacks suffered by two-thirds of the celebrated “big three.” In addition to Irving’s ailments, All-Star Kevin Love was taken out of the post-season fray after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the team’s first-round series opposite Boston.
Now Cleveland’s title-seeking triad of Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Love are back together and fully mended. With his team at full strength, just ahead of the postseason, Irving told WKYC.com:
“I’m just preparing for the intensity level of everything and getting locked in, as everyone would say,” Irving said. “It’s just basketball, but it’s obviously going to be at a high level and it’ll be really skillful. People have to think the game, and that’s what the playoffs are all about, high-level basketball and being prepared for that.”
As aforementioned, the Eastern Conference’s top seed faces a definitive bug-a-boo first-round opponent in eighth-seed Detroit. In the Pistons’ three regular-season victories against Cleveland, Detroit outscored the Cavs by a plus-five margin, 104-99. Irving is cogently aware of the potential threat the Pistons pose, explaining to WKYC, “It doesn’t change our respect that we have for them. They can have their own attitude. We just have what we have going on here in our locker room. We’re going to take care of business.”
[Photo by Jason Miller/ Getty Images]