Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Kyrie Irving cleared for return to Cavs
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- No more headaches. No more sitting. No more watching.
Kyrie Irving's good to go.
Cleveland's rookie point guard has been cleared to play after missing three games with a concussion and will be in the starting lineup Wednesday night when the Cavaliers host the Indiana Pacers.
"I'm back to 100 percent," Irving said following the team's morning shootaround. "It feels good to get back out there."
Irving was the first high-profile player to be concussed and have to abide by the NBA's new guidelines on concussions. Irving had to go through several steps in his recovery, the final being a full participation in practice Tuesday before he could be cleared by team doctors, who were required to consult with a league physician.
Irving was injured Feb. 7 in Miami when he fell in the foul lane and banged the back of his head on Dwyane Wade's knee. Irving wasn't diagnosed with the concussion until the following day, after he experienced a headache and didn't feel well while warming up before a home game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Irving said he's been symptom-free for days and is eager to rejoin the Cavs, who went 1-2 while he sat in street clothes at the end of the bench.
"It was just the NBA-mandated process," he said. "I feel like I felt better than most concussions, but it was a process I had to go through and it made me appreciate what I was doing at the beginning of the season and when I was out and not being able to be with my teammates. It was a process I had to go through."
Cavs coach Byron Scott was informed Wednesday morning that Irving would be available to play. Scott had assumed Irving would be cleared after the 19-year-old participated in a full practice Tuesday, when he scrimmaged and had contact for the first time since being hurt.
"It's good to have him back, no doubt about that," Scott said. "The only thing I'm thinking is he probably won't ever complain of a headache again."
Irving said he had a headache following the game in Miami, and it worsened the following morning.
"My head was throbbing a little bit when I came in and I told the doctors about it and they diagnosed it as a concussion," said Irving, who hadn't spoken to reporters in a week. "I had to go through some testing mentally and with my balance. It was a different process. I didn't know they took those necessary steps for concussions now."
Irving, who is averaging 18 points and 5.1 assists and has made two last-second game-winning shots, characterized his concussion as "very mild."
However, he understands the risks involved and the importance of being cautious.
"The most important thing is my health, especially in playing this type of game," he said. "Concussions are a serious thing and you never want to take them for granted. It depends on the player and where they get hit and the severity of the concussion. With me it was very mild, but I still had to take the five-step process."
As difficult as it was to endure, Irving said the week off had some benefits, and he found a positive in not being able to play.
"I kind of took it as a break for me, honestly," said Irving, who was selected to play in the Rising Stars challenge during All-Star Weekend in Orlando. "It couldn't have come at a better time. I'm going to be even busier next weekend. It's good to get a break. I feel fresh and it feels good to get back out there."