Kyrie Irving's shoulder still ailing
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cavaliers coach Byron Scott has no doubt Kyrie Irving should be the NBA's rookie of the year.
"None whatsoever," he said.
He's not so certain when Irving will play again.
Wearing an elastic brace on his sprained right shoulder, Irving was limited in practice on Monday and remains questionable for Tuesday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs. Irving did not take part in any contact drills during the workout as he recovers from an injury sustained during the Cavs' 37-point loss to Milwaukee on Friday.
Scott rested his star in New York on Saturday and may choose to sit him again.
"I don't think there's any need to put him in harm's way," Scott said. "If there still is an issue with it as far as pain or soreness, it doesn't benefit him to get out there and get that thing reinjured and miss the rest of the season or anything like that."
As Scott provided an update on Irving's condition, the precocious 20-year-old took a break from a post-practice shooting drill to join the media half-circle around his coach. Irving put on a pair of headphones and peered through a TV camera's lens at Scott.
"Are you recording this?" Scott asked his point guard.
"Sounds good," Irving said.
Irving was in good spirits and appeared ready to return to the floor to help the Cavs, who have dropped seven straight games, nine of 10 and faded from the playoff picture after being in contention just a few weeks ago.
Irving did not speak with reporters, who monitored his every move after being allowed inside Cleveland Clinic Courts to observe. Irving, who pulled off his jersey as media members entered the gym to reveal the protective sleeve on his shoulder, shot free throws, hoisted 3-pointers and worked on his ballhandling skills.
Shortly after practice ended, he was named the Eastern Conference's top rookie for the third straight month, an expected nod to the No. 1 overall pick who has been the league's best first-year player almost from the moment the season started.
Irving averaged 19.9 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 assists in 15 games last month. Among Eastern rookies, he ranked first in scoring, 3-point percentage (.413), free-throw percentage (.881), assists fourth-quarter points (7.4). He's averaging 18.9 points overall.
If there's a better rookie, Cavs forward Antawn Jamison hasn't seen him.
"I know I'm biased, but just look at his body of work and the things that he's done," Jamison said. "Knowing that game after game opponents are trying to do everything possible to stop him. and to be getting 18 or 19 points per game, I don't see him not being the rookie of the year."
Scott doesn't see anyone in Irving's class.
"I don't think it's even close," he said.
Scott will have the final say on whether Irving plays against the Spurs, who have won seven in a row. He plans to talk to Irving before the game to make sure there's no lingering soreness or stiffness before making a call. Scott is relying on Irving to be honest with him.
"He hasn't lied to me yet -- not yet," Scott said. "He's been very honest with me on how he feels and I think that communication that we have will continue. When I was hurt I was hurt. There's a difference between being hurt and being injured. I could play with pain and I know he can, too. But I just chose not to have him play the last game with pain."
Cleveland's slide has been especially agonizing for the 35-year-old Jamison, who came to Cleveland midway through the 2010 season thinking he might be the final piece to win the Cavs a title. But the past two years haven't gone the way he hoped.
It wasn't long ago that the Cavs were in the playoff discussion. That talk has been silenced.
"Like everybody, I want to win," said Jamison, whose contract expires after this season. "I might not be here next year. It was tough to know that we were so close and instead of taking steps forward, we took dramatic steps backward. It's tough."
Scott expects his team to play better at home than it did in Friday's 121-84 loss to Milwaukee. Following the game, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert expressed his frustration on Twitter: "One of those nights where I can't find the words to match the emotions (at least non-profane words)," he wrote. "Cavs fans deserve better. Much better."
Scott echoed his boss' sentiments and believes the Cavs, who lost 26 straight last year, will respond.
"We've been through this before and it's been worse," he said. "For us to think that we're going to stop playing and get ready for the draft is ludicrous. We're not going to do that. I don't think anybody in that locker room is going to do that. I would expect us to come out with a lot more fire and passion."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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