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Buddy ball: Why Kyrie Irving might take his time coming back from his knee injury

It's the dead season of NBA news, but there's always something to discuss

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Late August means different things to different people. It's the return of school, the heating up of pennant races in baseball, and the NFL is coming back. The golf season is ending, and the US Open wraps up tennis on a grand stage. A lot of things are going on, they just don't really have much to do with basketball. There is no Summer Olympics, and there is no FIBA World Cup.

The Cavs have been busy, though. A team that had few players under contract long term at the conclusion of last season needed to bring everyone back. We wait on Tristan Thompson, but they've done just that. Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson are solid pieces on a budget. It's a roster loaded with offensive talent and pieces like Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, and likely Thompson that can be deployed to play defense.

It's not perfect. Shumpert and Thompson don't shoot. J.R. Smith is both fun and terrifying. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving haven't proven they can play like superstars in June (apologies to Kyrie, because he did for one game). LeBron James has the mileage ticking up ever higher. These are fair and real concerns. The Cavs will be title contenders regardless. Here are some thoughts as we creep towards September.

  • I don't love the January timeline for Kyrie Irving. I also believe there's a very good chance it's accurate and we don't see him until at least December. Why? I didn't "report" on it at the time (though some did), but it was an open secret that Irving and the Cavs didn't exactly see eye to eye on the best approach for Irving to take in dealing with the knee issues that plagued him throughout the playoffs.
  • It wasn't just the Cavs front office. Certain players on the team felt like there were games Irving could have played in that he sat out. There's a reason Irving came back and played Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals even though the team was up three games to none. And there's a reason after covering Game 3 of that series that I tweeted this:
Frankly, I was kind of lying. It was based on some stuff, but it wasn't solid enough for me to say anything more.

  • Given the hesitation of Irving and his support group to continue playing on that knee, and then the subsequent serious injury, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see them take their time coming back. Irving's goals next year are big: he wants to be a focal point of a team that wins an NBA title and to secure a spot with Team USA. Playing before mid December or so doesn't exactly play into either one of those.
  • The Cavs will have less of an ability to push him back, especially during the regular season. I don't even know if they would want to, but Irving's team can point to last season as the trump card.
  • All this said, I don't think this is a long term problem for Irving and the Cavs or his teammates. They'll be fine. And I'd guess Irving will want to play in the Christmas day game. If his knee is ready to go, I think we will see him in December.
  • The Tristan Thompson talk is mind numbing at this point. I don't really care about what Rich Paul is leaking or when. I think we can put to rest the notion that he isn't a good agent, though. He's professional, and he's looking out for his clients. He and his agency seem to do it well. The conversations about what Thompson is worth are a lot better than conversations about whether or not he's a bust. So I'll take them. I don't get Thompson hate mail anymore.
  • What should happen? I think a five year, $85 million deal that is backloaded to help the Cavs with the tax bill this year, with a player option on the end is more than fair for both sides. I hope that gets done. I'm not too excited about paying Thompson more than $90 million, but maybe that's where the NBA is headed. If Thompson is making less annually, or about the same, as Enes Kanter, I'll feel relatively good about that.
  • One final note: I know I've been kind of absent the last couple weeks. The start of school has been tough for me. I want to thank Chris and the guys for stepping up. See you in the comments.