Shutting down Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season should be an easy decision for the Cleveland Cavaliers to make.
If Irving’s knee is still bothering him, and if the team has any concerns at all about him hurting his knee further, the Cavaliers should definitely shut him down for the rest of the season.
Irving is clearly the team’s best player, and it’s an understatement to say that the Cavaliers would have a hard time playing without him for the rest of the season.
But so what?
The Cavaliers are not going to the playoffs this year. The best thing that can happen is that the Wine and Gold players show improvement and that the team builds up momentum for next season.
The worst thing that can happen is to have a key player suffer an injury that might linger into next season. If sitting Irving down now helps him strengthen his knee so that he will be fine for the start of the 2013-14 season, then it’s a no-brainer that he should be sitting.
If it’s really not bothering him, and that may be the case, then sure he should play the rest of the season.
But if he is having pain and there is a significant chance of it getting worse, well then it’s a great time to see who else can step up at the guard position.
With Irving out, for example, it would be interesting to see just how much rookie guard Dion Waiters averages per game, and how much of a leader he becomes. Waiters is a dynamic scorer, although he has been streaky at times this season, and he has stepped up his game at other times when Irving has been out. If he is called on to be the main scorer for the rest of the season, I think that he would respond in a big way.
Irving’s absence would also give veteran Daniel “Boobie” Gibson more minutes, if he can stay healthy. Gibson is a longtime fan favorite, and this could give him a chance to shine.
Newcomer Wayne Ellington would also likely get more minutes. Ellington came to Cleveland in the big trade with the Memphis Grizzlies, and he has been impressive so far during his time with the team.
Likewise, the Cavaliers signed guard Shaun Livingston during the season after he was waived by the Washington Wizards. Livingston has been very good for the Cavaliers, and it would be nice to see him get more big minutes in games to see how he does. Also, after all of the injuries that Livingston has come back from to get to where he is this season, it would be a great story for him to score 30 points one night and lead the Cavaliers to a victory.
Irving’s absence could also mean the Cavaliers could bring up a guard from the NBA D-League and see what he could do.
Everyone who watches the Cavaliers wants to see Irving play, and it would be great to see him play for the rest of the season. But it would be even better to see him play next season and for the next 15 or so seasons after that, and that’s why the Cavaliers need to be very cautious with him right now.