NEW ORLEANS — Former Hornets coach Byron Scott was back in town Sunday with the Cleveland Cavaliers, whom he has coached the past three years.
“I went back to my old house,” said Scott, who coached the Hornets from 2004-09. “There are a lot of pleasant memories here. I said when I signed that I liked the food and the people here. Those haven’t changed.”0
That was only half of why Scott was happy on a beautiful Easter Sunday. The better half was that point guard Kyrie Irving, who had missed the past eight games — including seven consecutive losses — with a left shoulder sprain had come back to play.
Irving, an All-Star in his second season, was injured in a collision with Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas on March 10 and was expected to miss a month. However, he was likely to be shut down for the rest of the season, the team protecting its most valuable asset with it not going to the playoffs.
“He went through drills (Saturday) and moved around well, and we exposed him to contact,” Scott said. “He said he felt fine, and everything looked OK.”
That was the first time Irving, the 2012 Rookie of the Year after being the overall first pick in the draft from Duke, had done anything other than shoot at practices since the injury occurred, Scott said.
Seen walking to the court an hour before the game, Irving was asked if he was going to play, and said “Yes.” Asked how the shoulder felt, he responded “Great.”
Scott said Irving, the will be put on a playing restriction, however. Similar to the one the Hornets have with guard Eric Gordon, Irving will not play back-to-back games.
“He’s not playing (Monday) against Atlanta,” Scott said. “We want to be very cautious with him.”
When Irving was told about the restrict, he said “Why not wait until tomorrow” to make a decision.
“He’s a lot like Chris Paul in him in that he’ll try to state his case,” Scott said of the former Hornets point guard who was drafted in 2005 with him as coach.
“But that’s just the competitor in him. He doesn’t want to sit out; he wants to play.”
That’s not the only comparison to Paul that Irving has drawn. He is proving to be one of the quickest point guards in the league, excellent at driving to the basket and scoring or assisting. And, he is shooting 41.4 percent on 3-point attempts. He won the 3-point shooting contest during All-Star Weekend.
Irving came into Sunday night’s game averaging 23.0 points and 5.7 assists. Against the Hornets, he had 31 points on 11 of 20 shooting.
In his first game against the Hornets this season, on Feb. 20 at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, he scored 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting. More important, 20 came in a 37-point Cavs fourth quarter, as they held off the Hornets 105-100.