Kurt Helin

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 20: Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers speaks with the press after the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on December 20, 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by David Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Cleveland has Kyrie Iriving back

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‘Tis the season for holiday parties and busy schedules. If on Sunday you were trying to finish your shopping before going to the neighbors Christmas extravaganza, so you missed the NBA action, we understand. And we’ve got you covered. Here are five things you need to know from around the NBA Sunday.

1) Kyrie Irving returns, the Cavaliers are getting whole. Cleveland didn’t send Kyrie Irving down to the D-League for a rehab stint before his NBA debut this season, but they did the next best thing — he returned against the 76ers. As you’d expect there was rust on him and his game after having been on the shelf since Game 1 of the NBA Finals — Irving missed his first five shots. Eventually, the shots started to fall, and Irving finished with 12 points on 12 shots, plus four assists in 17 minutes of work. What was important is that he moved well and wasn’t hesitant, so he should look better against the Knicks Wednesday (and the Warriors Friday). What’s important is the Cavaliers are getting whole.

Oh, by the way, LeBron James had 23 to lead Cleveland to a 108-86 win Sunday over struggling Philadelphia.

2) Damian Lillard still putting up numbers, injured or not. Portland did what they do Sunday: Look good early then fade late and lose (this time to Miami 116-109). Damian Lillard did what he does as well, being the hub of the Blazers offense to the tune of 32 points and nine assists. But by the fourth quarter Lillard seemed to be favoring one leg a little, and after the game came news he is battling plantar fasciitis, which he aggravated against the Heat. Not good. If you’re a Trail Blazers fan because the only real cure is rest, and Portland can’t afford to lose Lillard for any length of time, their offense drops off by 12.5 points per 100 possessions.

3) Paul Millsap had the dunk of the day. Atlanta just snuck past Orlando Sunday, 103-100, but Paul Millsap had the dunk of the day in my book. That is Jason Smith for Orlando who recognizes what his happening too late and can’t get over in time to stop it.

4) Kyle Lowry ejected, tied for league lead in technicals, and the Raptors lose. Toronto teases you, they beat San Antonio recently and showed the potential for what they can be. Then they come out Sunday at home against the Kings flat, went down 17-2 to open the game, trail by 22 in the first quarter, and look unimpressive in a loss. A frustrated Kyle Lowry (4-of-13 shooting) got called for a foul he didn’t like in the third and would not stop chirping at the official asking for clarification, picked up a couple of technicals and got tossed. He’ll get a fine for that. Lowry now has eight technicals this season, tied for the league lead with Blake Griffin. If you’re getting as many techs as Griffin, you’re talking too much. Look at it this way: The Raptors are 11.4 points per 100 possessions better with Lowry on the court, they can’t afford for him to get tossed anymore.

 

5) DeMarcus Cousins with a monster slam. From the Kings’ win, Cousins hurt the rim with this one.

Kyrie Irving returns, Cavaliers rock lowly 76ers 108-86

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 20: Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives past Tony Wroten #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 20, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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CLEVELAND (AP) — As Kyrie Irving dressed following his first game in six months, LeBron James popped on some music.

With Chris Brown’s “Picture Me Rollin”‘ filling the locker room, Irving, James and Iman Shumpert bobbed their heads in unison and did some small dance moves.

Close to full strength, the Cavaliers are grooving again.

Irving scored 12 points and played 17 minutes in his season debut and James had 23, leading Cleveland to a 108-86 victory Sunday over the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, who lost their 10th straight and fell to 1-28.

Back on the floor for the first time since breaking his left kneecap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Irving showed some rust but that didn’t matter.

“Kind of been a long, long road, but finally getting out there with my teammates was a pleasure,” Irving said.

The Cavs managed to open the season 17-7 without Irving. But Cleveland is more complete with the All-Star point guard running its offense and being a headache for opposing defenses. Now that Irving’s back, the Cavs are as healthy as they’ve been since early in the playoffs last season.

“We’re almost there,” James said.

Matthew Dellavedova made four 3-pointers and added 20 points for the Cavs, who improved to 12-1 at home and are eyeing a Christmas Day game against Golden State. James didn’t play in the fourth quarter, logging a season-low 25 minutes.

Nerlens Noel had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the brutal Sixers, now 0-17 on the road and on their second double-digit losing streak.

The losing is taking its toll.

“Everybody’s human,” Noel said. “Everybody has their own frustrations, but you stay positive and do your best to keep working through it.”

Irving received a warm ovation from the crowd during pregame introductions. He waved in appreciation and was cheered again as he dribbled up the floor for the first time, a sight Cleveland fans have been waiting months to see.

The Cavs ran a set play for him on their first possession, but Irving missed the layup.

“I didn’t know I was going to be that open at the rim,” Irving said before James reminded him of his gaffe.

“He tanked the layup!” James shouted.

Irving smiled at the playful ribbing.

“As you can hear, I did trick the first layup but it’s OK, I’m not worried,” he said. “It feels good, just getting this one out of the way.”

Irving missed his first five shots before scoring on an uncontested layup after James made a steal near mid-court and fed his teammate. Following the assist, James walked over to Irving patted him on the head and said, “Welcome back.”

“I was on my way to the rim and I saw Ky,” James said. “He had missed his first couple shots and I was like the best way to come back is to get a layup, get an easy one and it was only right I was able to find him, welcoming him back the best way I know how.”

The Cavs plan to ease Irving into the rotation, building up his stamina before extending his minutes. After he was taken out in the first quarter, Irving rode a stationary bike to stay loose.

Irving scored just two points in the first half, but had seven in the third quarter when he showed a couple moves that have made him one of the league’s premier backcourt players. He made a signature crossover dribble and scored on a twisting layup before dropping a 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 62-40 lead.

 

TIP-INS

76ers: Brown coached Irving’s father, Drederick, in Australia and has known the 23-year-old since “he was two days old.” Brown unsuccessfully tried to recruit Irving for the Australian national team. … Newly hired associate coach Mike D’Antoni will join the team on Philly’s upcoming trip that starts Dec. 26 in Phoenix.

Cavaliers: The crowd roared when Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel’s touchdown pass against Seattle was shown on the arena scoreboard. Fans gathered around TVs at halftime to catch up on the action. … G Mo Williams missed his second straight game with a sprained right thumb. … G Iman Shumpert returned after sitting out one game with a strained groin. He had three points in 15 minutes.

 

Bucks’ coach Jason Kidd out indefinitely after hip surgery

during the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 20, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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After what had been a promising last season, but Bucks are off to a rough 11-18 start this season, including a defense that went from feared to bottom five, and an offense that lacks shooting.

Now they have another challenge — head coach Jason Kidd is out indefinitely because of needed hip surgery that will take place Monday in New York, the Bucks announced Sunday.

“I tried to put off surgery for as long as I could, but after consulting with my doctor, he advised that the best course of action was to have the procedure now,” Kidd said in a released statement.

C.F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal added these details.

ESPN’s Marc Stein said that Kidd is likely out until February.

Assistant coach Joe Prunty will take over in the big chair.

“I have every confidence in Joe to lead our team during my absence,” Kidd said in the statement. “Joe has many years of coaching experience both in the NBA and in international competition. He’s well-respected in the league, and I know our players and coaches will give their all during Joe’s time as head coach.

At least he gets an easy start, the Bucks next game is against the Sixers.

Blazers’ Damian Lillard admits he’s battling plantar fasciitis

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Damian Lillard has never missed an NBA game, he’s suited up and played in 275 straight for Portland. That included Sunday when he had 32 points and nine assists in a 116-109 Blazers loss to the Heat.

But Lillard was limping in the Portland locker room after the game and admitted he is battling a case of plantar fasciitis, reports Jason Quick. Just don’t expect Lillard to willingly take some time off.

However, when Lillard was asked about whether he was worried about his left heel, he was emphatic in his answer.

“No. You see I finished the game,’’ Lillard said. “So, I’m not really worried about it….

“Before today it was a little bit sore … and in the game I think I aggravated it a little bit … it got a little tight, a little sore.’’

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, a condition that makes it painful to run. Which sucks if your job is to run up and down a hardwood floor and play basketball.

The only real cure for it is rest. It can be treated, but rest is the only true answer.

The Blazers have a little rest coming up. They play in Atlanta Monday but then are off until Friday, when they face a back-to-back on the road (Oklahoma City and Dallas). But that may not be enough for Lillard if this gets more severe.

That would be trouble for the Blazers — they’re offense is 12.5 points per 100 possessions worse when he is off the floor. He is by far their best shot creator, and without him on the floor it all falls to C.J. McCollum, and then… it is not pretty.

Kyrie Irving returns with Cavaliers, 1st game since Finals

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 20: Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers warms up prior to the game against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 20, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***Kyrie Irving
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CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving is back on the floor with the Cavaliers.

The All-Star point guard broke his left kneecap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals in June. He made his season debut Sunday when the Cavs hosted the Philadelphia 76ers.

After months of rehab, Irving was in the starting lineup for Cleveland, which went 17-7 without him. Irving received a rousing ovation from the Quicken Loans Arena crowd when he was introduced before the game and he waved to the crowd.

Irving was cheered again when he dribbled up court the first time. He missed his first shot, a driving layup, and then picked up an assist with a pass to Timofey Mozgov, who scored from the corner.

Irving was replaced with 8:05 left in the first quarter and immediately got on a stationary bike to stay loose.