Report: Kyrie Irving likely not back opening night, could be out until January

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LeBron James may be pumped about finally getting to play with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love again, but it looks like he is going to have to wait awhile.

The Cavaliers are going to be very cautious with Irving’s return from a fractured left kneecap, which required surgery. Understandably, we’re talking about a franchise player here. But instead of the original timetable of 3-4 months, the Cavaliers likely will not have him when the season tips off in late October, reports Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. They may not even have him in 2015 period.

Multiple league sources say his rehabilitation is going smoothly, but that the chances are slim of him being in the opening-night lineup against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 27. One source said he could very well be unavailable up until January….

The Cavaliers want to bring him back slowly without risking a setback, with the goal of being at full strength entering the playoffs.

This isn’t just the exact right approach to take, it’s the only sane one to take.

Last season, when Irving, Love and LeBron were on the court together the Cavaliers outscored opponents by 13.6 points per 48 minutes with an offensive rating of 113.5 points per 100 possessions. After the All-Star break, they were +14.7 per 48 and did that with a defensive rating of 99.2 (points per 100 possessions allowed).

As much as Irving will push to get back on the court, the Cavaliers can go without him for an extended period — Mo Williams was brought in as a backup point guard and Matthew Dellaveova has re-signed — and still comfortably be a top seed in the East. Likely the top seed.

What matters starts in mid-April. Cleveland’s success next season is not going to be judged on regular season wins, it’s all about the playoffs. If healthy, anything less than a return trip to the Finals is a disappointment (and for some, it will take winning a ring to make them happy). Pushing Irving back for a game in November, which could lead to a compensation issue and pain or an injury that follows him through the season, makes no sense.

What the Cavaliers want is to be 100 percent healthy around the All-Star break and then pick up momentum into the postseason. If they can do that, watch out.