They weren’t true games of 1-on-1 in the sense that only one dribble was allowed per possession, thus rendering James’ significant size advantage moot as he couldn’t simply back Irving down with his dribble and post him up. Games finished with the first player to score three baskets.
Getting hot from the outside with his shot helped Irving succeed, per the source.
To be fair, James ultimately evened the set of games 2-2 before the pair finished for the afternoon, but Irving was, apparently, in the zone.
For a guy who hasn’t played a game in more than five months as he continues to recover from a fractured left kneecap that he suffered in Game 1 of the Finals, Irving’s performance against James, the four-time MVP, certainly can help boost the three-time All-Star’s confidence and reaffirm the rehab work he has already put in.
“He has advanced to running plays 5-on-0. He’s doing some light 1-on-1 contact drills. He’s certainly taking some steps forward,” Cavs coach David Blatt said before Cleveland’s 109-97 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. “Again, can I put a number on it in terms of days left until we see him back out there fully? I really can’t. I’m not trying to keep it from you. I just don’t know. But definitely seeing progress in the last few days and that’s encouraging.”
In addition to the advancements Blatt mentioned, Irving has also added pregame shooting on the court to his training regimen.
The team is not putting any pressure on Irving to hasten his recovery, however, even with point guard Mo Williams missing the past two games with a right ankle injury and listed as doubtful for Monday’s game against Orlando.
Irving will not accompany the Cavs on their two-game road trip through Toronto and Charlotte next week, but he could be back on the road full-time come Dec. 10 when Cleveland travels to Orlando and Boston, per a source.
“A lot of times, him not coming on the road trip has to do with the amount of work, the body of work, that we can do with him back here at the facility, the type of treatment that he can receive,” Blatt said. “Part of that was with the idea in mind that we could accelerate it a little bit if we were having him under the right conditions. We’ll see going down when he’s going to start traveling more consistently with us.”
Blatt said Irving’s demeanor on the bench during games has become more involved as he senses his comeback date drawing near.
“I think it sort of tells you that he’s getting closer and closer. He recognizes that his time is coming,” Blatt said. “... He feels more a part of it. When you’re sitting on the side and you’re not able to participate in drills or even part of a shootaround, you get a little bit removed from it. Ky is becoming immersed again in the team and you see that in his activity level during the games. It bodes well for us and him. We miss him.”
He’s getting there, Cavs fans. Irving's return might not quite be imminent, but it’s not far off, either.