Undermanned Cavaliers welcome Pavlovic back into lineup

Guard Sasha Pavlovic, sidelined by a sprained foot since Jan. 23, returned from a 23-game absence to start in the Cleveland Cavaliers' game against the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday.

Joe Smith started alongside LeBron James and Anderson Varejao in the frontcourt. Pavlovic started alongside Delonte West in the backcourt.

"I'm ready to play right now," Pavlovic said Tuesday, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It hurts a little bit when I'm going right because I'm squeezing the part I hurt. But they told me it's going to feel like that a couple more weeks, so I'm just going to have to play over the pain because nothing can happen.

Pavlovic was hurt Jan. 23 in a victory over Washington. Despite that long layoff, coach Mike Brown said he went with his "gut" in deciding to put Pavlovic right back in the lineup.

"Sometimes I'd start a guy if he was out a couple of games or something like that," Brown said. "Obviously Sasha's been out longer, but you know it's just a feel and we don't have that many games to kind of sit back and ease anybody in, so it's best to throw him in the mix and let him get his feet wet as quickly as possible and see what happens."

Pavlovic's return may help the Cavs immensely. They lost guard Eric Snow for four to six weeks because of arthritis-related symptoms in his left knee, which had been operated on in October. Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas is out with a sprained back, and center Ben Wallace has been battling back spasms.

"You have one guy come back and you have another guy go out," James said before the game. "It's been like that for us the last two, three months."

Pavlovic has played in only 38 games for the Cavaliers. He missed all of training camp during a contract holdout.

Brown said he wasn't told he needed to monitor Pavlovic's minutes, and he had no expectations beyond just wanting Pavlovic to play hard.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.