Cavs await clearance on West's return

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The best team in the NBA is beginning to get healthy.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, riding an 11-game winning streak, could get guard Delonte West back in the lineup Tuesday against the New Jersey Nets.

He missing the last eight games with a broken left ring finger, leaving the Cavs without their top two point guards.

Starting point guard Mo Williams, out with a shoulder injury, said Monday he expects West to play. Coach Mike Brown wasn't as confident because he hadn't received final clearance, but that could come at Tuesday's morning shootaround.

West has been fitted for a splint on his hand, but it hasn't affected his shot during practice.

"It just seems like he never misses a beat," Williams said. "He might be a little rusty, but he'll catch on pretty fast."

Cleveland has turned to role players like Daniel Gibson and Jawad Williams to fill in for West and Mo Williams the last few weeks.

Jawad Williams, who began the year on the practice squad, has twice scored in double figures since West's finger injury. Gibson has flourished in his largest role in years, averaging 12.4 points over the last eight games. He was scoring just 5.6 points per game in limited minutes most of the season.

"It was tough and disappointing because I felt like I had put in a lot of work during the summer," Gibson said. "It's gratifying when you're asked to step in and play a key role, and then you step up to the challenge."

Gibson hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of a recent win over Oklahoma City. He had 12 points last week against Miami, all in the second half, after he missed the first half because of a medical emergency with his pregnant girlfriend.

"He's a tough son of a gun," Brown said. "He's always been a very good shooter, but now he's improved his game to where you can't just sit on his shot. Teams were doing that for a while, but now if you do, he'll drive right by you and make a play."

Mo Williams is scheduled to return sometime in early March and forward Leon Powe, signed over the summer, is on target to return from knee surgery after the All-Star break.

All of that causes an enviable problem for Brown, who must find time for what could be the deepest team in the league. The Cavaliers haven't been at full strength all season, yet they enter Tuesday's game at 41-11 -- two full games ahead of the Lakers for the best mark in the NBA.

"We'd love to have [West] back. We'd love to have Mo and Leon back," Brown said. "It'd be good to get anybody back."