Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving is set to return to the lineup Sunday night against New Orleans after missing eight games with a strained left shoulder.
There was some speculation Irving would miss the rest of the season after injuring the shoulder March 10 against Toronto. But coach Byron Scott said the All-Star point guard is ready and will play against the Hornets.
"It wasn't so much what I noticed but it was the way he was moving, the way he said he felt," Scott said. "He has to trust me. If I don't think he looks right, if I don't think he's moving well, then I'll take him out."
Irving was expected to miss at least three weeks with the injury, his latest during a brief NBA career. He missed 11 games earlier this season with a broken index finger and three with a hyperextended knee. The Rookie of the Year in 2012, Irving missed 15 games last season with injuries and he broke his hand during a summer practice.
The Cavaliers had dropped seven in a row heading into the matchup with New Orleans, but Scott insisted Irving's return was not about wins and losses. Cleveland began the day with a 22-49 record and is headed for a lottery pick.
"If we thought he was in any danger we would not put him out there," Scott said. "That's first and foremost. I'm the cautious one when it comes to putting him out there."
Irving is averaging 23 points and 5.7 assists a game. The Cavs said their leading scorer will be inactive for Monday's game in Atlanta as "he takes the next steps in his recovery."
Also, Hornets coach Monty Williams said guard Greivis Vasquez would return to the starting lineup. Vasquez has missed two of the past three games with a sprained left ankle.