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NBA AM: Irving Injury Could Derail Cleveland

The Cavaliers have been one of the hottest teams, but an injury to Kyrie Irving could derail their momentum



Cavaliers are red hot, but health remains a concern

The Cavaliers (37-22), winners of four straight and eight out of their last 10, currently sit third in the Eastern Conference standings. The team that started the season searching for an identity and looking to build chemistry has found their groove as we approach the stretch run and are finally beginning to look like true title contenders.

Cleveland has compiled an 18-3 record since four-time MVP LeBron James returned to the lineup from injury on January 13. James, of course, has been the primary driver of the success. However, the moves Cleveland’s front office made during the early stages of the campaign to keep the club afloat have paid off. The acquisitions of guards J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and center Timofey Mozgov have injected the team with talent and, most importantly, depth.

The only thing that can seemingly stop the Cavaliers right now appears to be themselves – or bad health.

All-Star guard Kyrie Irving suffered a left shoulder injury in Thursday night’s win versus the Golden State Warriors. The win served as a statement game for the resurgent Cavaliers, but it may have come at a price.

According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, Irving did not fly with the team to Indiana for Friday’s tilt versus the Pacers. The guard remained in Cleveland to undergo an MRI on his ailing shoulder.

Irving has had injury concerns since entering the league but the latest setback, on the surface at least, doesn’t appear to be a serious long term ailment.

Irving is averaging 21.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 56 games contests this season.

Respect to Earl Lloyd, First Black NBA Player – Dead at 86

It would be very remiss of us if we didn’t pay respects to Earl Lloyd, the first black NBA player, in this space today. Lloyd died at the age of 86 on Thursday.  Lloyd made his league debut in 1950 for the Washington Capitals and also was one of the two first black players to claim an NBA championship (Syracuse Nationals, 1955).

West Virginia State University, Lloyd’s alma mater, released the following statement.

“The State family mourns the loss of a fellow Yellow Jacket and trailblazer who was a true champion both on and off of the basketball court,” West Virginia State President Brian Hemphill said in a statement. “When Earl stepped out on the court on that fateful date in 1950, this remarkable man rightfully earned his place in the historic civil rights movement and, more important, he opened the door to equality in America.”

The NBA released a statement as well.

“The NBA family has lost one of its patriarchs.  Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in an NBA game, was as inspirational as he was understated,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “He was known as a modest gentleman who played the game with skill, class, and pride.  His legacy survives in the league he helped integrate, and the entire NBA family will strive to always honor his memory.  Our deepest condolences to the Lloyd family.”

Lloyd played nine seasons in the league, averaging 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in stints with Washington, Syracuse and Detroit. Lloyd was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, as a contributor.

Miami HEAT sign Michael Beasley

After four straight trips to the NBA Finals, life for the Miami HEAT over the past few months has been filled with highs and lows.

Last summer, the franchise unexpectedly lost four-time MVP LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers in free agency. But the club was able to recover by securing All-Star forward Chris Bosh to a long-term deal despite having multiple suitors in the mix. The team also discovered diamond in the rough center Hassan Whiteside, who has continually flashed signs of dominance throughout the season. The team also acquired dynamic guard Goran Dragic at the trade deadline. But all of that momentum was deflated when the club recently lost Bosh for the remainder of the season after blood clots were found on one of his lungs.

Talk about a roller coaster ride.

With the team still in the hunt for a playoff berth, the club signed former lottery pick Michael Beasley to a 10-day contract to bolster its frontcourt depth.   This marks the third stint with the franchise for Beasley, who was originally drafted with the No. 2 overall pick by the team in 2008.

“I feel great. I’m definitely blessed and humbled to have another opportunity,” Beasley said, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. “It’s like I never left, honestly.”

Although it’s just a 10-day deal, the reeling HEAT could use a touch of scoring to enhance their offensive production. That’s an area where Beasley has been able to excel throughout his professional career.

In 214 regular season games with Miami, Beasley has averaged 12.7 points and 5.2 rebounds on 47 percent shooting from the floor.

Ray Allen not interested in joining Cavaliers?

Quick note on free agent guard Ray Allen. According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the veteran and future Hall of Famer hasn’t decided to walk away for good. But if the guard does return to the league it won’t be with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Allen, who played with LeBron James in Miami the last two seasons, has reportedly been a prime acquisition target for the Cavaliers should he decide to lace up the sneakers for another season.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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