Kyrie Irving Injury Update: Cavaliers PG's Return Date Announced

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2015

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) signals against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

After missing the first 24 games of the season with a knee injury, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is set to make his season debut Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Irving announced his decision Saturday on Twitter: 

At 17-7, the Cavs sit atop the Eastern Conference standings thanks largely to the contributions of LeBron James and Kevin Love, but there is no question Irving's return stands to have a major impact on the team's performance.

The 23-year-old Duke product is a three-time All-Star who is coming off a season in which he averaged 21.7 points and 5.2 assists per game as LeBron's primary running mate.

He also played well during the playoffs, but a broken kneecap knocked him out of Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, and the Dubs went on to win the series in six games.

That was a common theme last season as Cleveland was far better with the 2011 No. 1 overall pick in the lineup, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

While there is no question the Cavaliers are a better team with Irving, the organization has taken a cautious approach in his return after surgery.

Per ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Irving has been ready to play for a week, but the Cavs didn't want to take any chances. That was, perhaps, due in part to Irving having aggravated tendonitis in his knee during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks.

Cleveland's stance on Irving was made quite clear a couple of days ago when head coach David Blatt revealed Irving would have to pass a number of tests to be inserted back into the lineup, according to Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com: "We've still got some things that we want to go through with him before we let him get back out there, but he is looking good and feeling good."

It took more than a quarter of the season, but the Cavaliers are finally comfortable enough to put Irving in a game. Cleveland would be wise to ease him in to the lineup, especially since it has a cushion atop the Eastern Conference and has enjoyed success with him on the sideline.

Having Irving healthy and at his best for the playoffs is undoubtedly the most important thing for the Cavaliers aside from LeBron's status, and it is likely the biggest X-factor in terms of whether they can again compete for a championship against the likes of Golden State and the NBA's other heavy hitters.

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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