Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (hyperextended right knee) will start in his return from a three-game absence. The first-time NBA All-Star successfully participated in Cleveland’s morning shootaround, prompting coach Byron Scott to declare him good to go. “I really didn’t ask for the time off, but it was nice to have it,” said Irving, who last played on Feb. 24 at Miami. “My knee was really limiting my ability to go to the basket, but it’s all good now.” The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year was injured when he fell awkwardly to the floor during practice.
Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters (illness) and center Tyler Zeller (illness) will not play. Both first-round draft picks were struck with the flu shortly after Cleveland’s 105-89 loss to the Clippers on Friday night, forcing them to spend time in the hospital Saturday. Shooting guard Wayne Ellington and center Marreese Speights — both acquired from Memphis in a Jan. 22 trade – will make their first starts with the Cavaliers in place of the aforementioned rookies.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson is keeping small forward James White in the starting lineup. White had zero points in eight minutes Sunday during New York’s 99-93 loss to Miami, marking his third straight scoreless game. “We’ll go the same way tonight and see how it turns out,” Woodson said. “I’m still fighting with our rotation, trying to figure out how to play this many guys. But it’s good to have that situation, especially with this many back-to-backs this week.”
Center Tyson Chandler, power forward Carmelo Anthony, shooting guard Iman Shumpert, and point guard Raymond Felton round out New York’s first five. Power forward Amar’e Stoudemire will continue to come off the bench, but Woodson said, “I’ve got to get him more than the 24-25 minutes we’ve been getting him. He’ll never play 40 minutes like Tyson and Melo are, but he needs more than (21) like he got last night against Miami.”
Joining Irving, Ellington, and Speights in Cleveland’s lineup are power forward Tristan Thompson and small forward Alonzo Gee. The Cavaliers will only have 10 players in uniform as small forward Omri Casspi (appendectomy) and center Anderson Varejao (season-ending right knee surgery) remain out.
The Knicks have lost 10 straight games at Quicken Loans Arena, last beating the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Nov. 29, 2006. New York’s inactives are small forward Chris Copeland and center Rasheed Wallace (left foot fracture), while power forward Kenyon Martin’s 10-day contract expires after the game.
Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire (bulging disk, lower back) will start after missing the last 13 games, but “won’t play big minutes,” according to coach Mike Woodson. “Amar’e is like a little kid today, running around the court in uniform, because he’s so excited to be back,” Woodson said. “I’ve got to watch how much I use him tonight, but as we get closer to the playoffs, we’ll go along and try to build his minutes up.” New York went 9-4 without Stoudemire, who last played on March 24 against Detroit. The six-time NBA All-Star is averaging 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds in 43 games.
With Stoudemire back in action, Knicks small forward Landry Fields is heading to the bench. Point guard Mike Bibby, shooting guard Iman Shumpert, center Tyson Chandler, and small forward Carmelo Anthony remain in New York’s first five. “Iman has made a defensive presence – not that Landry can’t do that – but we like the look that Iman gives us,” Woodson explained. Point guard Baron Davis (stomach virus) was initially announced as a starter, but was a last-minute scratch for the second game in a row.
The Knicks signed longtime Bucks center Dan Gadzuric to a free-agent contract, releasing small forward Bill Walker to make room for him on the 15-man roster. Gadzuric, 34, will be in uniform and available to play. “It depends how the game goes,” Woodson said. “Right now, we’ve just got to get him acclimated to what we’re doing.” Gadzuric, who appeared in 42 games with the Warriors and Nets during the 2010-2011 season, was added to fill the role of ailing center Jared Jeffries (right knee soreness).
Cleveland center Anderson Varejao (right wrist fracture) was officially declared out for the season by coach Byron Scott. The mop-topped “Wild Thing” was injured on Feb. 10 against Milwaukee when Bucks center Drew Gooden accidentally struck his wrist while battling for a rebound. “I was trying really hard, but (the wrist) was still really sore and in a lot of pain,” said Varejao, who plays on playing for Brazil in the Summer Olympics. The Cavaliers are 10-26 since Varejao went down.
Cleveland swingman Alonzo Gee (left ankle sprain) will sit out his third straight game, allowing shooting guard Manny Harris to make his second start in a row. The remainder of the Cavaliers’ lineup is point guard Kyrie Irving, small forward Anthony Parker, power forward Antawn Jamison, and center Tristan Thompson.
New York’s inactives are point guard Jeremy Lin (left knee meniscus tear) and Jeffries, while Cleveland will not dress Varejao, Gee, center Semih Erden (right ankle sprain), and shooting guard Daniel “Boobie” Gibson (season-ending left foot tendon surgery). Davis remains in the Knicks locker room at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavaliers’ roster is down to 14 players after they opted not to pick up shooting guard Lester Hudson for the rest of the season. Hudson, whose second 10-day contract with Cleveland expired Wednesday, subsequently signed with the Memphis Grizzlies. He averaged 12.7 points in 13 games with the Cavaliers.
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