The ROYs Are Back In Town
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images; Chris Graythen/Getty Images Sport
Last season's Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving and this season's ROY favorite Anthony Davis both returned to action Tuesday for the first time in three weeks.
Irving got to have his much-coveted one-on-one duel with Laker Kobe Bryant, and came away with the team victory, along with 28 points on 21 shots, 11 assists and 6 rebounds.
Davis took the slower path back, coming off the bench and playing only 25 minutes, but scoring 13 points on 10 shots, grabbing 8 rebounds and swatting 3 shots.
Yes, indeed. The ROYs are back in town.
It's not surprising that once Irving's left finger injury and Davis' ankle ailment healed that both would return at elite level.
After all, the 20-year-old Irving established the NBA teen-age record for Player Efficiency Rating last season at 21.49 and is playing at 21-level again as a sophomore so far.
Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Davis was rocking all rookies after six games before going down with injury, posting a 26.52 PER, serving notice to all that he was going after Irving's teen mark.
But the real story here is team basketball.
Where do the Cavs and Hornets stand now with the return of their youngsters/young stars'?
Cleveland is 5-17 and New Orleans is 5-15, but the difference here is that the Hornets actually believe they can make the 2013 NBA Playoffs and should make a run now that their unibrowed leader is back to unite the team.
Ryan Anderson has been a great acquisition for the Hornets. Robin Lopez, Al-Farouq Aminu and Greivis Vasquez are all playing career ball for this futuristic tribe known as Pelicans.
So if Eric Gordon and his mysterious knee ever decide to grace New Orleans with his presence, I could easily see the Hornets finishing the season with a 36-26 record, which would be enough to maybe-maybe-not make the postseason.
Cleveland is another story. Nobody expects them to make a playoff run.
Then again, nobody saw Anderson Varejao emerging as the best center in the East--so far--so anything's possible.
It's just doubtful that Cleveland will make a playoff push, especially when you consider the currently-frugal Cavs maintain a league-minimum budget, with its biggest offseason import being only $2.2 million man C.J. Miles.
Sounds like an organization that wouldn't mind going back to the bingo halls to surround Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters with yet another top lottery teammate.
But one thing is certain on both fronts.
The five-win Cavs and Hornets may struggle to make the 2013 NBA Playoffs, but you can pretty much bet on both becoming playoff perennials in the years to come.