Kyrie Irving finished an animated post-practice shooting contest with Cavs teammate LeBron James, then quickly removed any doubt about his playing status for Game 1.
"I'm going to go," he said.
Cleveland's All-Star guard may not be 100 percent — or anywhere close — but he's much better and that's welcome news to the Cavs, who will open the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday in Atlanta against the top-seeded Hawks.
Irving has been bothered by a sore right foot since Game 2 of the opening round against Boston, and he sat out the final half of the Cavs' series-clinching win over Chicago last week because of tendinitis in his left knee. But a weekend of rest and rehab allowed Irving to make it through a full practice on Monday.
Irving said he has come a long way from the way he felt Thursday night while sitting on the bench at the United Center.
"Just being able to actually feel both my feet underneath me, especially when I'm shooting, it feels amazing," said Irving, who was limited to 12 minutes in Game 6. "I don't want to be on the sideline at all, especially preparing for a big stage like this."
Irving's improved health seemed to have an immediate impact on James, who ran around like a little kid after all of his teammates left the practice floor.James knocked down eight of 10 shots from 40 feet and threw down several jaw-dropping dunks before meeting with reporters in good spirits.
"He feels better," James said. "Obviously the days have helped him. You know, we really don't know until we get out there on Wednesday. The good thing is he's positive, he's feeling better, and that's positive for our team."
Irving's injuries threatened to derail the Cavs before they even took the floor against the Hawks, a balanced squad with quick guards and numerous offensive weapons. The Cavs are already without forward Kevin Love (shoulder surgery).
Still, there's no way of knowing how effective Irving will be until he's on the court trying to drive past Hawks forward Paul Millsap or guarding fellow All-Star Jeff Teague or his backup, Dennis Schroder.
"Both can break you down on the dribble," Cavs coach David Blatt said. "Both can push the ball. Both can get to the rim and create for not only themselves, but for others. They are a handful. Two excellent guards who can play together. That presents another whole set of problems."
•Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge had surgery Monday to repair a ligament in his left thumb. The team said Aldridge is expected to be able to return to basketball activity in about eight weeks. Aldridge averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds during the regular season,