Cavaliers Will Compete Despite Injuries
On March 11, Cleveland had a record of 16-23 and sat just two wins back of the Knicks in the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA’s eastern conference. One month and two meager wins later, the Cavaliers playoffs hopes have become a distant memory, but that hasn’t given this young up-and-coming team an excuse to not compete the rest of the way according to head coach Bryon Scott.
“Our first order of business is getting back to competing and I thought we did that the other night against Milwaukee and obviously I thought we did it tonight,” said Scott after the win in Toronto. “If we compete, we have a chance to win basketball games, if we don’t compete, we have no chance, and our last two games, I thought we competed.”
Injuries shredded Coach Scott’s rotation and the self-inflicted loss of backup point guard Ramon Sessions to the Lakers at the trade deadline had a much bigger impact than anticipated. The Cavaliers attempted to fill the holes by calling up three d-league guards Manny Harris, Donald Sloan, and Lester Hudson.
“All three of these guys are trying to impress not only myself but 29 other teams in the NBA who are watching,” said Scott. “The main thing for those guys is to go out there and compete and play hard and play the right way and hopefully things will work out for them.”
While Kyrie Irving looks like a lock for rookie of the year honors and fellow rookie Tristan Thompson has hustled his way into Coach Scott’s good books, it’s the call ups that Scott still hasn’t seen enough of this season.
“There are certain guys I haven’t seen enough of,” confirmed Scott. “Lester Hudson I haven’t seen a whole lot of. He has probably played in the last three games. Donald Sloan has played in the last seven or eight games and I have seen enough but I want to see more. We got 14, 15 games left in the season so I will get a chance to get more tape and more evaluation on these guys as it goes along so when it is all said and done and we are trying to put this team back together, we will have a pretty good idea of the guys that we need to keep and the guys we don’t.”
The Cavaliers are currently without guards Irving, Daniel Gibson, and Anthony Parker due to injury, so the call-ups are getting all the minutes they can handle.
“That’s the toughest situation to be on a ten-day,” said Antawn Jamison. “To come into a situation where you are learning new materials, you are trying to get accustomed to the guys, and trying to get a feel for their game. I couldn’t even imagine it.”
In context, the Cavaliers struggles since the trade deadline are understandable, but the coach’s message to his players is still getting through. Coach Scott wants them to compete and win games.
“It’s unfortunate that players get hurt but at the same time it is an opportunity for younger players like myself and Sloan and Lester coming in,” said Harris. “You just have to seize the opportunity and do anything we can to get this team wins and just go out there and compete every night.”
“We are not just going out there to play,” said Hudson. “We want to win. We are all competitive. We want to go out there and try to win every game we play. The coach told us the other day to play every game with heart, fight, fight, fight, believe in yourselves and that’s what we are doing as we go forward is believing we can win.”
Coach Scott has at least one important ally in his attempt to keep his young players working hard through the final three weeks of the season. The 13-year veteran Antawn Jamison can still put in an inspired performance to motivate the group.
“In another month I am going to be at home watching games on TV and just like them, I’ll wish I was still playing,” said Jamison. “That is what I try to tell these guys now. I know it has been a tough year but look, in another month or so we are going to have all the time in the world. You might as well come here and do your job, make it fun, and that’s what I am doing. I always tell myself when I am done playing the game, I don’t want to sit back and say I wish that year I would have played them all or I wish I would have not stopped playing. I am grateful to be in this situation. I love what I do. I have a lot of young guys looking up to me so I definitely want to lead by example, but I want to have fun. If I am not out there competing and actually trying to win games, I am not having fun and that makes the season even longer.”
The Cavaliers injury situation will make wins tough to come by in April and running a three guard rotation of d-league call-ups may not inspire a lot of confidence, but Coach Scott isn’t about to let his team stop competing in the face of adversity and those call-ups are highly motivated. Just because the Cavaliers organization may seem benefit more from additional lottery balls than a few late season victories doesn’t mean the players can, should, or will stop competing.