NBA AM: Cavs Reeling Without Kyrie Irving
The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently tied with the Toronto Raptors for the second worst record in the Eastern Conference at 4-14. Although the team wasn’t predicted by most to compete for a playoff spot this season, the club was expected to be a better product on the floor behind second year guard and reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.
However, Irving suffered a broken left index finger in mid-November and which essentially put him on the shelf for at least a month. Due to Irving’s absence, things will likely get worse for the Cavs before they start turning around for the better.
But veteran wing C.J. Miles says injuries to star players are the type of opportunities, which open the doors for lesser known guys to establish themselves in the league. One player who was struggling to get consistent floor time while Irving was healthy is second year guard Jeremy Pargo. Undrafted out of Gonzaga, Pargo is averaging 15.1 points and 4.8 assists since assuming the starting point guard role.
“Everybody realizes that they got to step up,” Miles said to HOOPSWORLD on adjusting to Irving being out of the lineup. “You got guys like Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan who have been waiting on their chance to play. So they get to step in and show they can play. When [Irving] comes back, you want coach to have those kinds of decisions, to find minutes for guys and how they can help the team.
“It’s a blessing in disguise for some guys. You never wish injury on a guy, especially one that is a big part of your team but at the same time you don’t want to lose 22 [points] and 5 [assists] or whatever he was averaging. A guy that does what he does for a team and can pretty much take over a game for a team.”
Forward Omri Casspi has also been impressed with how Pargo has handled the extended minutes up until this point, but readily admits it’s been tough for the team to deal without Irving in the lineup.
“It’s been tough but we’re a team,” Casspi said of Irving’s injury. “We have to cover for one another. It’s the NBA and that’s what it’s all about. Guys are waiting for their opportunities, Jeremy obviously, and really taking advantage of it, doing a really good job.”
Miles signed a free agent deal with the Cavs this past summer after spending his first seven seasons with the Utah Jazz. Miles says he watched Irving’s game from afar last season whenever he could, but is much more impressed seeing the guard up close on a day-to-day basis.
“Seeing him last year, how under control he is all the time and stuff that he does that looks crazy but he does on purpose,” Miles said. “He’s always in control. He has a real knack for making shots, tough shots and finding ways to get his shots off. He finishes well around the basket with both hands for a guy who is not overly athletic, not a big guy. Like he finds angles to put it on the glass, has a lot of spins and tricks.
“But the biggest thing he does that people don’t give him credit for is how well he handles the ball. He’s got guys off balance and he handles that ball extremely well. He’s not the quickest guy or the fastest guy but he always has guys off balance. Guys never stay in front of him and I think that was one of the biggest things. Seeing how often he gets his defender off balance; like he can do whatever he wants with the basketball.”
No matter how well the reserves are playing, Casspi says the Cavs won’t reach their potential without Irving. The forward believes the area hardest hit by Irving’s absence is the team’s ability to close out games.
“Obviously losing our main scorer has been tough,” Casspi said. “Especially late in games. I think the last four of five games we’ve been really competing and playing at a high level. In all those games we played, against Memphis, Miami and Orlando we were right there in the end of the game. That’s where we need Kyrie the most. To finish the game for us.”
Make sure to play this week’s free fantasy contest from DraftStreet. It is a salary-cap style drafting game where you assemble the best team out of the available players. You will have a $100,000 budget to build a team of 2 forwards, 2 guards, 2 centers, and 2 utility players. CLICK HERE to sign up for free and join the HOOPSWORLD $300 Freeroll on DraftStreet.com.
Up Close With C.J. Miles
Veteran forward C.J. Miles signed a two-year $4.5 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers this past summer after spending his first seven seasons with the Utah Jazz. HOOPSWORLD caught up with Miles to talk about the adjustment playing under Cavs head coach Byron Scott, gaining chemistry with his new teammates, his impression of point guard Kyrie Irving and more in this exclusive interview.
Now Finally Healthy, Ekpe Udoh Ready To Contribute
Milwaukee Bucks forward Ekpe Udoh was selected with the No. 6 overall pick of the 2010 draft but has battled an assortment of injuries since entering the league. The third year big man came into the 2013 campaign in the best shape of his career and is finally fully healthy. Udoh says it’s been a blessing to be healthy and is also pleased with the Bucks’ progress, currently tied for the Central Division lead.
“It’s great just to get off to that start, that fresh start,” Udoh said to HOOPSWORLD on being healthy. “It’s been great. Just got to keep winning. We’re 8-8 now, and got this big game on Wednesday so just got to keep winning.”
The play Milwaukee’s interior has been a big part of the team’s surprising start. Udoh, Larry Sanders and rookie John Henson have provided head coach Scott Skiles with the flexibility to give opponents different looks.
Udoh says his on the court chemistry with Sanders, especially, continues to grow and believes the team benefits having both of them on the floor together at the same time.
“Me and Larry, every time we go in together, we communicate, we get it done on the defensive end, and that’s what wins games,” Udoh said. “We just really work well off of that, and offensively, we just really complement each other, so just got to keep working. We just got to keep working and stick to the game plan. That’s pretty much the NBA game.”
The Bucks, 8-8, travel to San Antonio to play the Spurs who feature Hall of Fame bound big man Tim Duncan on Wednesday night, which will be another test for young frontcourt of the Bucks.
NBA Chats: There are two chats on the schedule today. Kicking things off will be Alex Kennedy who takes the stage at 3pm EST. Get your questions for Alex in here. Next, I will go live at 8pm EST. Anything Basketball related is up for discussion. Shoot me a question.