Cavaliers play sloppy in exhibition opener but stop Montepaschi Siena 91-85
BY EDDIE DILWORTH
It's audition time in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Cleveland Cavaliers opened their 2012 preseason Monday night, and several members of the team's training camp roster embarked on a mission to earn a spot on the regular season squad.
The Cavs training camp roster currently consists of 20 players, five of which will not make it to the season opener on Oct. 30. Monday night versus Italian club Montepaschi Siena, none of the youngsters trying to make the team saw action. The only Cavaliers that stepped on the floor were those expected to be on the regular season roster.
After a sloppy first half, the Cavs eventually stymied Siena into a 91-85 victory.
"Overall, at the end of the game, I thought we did some really good things on both ends of the floor," Cavs head coach Byron Scott said. "We still have a ways to go as far as taking care of the ball and things like that. Sometimes our offense looked stagnant, too much dribbling, but overall (I'm) pretty happy with the effort."
The Cavs offense struggled mightily in the first half. Cleveland shot 30.3 percent from the field (10-33) in the half and turned the ball over 10 times. The lackluster offensive play resulted in the Cavs trailing 36-33 at halftime. Cleveland never led in the first half.
"Obviously, I didn't like the way we started the first half or played in the first half," Scott said. "I thought our guys came out, they said they felt like they were 'kind of stuck in the mud'. I think a lot of it had to do with being out playing somebody else."
The Cavs started the game with Kyrie Irving, C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao. Four of the starting spots seem to be solidified, but the appearance of Miles as the starting shooting guard may have raised some eyebrows.
Some may have expected to see the Cavs fourth-overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, Dion Waiters, in the starting shooting guard role. Waiters may not have to worry about a roster spot, but he also hasn't been assured a spot in the Cavs starting lineup.
Although Miles is new to the team and Waiters was drafted with a high pick in June, Scott elaborated on how he came to his decision to start the preseason with Miles at shooting guard.
"I just felt with C.J. coming in with a little bit more experience, a guy who's played in a ton of games; I think he fits in well with what we're doing," Scott said. "It's the same thing with Kyrie last year, Dion has to earn that, simple as that. He has to earn it."
Scott emphasized that the fact that Waiters didn't start in the first preseason game shouldn't be read into.
"This is preseason," Scott said. "There's probably going to be three games where he's (Waiters) going to start in preseason because I want to see how he's going to play with the first unit as well. If he doesn't start the first 10-15 games of the season, I wouldn't be surprised."
Waiters has to adjust to the NBA game, as is the case with all rookies. Scott said he would like to see Waiters improve most on the defensive end of the floor, particularly not standing and watching while his man doesn't have the ball. Waiters primarily played defense at Syracuse in Jim Boeheim's famed 2-3 zone, so it will take him time to adjust to the man-to-man defensive schemes run in the NBA.
Waiters' NBA debut didn't start how he wanted. He didn't see the floor until 7:09 remained in the second quarter and his first shot attempt was a three-pointer that drew nothing but air and hardwood. Waiters however, steadied himself and finished 3-of-6 from the field with 11 points and three rebounds. What was clear, was that Waiters is able to create his own shot from anywhere on the floor.
"I didn't know if I was going to play or not because there's a lot of guys," Waiters said. "There's so many guys trying to go out there and prove they can make the team and things like that, but when my number's called, I just have to be ready."
Fellow rookie Tyler Zeller finished with seven points and seven rebounds. Donald Sloan chipped in 13 points while Irving and Miles finished with 10 points each. Thompson totaled 12 points and four rebounds.
The Cavs first half was a distant memory from the second. After shooting 30.3 percent from the field in the first half, Cleveland shot 67.6 percent in the second half, totaling 58 points.
"It really was more of just running our early offense," Scott said. "We just didn't do a good job of that in the first half."
Sienna hung in with Cleveland and tied the game at 72 on Bobby Brown three-pointer with 7:09 to play in the fourth quarter. But the Cavs immediately went on an 11-0 run, led by five points from Waiters and two Donald Sloan baskets. The Cavs led 83-72 with 3:12 to play and never looked back.
"Obviously, you can see "Camp Scott" is still in full effect," Irving said. "Definitely biting at our legs a little bit, but that's going to happen still in preseason."
While trying to make an impression on Cavaliers coaches and management, the youngsters seeking a roster spot will also auditioning for other teams around the league. Their next chance to make an impression is Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks in Canton, Ohio.
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POSTED 10/09/2012 01:16