Though the Cavs' annual Wine & Gold scrimmage was cut short by a slick court, flashes of brilliance and signs of improvement were everywhere. The Wine squad ultimately defeated their counterparts in Gold (wearing white, as it turned out) 48-36, led by the inimitable Kyrie Irving, who scored 17 and cut through double teams with ease.
The Scrimmage went down at Baldwin-Wallace on Saturday afternoon before a crowd of military members and their families. The Cavs' played three 10-minute quarters before Coach Mike Brown and Co. called the game due to court wetness caused by excessive sweating and humidity. GM Chris Grant suspected it was more jitters and excitement to finally be playing in front of a crowd that led to sloppy play at the outset.
A couple of airballs and about a thousand turnovers were the highlights of a first quarter which sometimes felt more like ping-pong than basketball.
The starting lineups looked like this:
WINE (likely the team's actual starters): Irving, Waiters, Gee, Thompson, Varejao
GOLD: Jack, Felix, Clark, Bennett, Zeller.
Tyler Zeller took a spill in the third quarter, reported that he'd strained his hip flexor today, and won't play in the preseason game against the Bucks tomorrow night.
Elsewise, the Cavs were more or less finding rhythms on offense. Coach Brown has focused so intensely on defense in training camp that a scrimmage represents a rare opportunity for players to, you know, take a jump shot. (In-your-face defensive play was another, equally responsible culprit for the excessive turnovers early on — not necessarily a bad sign).
A few player-specific notes:
-Earl Clark looks terrific in transition. He's long and athletic and rebounds on both ends of the floor with enthusiasm. His shooting stroke looked silky smooth with a high-release point. He just looks extremely graceful out there. There's no clunk in his step.
-Tristan's newly minted right-handed free throw looks a little bumpy yet, but according to Austin Carr has much better rotation than his left-handed "dying quail."
-The undrafted big men Henry Sims (from Georgetown) and Kenny Kadji (from Miami) played well in limited minutes. Both played aggressively on defense — Kadji had a killer block — and boxed out well.
-Dion Waiters wasn't what you'd call "lights out," but his jumper seems much improved. The consensus is that when he's shooting on balance, it's just a much better shot. Last year, he was always falling backwards or sideways as he launched unconscionable threes and desperation fallaways. A few of his shots on Saturday looked downright pretty.
-Andrew Bynum didn't play, obviously, but was smiling and carrying on with DeSagana Diop on the Gold squad's bench, presumably there for moral support. Chris Grant and assorted front-office / PR personnel continue to insist that he's working so daggone hard and really really really wants to make an immediate impact.
-This is what Kyrie does: score at will. Absolutely at will. When he gets in a three-point groove, he can rip 3-4 in a two-minute span without even thinking about it. And if Varejao stays healthy, there's no reason not to expect an assist-bump for Kyrie on the order of +2-3 per game. Kyrie and Andy have an almost telepathic connection down there in the post. It's fun to watch them dance.
The Cavs' first preseason game is tomorrow night at the Q against the Milwaukee Bucks, and tickets are available for as little as $6 on Cavs.com.
In other news, former Cavalier Daniel Gibson remains unsigned by any team after a week of training camp. Rumors circulated that the Denver Nuggets might be interested, but a clogged backcourt and salary cap considerations make that signing unlikely.