Cavs' growth comes in form of trust
FEB 08, 2013 10:18p ET
He was asked if he thought the suddenly surging Cavaliers are feeling more confident these days.
"You could say that," he said, before repeating himself while wearing a serious look. "You could say that."
Irving was speaking after the Cavs' 119-108 win over visiting Orlando on Friday, a game in which he compiled team-highs of 24 points and eight assists.
More importantly, it was a game that further proved this team is growing right before our very eyes.
Coach Byron Scott always talks about the team taking baby steps, and when it comes to Irving and his pals, we've watched them mature from pro basketball infancy to their teenage years in about a span of three weeks.
Are things perfect? Hardly. But several characteristics longed for by Scott and GM Chris Grant (and Cavs fans everywhere) are beginning to take shape.
The Cavs have now won seven of 10, and are 6-2 since the trade the trade that delivered forward Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington from Memphis. Of their last 22 games, they've won 11.
So let's throw out the 16-34 overall record. In the past month, the Cavs are one of the top teams in the East.
Interestingly, that's not something team brass was demanding. It just wanted all these youngsters and newcomers to play hard and play together. Actually winning games wasn't considered urgently necessary.
Scott is using the word "trust" a lot these days -- saying that is precisely what players such as Irving, Tristan Thompson (16 points), Dion Waiters (15) and Tyler Zeller (10 rebounds) are developing.
Irving agreed, and threw in the additions of Speights (18 points, 12-of-12 on free throws), Ellington (14 points) and Shaun Livingston (eight points, one blast-from-the-past slam) as critical pieces to the Cavs' recent success.
Now, Scott will tell you things are far from finished. He was actually somewhat somber after the game.
"My expectations of us are a little bit higher than 11-11 in the last 22 games," Scott said. "We're definitely making steps in the right direction. This is good. We're playing good basketball right now, but we can play better."
It's as if the Cavs, by golly, are actually expecting to play well. It's as if they really believe they can win. And guess what? That seems to be the case these days.
"We're trying to build a family here and we have a great group of guys who are willing to give a piece of themselves for the team," Irving said.
One shining example of that is Waiters, who has been considerably more efficient as the season progresses.
Scott said beforehand that the No. 4 overall draft pick has been "more open" lately. By that, the coach meant Waiters is appearing more comfortable in his surroundings and, therefore, perhaps more in tune with what's expected of him.
There comes a time in every rookie's life when understanding the NBA game comes into focus. Not all take big leaps, or even a step forward. But Waiters is immensely talented. Much of how good he becomes simply comes down to how much he wants it, how well he adjusts.
Questions about both are beginning to subside.
Still, let's remember that this team is still awfully green. The Cavs are likely to experience another blowout loss or two. One could even take place Saturday against the talented and rolling Denver Nuggets.
But strides are being made here, positive signs are emerging from a season in which expectations are awful low.
Now, the Cavs are kind of changing all that. Step by step.
"Right now, they're trusting each other out there on the floor," Scott said of his players. "Guys are playing team basketball, and that's the reason I think I think we've been successful the last couple weeks."