Cavs Report: Preseason taking shape
OCT 16, 2012 4:21p ET
1. Tyler Zeller is coming along nicely.
While Cavs fans have been committed to the Dion Waiters Watch (and rightfully so), the other rookie is proving to be quite a find. That would be none other than Tyler Zeller, the backup center.
Zeller has had his rookie moments (see, the baseline spin dunk by Chicago's Taj Gibson), and they are sure to continue, probably all season. But overall, Zeller has already proven he has the offensive game to make an immediate contribution.
When you consider Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden backed up Anderson Varejao last season, the Cavs can say they’ve come a long way, baby.
2. Kyrie Irving’s shooting struggles are hardly reason for concern.
If there’s one thing we’re learning about Irving, it’s that he can cause unnecessary panic among Cavs fans in the preseason. Remember last year, when he was coming off the bench behind Ramon Sessions? Things didn’t go much more smoothly in the first four preseason games this season, when every Irving shot made the rim cringe with fear.
Then, in Monday’s win over the Magic in Cincinnati, Irving silenced skeptics with 22 points on 5-for-8 shooting (and 11-for-11 from the free-throw line). So please, just hush already.
It’s pretty evident established guys like Kyrie use the preseason to coast. Then they turn it on when fans start worrying. In Cleveland, that happens quite a bit.
3. Omri Casspi has improved.
Again, it’s just the preseason. But Casspi is doing all the little things better than he did at the end of last year – moving without the ball, finishing at the rim, playing with confidence, etc.
With Alonzo Gee and now even C.J. Miles in front of him, Casspi’s only choice is to make the absolute most of the minutes he receives. So far, it's been difficult for coach Byron Scott to keep him off the court.
And as we saw Monday, a good night from Casspi may mean the difference between winning and falling into irrelevancy. That may sound overly dramatic – but if the Cavs are to challenge for the playoffs, a lot of it will be the result of how well the role players fare.
4. Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan are still battling for the backup point guard spot.
You’d think by now Scott would have determined the caddy for Kyrie Irving. And maybe the coach has a pretty good idea.
But to outside observers, there’s still no clear-cut winner. Sloan looks more familiar with his surroundings, but that’s understandable. Pargo, after all, wasn’t on the team last season.
On the downside, each has been turnover-prone and appeared somewhat unsure with the ball. On the bright side, players tend to perform a little more at ease once their roster spot is secure.
Clearly, this isn’t a make-or-break decision. Still, finding the right fit, even those involving players with limited responsibility, can mean a lot when it comes to pushing the starters in practice – and providing game help in a pinch.
5. Finalizing the roster won’t be easy.
The Cavs still have to make two roster cuts before the regular-season opener Oct. 30. They could happen this week or any day up to Oct. 29.
Assuming one is either Pargo or Sloan, the other is highly likely to emerge from the following group: Luke Harangody, Luke Walton, Kevin Jones, Micheal Eric and Jon Leuer (although Leuer seems relatively safe).
The Cavs aren’t saying who has the inside track, nor should they. But whoever it is could remain within reach – sort of like Manny Harris was last year with the D-League in Canton. Harris wasn’t under contract with the Cavs at the time, but he was easily accessible.
Bonus: The Cavs are 3-2 in the preseason. Their game Wednesday in Philadelphia will be televised by FOX Sports Ohio. I knew you’d ask, so I figured we’d get it out of the way right now. Tip-off is 7 p.m.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO
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