AKRON, Ohio — Cavaliers coach Byron Scott is pretty excited about a backcourt that features two young players expected to produce, dazzle and perhaps someday dominate.
All he needs is for one to get healthy and the other to get in playing shape.
The men in question are Kyrie Irving, who’s recovering from offseason hand surgery, and Dion Waiters, who’s recovering from what appeared to be a few too many meals. Irving is the point guard and reigning NBA rookie of the year. Waiters is the No. 4 overall pick in the draft and potential starting shooting guard.
And it’s been so far, so good as far as the coach is concerned.
“I talked to (Irving) a couple of days ago,” Scott said Tuesday from the Cavs’ charity golf outing in Akron. “He said his hand is doing great, that he’s dribbling the ball with it and everything.”
Scott said Irving is eager to get started again, the point guard asking the coach when the rest of the Cavs will be returning to Cleveland. The answer was after Labor Day in early September.
“I told him, ‘I don’t think you’re gonna be playing (right away),'” Scott said, smiling. “But he said the hand is doing great. It’s a lot better than most people probably expected at this point. So you could tell on the phone he’s getting anxious and ready to start. That’s a good thing.”
Meanwhile, Waiters was somewhat of a surprise pick after two years – and some inconsistency – at Syracuse. He had his moments in the Las Vegas summer league, but overall, appeared out-of-shape and occasionally, overmatched.
Scott said that’s really no longer the case after recently witnessing Waiters work out with other NBA players, including members of the Cavs, last week at the L.A. Clippers’ practice facility.
“He looked a whole lot better,” Scott said. “His conditioning was so much better. I had a lot of guys who were playing with him come up and comment to me about how good he looked. So he’s on his way.”
Of course, as Scott tends to do, he stressed that Waiters has far from arrived.
“He said to me that he’s in shape, and I looked at him and said, ‘You’re not ready yet. You’ve got about six weeks to go (before the start of training camp) to get ready. You better make sure you keep working like you’ve been working,'” Scott said.
Cavs guard Daniel Gibson was also in L.A. working out – and Gibson is a veteran of Camp Scott, the name given to the coach’s intense preseason regimen. According to Scott, Gibson repeated Scott’s words to Waiters about Waiters not quite being ready for what awaits.
“But he’s on the right path,” Scott said. “He’s been working, he’s healthy again. Skill-wise, there’s never been a problem. Not on the offensive end. Obviously on the defensive end, after being at Syracuse for two years and playing zone, he stands around at times. But I don’t think that’s gonna be a hard thing to break”
Scott concluded, “I like what I saw last week. I like his work ethic, and conditioning-wise, he’s come a long way from summer league to now.”
The Cavs’ biggest freed-agent acquisition, C.J. Miles, was one of two current players who attended the golf outing (forward Samardo Samuels was the other).
Miles was drafted by Utah in the second round out of high school in 2005. He spent each of his first seven seasons with the Jazz – and made it clear he’s ready to re-launch his career in Cleveland.
“I chose (the Cavs) because it’s the best basketball situation for me,” said Miles, 25. “Just seeing what was being put together, and that we could grow together, was the thing. And after talking to Coach Scott a couple times, that pretty much pushed (my decision) over the top. It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about a long-term (contract), it was about the best basketball situation.”
Miles added he’s not likely to be bothered by Scott’s regular bluntness.
“That’s the way I feel like it should be,” Miles said. “I mean, I played for (former Jazz coach) Jerry Sloan.”
That’s a fair point, as Sloan was known for his brutal honesty when discussing players. And it wasn’t exactly sugar-coated.
“One of the first things Jerry Sloan ever said about me to the media was that I can’t get in a jockstrap one day and a diaper the next day,” Miles said, laughing at the memory. “I think was 19, maybe 18. After that, you know, I figured it out.”
Miles is 6-foot-6 and averaged 9.1 points and 2,.1 rebounds last season with the Jazz. Cavs general manager Chris Grant said he envisions Miles playing both the shooting guard and small forward positions.
* Both Scott and Grant sounded confident that small forward Alonzo Gee will be re-signed before the start of training camp. Gee, a restricted free-agent, was the starter at the end of last season and averaged 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds.
* Grant said swingman Kelenna Azubuike, obtained in a draft-day trade with Dallas (along with draft pick Tyler Zeller) will be at camp. “He’s really coming along,” Grant said. “His knee looks healthy, he’s moving around better, he’s put together back-to-back workouts, which is a good sign.”
* Azubuike comes to Cleveland with a career average of 10.5 points on 46 percent shooting — but played in just 12 games over the past two seasons with Golden State and Dallas following reconstructive knee surgery.
* The Cavs are expected to open training camp Oct. 2. Their first preseason game is Oct. 8 at Quicken Loans Arena against Italian club Montepaschi Siena. The Cavs then play Milwaukee the following night in Canton.