CHARLOTTE, N.C.: In his final audition, Earl Clark had his best shooting performance of the preseason on Thursday. Now he’ll have to wait and see if it’s good enough to earn him the starting small forward job on opening night.
Clark scored 12 points and shot 5 of 7 in a 105-92 loss at the Charlotte Bobcats to conclude the preseason. The Cavaliers will take about a week off now before opening the regular season at home against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
Alonzo Gee was a healthy scratch Friday and C.J. Miles sat while battling a nagging calf injury, leaving Clark with the bulk of the minutes. Both Gee and Clark started slowly this preseason, at least offensively, but both have enjoyed big games of late. Gee made four 3-pointers and scored 14 points in a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, then Clark countered with his performance Thursday.
All of that seemingly leaves coach Mike Brown no closer to a decision at small forward than he was when training camp opened three weeks ago.
“Nobody’s really separated themselves drastically from the other guy,” Brown said. “One game, one guy played pretty good, then another guy played pretty good. I told those guys it can go into the regular season, just keep yourselves ready to go in case your number is called.”
Kyrie Irving scored 20 points, Tristan Thompson had 11 points and eight rebounds and Jermaine Taylor had 11 points off the bench for the Cavs, who conclude the preseason 4-4.
Now the priority will be getting the roster down to the 15-player limit by Sunday’s deadline. The Cavs have four players to release between now and then.
After the roster is set, Brown can begin setting his rotations. The most obvious question centers around who will claim the small forward job. Brown would like to stick with one starter, but wouldn’t commit to that on Thursday.
“If I can help it, I’d like to stick with one guy,” he said. “A lot of coaching for me is feeling it. If I don’t feel it, it’d be hard for me to stick with him. But I want to give guys a fair opportunity to earn that spot and keep it.”