INDEPENDENCE: When C.J. Miles looks back on his miserable start and his remarkable turnaround, the turning point for him is easy to spot.
Miles’ offensive game took off when Kyrie Irving returned to the Cavs and when Miles was inserted into the starting lineup. Not coincidentally, those two things occurred on the same night.
Irving returned from his fractured finger on Dec. 11 against the Los Angeles Lakers, the same night coach Byron Scott inserted Miles into the starting lineup. Irving’s presence forces defenses to account for him and widened the floor for Miles, who ended the night with 28 points. He scored 28 in the next game, too, and topped all of that with 33 in the Cavs’ loss at the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
In 404 career starts prior to that night, Miles scored 28 points or more twice in his career. He’s now done it three times in the past 11 games.
“He gets the chance to be moving and not standing. He gets the chance to handle the ball a little more and be a little bit more creative,” Scott said. “It’s a motion-type offense. That serves him well.”
Through his first seven games, Miles was averaging 4.3 points and shooting 22 percent both overall and on 3-pointers. In his past 11 games, beginning with the start against the Lakers, he is averaging 16.2 points, shooting 47 percent overall and 52 percent on 3-pointers.
“The biggest thing was being able to start those four games, being able to play a lot of minutes and really gaining a lot of confidence,” Miles said. “I think that helped me out a lot offensively, especially because you’re able to get a lot of reps on the floor, a lot of game time playing and playing alongside Kyrie.”
Miles sat for about a week after his horrid start. He used the time to get into the Cavs’ practice facility twice a day, returning at night to work with staff members Nate Tibbetts and Aubrey McCreary. Through all the struggles, he never second-guessed his decision to come to Cleveland.
“I never doubted that I was in the right place because I was getting an opportunity, which is what I wanted,” Miles said. “You want the opportunity to play and the chance to do what you do well. I just didn’t capitalize on it. I knew it was about me working and getting back into a rhythm. When I got a chance again, [I wanted] to grab that thing by the horns.”
Anderson Varejao returned to practice in a limited role Monday and remains highly questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with a bruised right knee. He did not have any contact or participate in any 5-on-5 drills, and coach Byron Scott said there is still pain in his knee when he jumps.
“He looked decent today. He was moving OK,” Scott said. “He still says when he plants to jump is when he feels pain, but it’s nowhere near as severe as it was four or five days ago. Obviously he’s making progress.”
Varejao said last week he thought the knee needed another week to heal. Given that timeline, he won’t play against the Kings. But the Cavs have another practice today to gauge how he feels.
Newly acquired point guard Shaun Livingston participated in his first practice with the Cavs on Monday and will practice again today. Now that he is practicing, Scott said he will be available to play on Wednesday.
“I was impressed,” Scott said. “He just knows how to play basketball. He makes great decisions out there.”
Livingston had been inactive since Dec. 23 when the Washington Wizards released him. He said he left Monday “like any first practice, tired, out of shape.”
“Just trying to get my legs under me and get my wind back, get my rhythm going,” he said. “It’s a start.”
Daniel Gibson still has not been cleared to return from his concussion. … Tristan Thompson practiced without his mask on Monday. He has been forced to wear it for 22 games. … Scott said he chatted with fired Browns coach Pat Shurmur last summer and the two made plans to get together next summer. He hopes that can still happen. “I can just go by being a fan and watching them play, I thought they made some leaps and bounds from last year and they’d gotten better,” Scott said. “I’m a fan of Pat and I wish him the best.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.