CLEVELAND: If everything goes as expected on Monday, the Cavaliers could soon be at full strength for the first time in a month.
Dion Waiters has been cleared to resume basketball activities, but coach Byron Scott won’t use him in a game until he practices. That won’t happen until Monday, but if everything goes well, Waiters should be available to play in Tuesday’s home game against the Toronto Raptors.
“Once I get a chance to see him go five-on-five, up and down, taking the ball to the basket, getting hit, guarding people, I’ll be more satisfied,” Scott said.
The Cavs haven’t been at full strength since Nov. 18, when a fracture was discovered in Kyrie Irving’s left index finger. Injuries could certainly be blamed for part of the Cavs’ slow start, but Scott won’t use the injuries as an excuse.
“We’ve been saying from Day One, we don’t make excuses about Kyrie missing 11 games or Dion being out, you’re still suiting up 12 guys and you’re still expected to go out and compete and win,” Scott said. “Do we realize when that guy [Irving] is back out there or when Dion is back healthy, are we a better basketball team? Of course we are.”
It doesn’t appear to be a lock that Waiters will immediately return to the starting rotation. C.J. Miles has played his two best games as a starter and Scott said he’ll reassess the situation after Waiters practices on Monday. Asked how Miles fits in when Waiters returns, Scott said he didn’t know yet.
“With the way he’s playing and confidence-wise, that’s something I’ll cross when we get to that point,” he said. “Right now I’ll go with him and see how this goes [Friday] and [tonight] and we’ll start thinking about next week, next week.”
The Cavaliers play at the New York Knicks tonight.
Anderson Varejao leads the league in rebounding and just ripped off a double-double streak that hasn’t been accomplished in more than 30 years, but he’s a distant 12th among frontcourt players in fan voting for the All-Star Game.
That doesn’t exactly surprise Scott, who didn’t expect Varejao to be voted in anyway.
“I still think he has a shot,” Scott said. “I think coaches in the Eastern Conference, especially all the teams we’ve played against, know how well he has played and how well he’s doing.”
Scott said he understands it’s a popularity contest, as evidenced by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Andrew Bynum ranking ninth in the East with 11,000 more votes than Varejao despite not playing in a game yet this season.
Varejao, conversely, entered Friday averaging 14.8 rebounds a game. His recent stretch of 10 consecutive games with at least 10 points, 15 rebounds and five offensive rebounds hadn’t been done since Moses Malone did it 12 consecutive games during the 1978-79 season.
The biggest hindrance to Varejao making his first All-Star team, however, remains the Cavs’ woeful mark. They entered Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks with the third-worst record in the NBA.
“We have to start doing a better job of winning games. That probably hurts him more than anything,” Scott said. “As competitive as we have been, we still have to put some Ws on that board.”
Moment of silence
Scott began his pregame news conference Friday by addressing the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“Anything that happens with children in this world kind of hits you hard, especially when you have children,” said Scott, the father of three and the grandfather to one. “I have no idea how those families are feeling at this particular point, but my heart really goes out to them.”
Scott got emotional and had to pause while addressing the topic. His voice even cracked at times.
“I just don’t understand it, but to the parents of all the kids who were hurt, I just want them to know this organization is thinking about them,” he said. “When you hear about kids who are that young and don’t get a chance to live because of something that’s so senseless as somebody going in and doing the things that this person did, I think it affects everybody. It puts everything in the right perspective as well. As much as we love this game, this doesn’t mean nothing.”
Scott said he wasn’t sure if the shooting would affect his players.
“It could. It’s affecting their coach,” he said. “I have to go in the locker room and get ready for a game like everybody else and kind of put this to the side for a few minutes. Even when this game is over, I’m going to go right back to it and think about it. When I see my daughter and my granddaughter, I’m going to think about it.”
The Cavs held a moment of silence prior to Friday’s game in remembrance of the victims.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com.