CLEVELAND: The two rookies from last season are trending in opposite directions, but not the way expected.
Tristan Thompson is flourishing, while Kyrie Irving is still searching for his shot.
Thompson had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the Cavs’ 99-95 loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday, while Irving again struggled.
Irving had nine points, but made just 3-of-13 shots and is 5-of-28 over the last two nights. He is the Cavs’ best outside weapon, but is shooting just 24 percent (11-of-46) this preseason.
Still, coach Byron Scott isn’t concerned.
“He’s trying to find his way with everything we’re doing,” Scott said. “He’s put so much energy and emphasis on the defensive end right now because he knows we need him to get better at that end. Right now his offense is suffering, but I have no problem with him missing shots right now.”
Scott said there is no lingering effect from the broken bone in his hand over the summer and doesn’t believe it is impacting his shot. It certainly didn’t affect him on consecutive possessions in the third quarter, when he spun around a defender with a nifty dribble and dropped it in off the glass. He came back on the next possession with another nifty basket when he went up and under.
“He’ll be fine,” Scott said.
Thompson did most of his damage in the first quarter, when he had 13 of the Cavs’ first 18 points and six of their first 11 rebounds. He sent the Wizards’ Jan Vesely to the bench early with two fouls while dominating in the post.
His jump shot is still a work in progress and all of his points came around the basket, but it was still his best effort of the preseason.
“If he plays as hard as Andy [Varejao], he can be a double-double guy,” Scott said.
Rookie Dion Waiters started for the first time in his career, but was unable to capitalize on the momentum from his big performance Friday. Waiters had just four points, shot 2-of-9 and missed both of his 3-point attempts. He scored 18 points in Friday’s win against the Chicago Bulls and went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers. Aside from Friday, Waiters has missed his other five 3-point attempts.
Waiters was the trigger man on an inbounds play in the third quarter, but couldn’t get the ball in and began shouting “Hey!” frantically rather than call a timeout. He was whistled for five seconds as Scott simply rubbed his head in frustration.
A few minutes later he went down the lane, but had his shot blocked by Vesely before he even got to the rim. Daniel Gibson checked in to replace him, ending his night as he stomped off the floor in frustration.
Irving pulled him aside near the bench and gave him a short pep talk, but Waiters was clearly frustrated.
“Dion always thinks he gets fouled. He calls fouls in practice that we don’t call,” Scott joked. “He was frustrated that he was missing shots … that’s growing pains of a young player in the NBA. He’ll learn you can’t worry about that, you can’t control what officials will call.”
Alonzo Gee, the typical starter at small forward, came off the bench Saturday and turned in his best performance of the preseason. Scott said prior to the game he wasn’t benching Gee because of his bad camp, but instead to get a look at Waiters and C.J. Miles together in the starting lineup.
Gee responded with 13 points off the bench, including nine in the fourth quarter.
The Cavs had a chance to tie in the final seconds when the Wizards’ A.J. Price split a pair of free throws to give the Wizards a 97-95 lead, but Price rebounded his own miss. Bradley Beal was then sent to the line and he missed both free throws, but again grabbed his own rebound. He went back to the line and made both attempts to close the win.
The Cavs will play the Orlando Magic on Monday in Cincinnati. They are 2-2 halfway through their preseason schedule.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.