By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
CINCINNATI: It took a little longer than expected, but the initial pairing of Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack on Wednesday was a relative success. In his first game back from a knee injury, Jack had five points and five assists in 10 minutes and Irving scored 19 points in the Cavs’ 101-82 preseason loss to the Washington Wizards at U.S. Bank Arena.
Since it was his first game in more than a week, Jack played only the first quarter and sat the rest of the game. Irving was forced into the shooting guard role for most of his minutes because Dion Waiters sat with an ankle injury, C.J. Miles missed the game with a leg injury and Sergey Karasev remains sidelined with a sprained ankle, leaving the Cavs woefully thin at shooting guard.
Irving enjoyed his time off the ball, but don’t get used to it.
“I think we have a pretty good 2-guard on our team already,” Irving said. “It’ll be times in the game when Jarrett is in and I’ll be the 2-guard, but that position I’ll leave to Dion. I’m sticking to 1-guard.”
Coach Mike Brown liked the way Jarrett Jack had a calming influence over an offense that has looked scattered at times, as evidenced by unusually high turnover rates throughout the preseason. Brown was impressed during one possession in the first quarter when the Cavs grabbed the offensive rebound, and Jack settled everyone down and got them back in the correct spots to rerun the set.
“We have a tendency at times to get rattled because we’re still a young team,” Brown said. “We can get rattled on both ends of the floor. He’s a guy who is capable of settling us down. … It’s neat to see a veteran out there with that type of presence that controls the game.”
Irving and Jack didn’t run any plays together, but Jack said they followed the old cliché of taking what the defense gave them. They simply reacted to the defense and found the right spots despite not playing together much during training camp or the preseason — they couldn’t really play together during earlier practices because Jack had to run the point on the second unit.
“[Irving] is a smart kid, smart player as well,” Jack said. “We were playing based off the situation. We were just flowing and playing off one another. I think when you’re using those initial instincts, that’s the most fun.”
The Cavs’ backcourt has been slammed with injuries, but none of them are really considered serious and all of them (except Carrick Felix) could play if it was the regular season, but Brown isn’t taking any chances.
Tristan Thompson had 17 points and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes, but he grabbed 10 of the rebounds during eight minutes in the first quarter. Thompson has 30 rebounds in his past two games.
The Cavs led for the bulk of the first three quarters, but Trevor Ariza’s 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter gave the Wizards a 73-72 lead entering the fourth. With another game tonight in Charlotte, the first and only back-to-back games of the Cavs’ preseason, Brown spent the fourth quarter on a bunch of players likely to play little or not at all once the regular season begins.
Irving will be playing shooting guard at times for the first time since high school, but he said too much is made of the switch from point guard to shooting guard.
“The ball ends up finding your hands once in a while and you get to make plays. It’s just exercising every opportunity you have,” Irving said. “It’s not that hard to move from the 1 to the 2. Everybody tries to make a big deal about it. You just have to be crisper, set better screens and do more things off the ball than you would do with the ball.”
Prior to the game, the Cavs announced they picked up the fourth-year options on Irving and Thompson and the third-year options on Tyler Zeller and Waiters. It was merely a formality, since the Cavs were obviously going to keep all four.
Irving and Thompson will be eligible to sign contract extensions next summer.
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.