AUBURN HILLS, MICH.: Donald Sloan went from the primary backup at point guard to completely out of the rotation within the first 10 games of the season. Injuries throughout the backcourt and an improvement on defense has Sloan back in coach Byron Scott’s rotation, at least for now.
Sloan, however, had no idea that his defense was what cost him his job.
“I honestly didn’t know that,” he said. “I feel like I gave the same effort that I’ve always given defensively. I really try to pick up guys and turn them, be aggressive with them. Now that I know that’s the reason, now I’ll make a conscious effort to do it a little more.”
With Dion Waiters missing Monday’s game at Detroit with a sprained ankle, Sloan again served as the primary backup to Jeremy Pargo. Scott pushed Pargo ahead of Sloan in the Cavs’ rotation a few weeks ago because he considers Pargo the better defender, but said Monday he likes the way Sloan has been defending lately — even though Sloan doesn’t see much of a difference in his own play.
“He has done an excellent job of defending, which I had some concerns with,” Scott said. “When I made the change it was because Jeremy did a better job of defending, but the last couple games Donald has played, he’s done a good job of sticking with the principles and doing what we need.”
Although Pargo has surprised most everyone with his play since entering the starting lineup, Sloan has been the biggest casualty. He was benched for six consecutive games before slowly climbing back into the rotation. He is also on a non-guaranteed contract, which makes him a little more expendable if the Cavs need another roster spot.
“Of course you get nervous,” Sloan said. “But at the end of the day, I never question my ability or my skills. I keep the same focus and when he [Scott] calls, I try to go in and do something that shows I’m still checked in. I haven’t checked out.”
Count ’em up
After reviewing the film, Scott said he counted 24 defensive mistakes in the Cavs’ double-overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. He said assistant coach Jamahl Mosley counted 23 and Omri Casspi counted 21. It’s obvious that if the Cavs cut that number in half, the game ends long before double overtime.
As a result, Scott is reverting back to the rule that guys will get pulled for defensive mistakes.
“I backed off that the last week thinking we kind of learned, but we haven’t, so I’m going back to it,” Scott said. “It might take away a lot of minutes from certain guys, but the only way we’re going to get this right on that end of the floor is guys have to be held accountable.”
Scott said the two biggest areas where improvement is needed is concentration and communication defensively.
“Those two areas we definitely have to get better. If we don’t, we’ll just be playing shuffleboard,” Scott said. “A guy goes in and makes a mistake, another goes in. He goes up and down three or four times, then he goes out and another guy goes in. It’s just going to have to be done that way until guys understand how important it is.”
Kyrie Irving is two weeks into a four-week recovery prognosis for his fractured left index finger. Scott said he has been cleared to do everything except the contact drills.
Irving was active for Monday’s game, but it was because of a wardrobe malfunction. He didn’t pack a sport coat, a necessity these days for inactive players. So he was in uniform, but was unavailable. Kevin Jones and Waiters were listed as the inactives.
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