LAS VEGAS: Cavaliers coach Byron Scott was anxious to see his new starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters during summer league games this week, but they made it through only 1½ practices before Irving was forced to return to Cleveland after fracturing a small bone on the outside of his right hand, near his pinkie.
All of the Cavs’ plans for the summer quickly imploded.
“It just really alters all the plans we had this summer as far as summer league was concerned,” Scott said. “That was Plan A. We didn’t have a Plan B going into this because you just never imagine that happening.”
The Cavs moved on without Irving Sunday night, losing to the Charlotte Bobcats 68-64 in their summer league opener.
Waiters had an eventful final 12 seconds in his Cavs debut, drilling a long jumper with 12 seconds left to give the Cavs a 64-63 lead. But after the Bobcats scored quickly to regain the lead, Waiters tried calling a timeout off an inbounds pass when the Cavs were out of timeouts. The Cavs were assessed a technical and the Bobcats took possession.
Waiters had 10 points, four assists and four rebounds before the costly mental mistake, but shot just 3-of-11 from the floor.
Tyler Zeller had 14 points and seven rebounds in his Cavs debut, showing tremendous range by making a pair of jumpers from about 19 feet. He defended the rim, ran the floor well and showed the type of athleticism that made the Cavs eager to move up to No. 17 to select him.
Waiters will probably handle the ball a fair amount this week with Irving sidelined.
Irving will be re-examined by team doctors in Cleveland, but said Saturday night he is expected to have surgery and will be sidelined six to eight weeks. Irving was upset with himself after turning the ball over during Saturday’s morning practice and smacked a padded wall inside the high school gymnasium where the Cavs were practicing.
It didn’t take long for Irving to notice something was wrong. Scott didn’t see him hit the wall, but he saw Irving shaking his hand as he ran down the court.
“That was just something stupid on his part,” Scott said. “I said, ‘What did you do?’ The first thing he said was, ‘Something stupid.’ So he knew right away it was something he shouldn’t have done. He was upset with himself and he took it out on the wall. The wall won, obviously.”
Indians relief pitcher Nick Hagadone recently had surgery to repair a fractured forearm after he punched a wall in the home clubhouse. New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire missed a playoff game and needed stitches to close a wound on his left hand.
Perhaps those incidents are what led to Irving hearing it from some fans on Twitter after the accident. Irving responded on Twitter late Saturday night.
“I didn’t punch the wall … at all,” Irving wrote. “Not even my character.”
Irving missed out on summer league and most preseason opportunities last year because of the NBA lockout. He was looking forward to participating in the summer league and probably was the most talented player here. He should be healthy in time for training camp.
“I think now we’re all going to wonder if he’s going to shoot the ball as well as he was shooting it with his right hand once he gets back,” Scott said. “That’s going to be the biggest concern, just to get all the strength back in there and not have him thinking when he takes shots, ‘Is it going to hurt?’ or ‘How’s it going to feel?’ This is probably the best time because we’ve got a lot of time before training camp starts.”
The Cavs will not add a point guard to the summer league roster, electing instead to move forward with Donald Sloan and T.J. Campbell, who spent last season on the Canton Charge roster.
Sloan takes over as the starter. With the Cavs shopping in free agency for another backup point guard, Sloan understands the opportunity in front of him.
“Unfortunately with Kyrie going down, other guys have to step up, me being one of those guys,” Sloan said. “It’s a huge opportunity, not just for me, but for everybody who’s fighting trying to make this team.”
Luis Scola was claimed off amnesty waivers Sunday by the Phoenix Suns. Scola was waived by the Houston Rockets under the amnesty provision, which made him first available to teams already under the salary cap.
The Cavaliers had interest in signing the 32-year-old forward, who averaged 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds last season for the Rockets.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.