CLEVELAND: One day soon, Kyrie Irving’s minutes will be ramped up to between 30 and 33 a night. He’s not there yet, but coach Byron Scott conceded he should’ve put the rookie in a little sooner than he did in Tuesday’s loss to the Miami Heat.
Irving played 26 minutes against the Heat and is averaging 27.9 minutes per game, which ranks 26th among point guards. He departed with 3:49 left in the third quarter and didn’t re-enter until 5:03 remained in the game.
“I should have played him a little more,” Scott said. “I got lost watching our second unit play as well as they were playing on both ends of the floor.”
Scott said he looked up with six minutes remaining and thought about getting Irving back in the game, but the reserves had the Cavs within three points of the Heat, so he stuck with them for another minute.
It may sound backward to predicate a starter’s minutes based on how the bench is performing, but Scott said he wanted to ride the hot hand.
“It can go both ways,” Scott said. “There are times the starters are playing well and I bring the second unit in and they play like crap. Then there are times when the starters aren’t getting it done and the second unit plays well and sometimes I ride with that.”
As for Irving’s long-term range, Scott has been pleased with Irving’s defensive effort both in Monday’s practice and Tuesday’s game against the Heat. He said Irving is “pretty close” to having his minutes increased into the 30 to 33 range per night.
“It’s more my feel, not necessarily his performance or a timeline in the season,” Scott said. “Some of it is seeing him pick up things quicker and understand what he needs to do on both ends of the floor. … I think I will be able to get him up to that 30-33 minutes, but some of it relies how that second unit is playing whether I can save him for a few more minutes.”
Scott lofted high praise on Alonzo Gee when he said Wednesday that Gee could be a Bruce Bowen-type defender. Bowen was regarded as the NBA’s best defender for years and will have his number retired by the San Antonio Spurs.
Bowen, who spent time in the Development League last season, has defended Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony over the last couple of weeks. He and Anthony Parker turned James into a jump shooter Tuesday night.
“Every team I’ve been on, everybody was telling me about the defensive end because they knew I could do it,” Gee said. “I think I was always a pretty good defensive player, but being in the D-League, being the leading player on the team and leading scorer and then coming to this team, you have to adjust to [defense] being your main focus.”
Baron Davis returned to Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday, but did not play for the Knicks as he continues to work his way into shape following a herniated disc in his back. Between his hefty contract, his bad back and Irving’s arrival, Davis said he wasn’t surprised when the Cavs waived him in December under the amnesty provision.
“They have an opportunity to move in a new direction with these young dudes,” Davis said. “I could tell on the first day I got here that was pretty much going to be the move.”
Davis was thrilled to land in New York and loves the potential Irving is flashing early in his career.
“I like him a lot,” Davis said. “They’ve got a special player and he’s going to continue to grow as he learns more and gets familiar with the NBA. He’s going to be a phenomenal player.”
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