The Cleveland Cavaliers received word that they lost their best player, 2011-12 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving on Monday evening. Then they went out and broke a losing streak by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers.
The leading scorer in that game was Irving’s replacement, little known back up point guard Jeremy Pargo, who scored 28 points and dished out four assists.
While it is never good to lose a player of Irving caliber for a month, there could be some positives to come as a result of the point guard’s broken index finger.
Over the past few games he played, all but one being on the road, the former Duke Blue Devil was getting away from his playmaking duties.
In his first six games of the season, Irving averaged 6.5 assists per night. In the next four contests, he dished out just 4.3 dimes and in the lone home game during that stretch, vs. Dallas, he had none.
This is not to criticize the second year player, as he was doing what he could to try to win basketball games, but it does suggest perhaps his teammates had started to defer too much to Irving and also Anderson Varejao.
Now with Irving out, likely until around Christmas time, it is time for some other people to step it up.
For one, it should make Dion Waiters a better player. He’s one guy who will need to pick up the scoring load without Irving’s almost 23 points per night, and he will have the ball in his hands quite a bit.
He scored 16 points in the win on Wednesday (he did take 22 shots) and had six assists. With Irving out, it would be nice to see Waiters start attacking the basket more. He hasn’t been to the free throw line in the last two contests and only has one game thus far with more than four free throws.
If he starts going to the hole on a regular basis, he should be getting six to eight charity tosses per night. The Cavs’ offense will need that, and it will make Waiters a better player when Kyrie comes back.
Another player who needs to step up is C. J. Miles, who responded with his best game of the season Wednesday, scoring 13 points on five of nine shooting.
Up to that contest, Miles was dreadful to start the season. The game against Philly raised his shooting percentage to 26.7% on the year. Remember, this is a guy who averaged almost 13 points per night just two years ago. He’s a better player than he’s showed the fans of the wine and gold thus far, and with Irving out, he’s another player who will need to pick his game up.
Irving’s absence should also help decide who the back up point guard will be when he returns. And Pargo gave himself a leg up with his performance in his first start. Coach Byron Scott gave the job initially to Donald Sloan, but when he wasn’t passing or scoring well, the coach started easing in Pargo.
No one expects the latter to keep scoring 28 points a game, but if he can show he progress, it gives Scott a chance to give his best player rest in order to keep him fresh for the end of games.
Sometimes basketball teams need to learn they don’t have to be totally reliant on an all-star player, and it would be better for the team if everyone pulled their weight instead of waiting for the star to do it.
If the Cavaliers learn that collectively over the next few weeks, then Irving’s finger will help in the long run.