April 23, 2014

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Cavs: Samardo Samuels gets first NBA start tonight

INDEPENDENCE — Samardo Samuels will make his first NBA start tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.

It will come against the San Antonio Spurs, who have a league-best 49-11 record after a loss in Memphis on Tuesday.

“Tim Duncan was one of my favorite players growing up,” the 6-foot-9, 260-pound rookie from Louisville said Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “To have the opportunity to start against him is amazing.

“I’ll go out there (tonight) and just play hard,” he added. “I’ll give it everything I have.”

When it came to replacing starting power forward Antawn Jamison, who underwent surgery Tuesday on the fractured little finger on his left hand that will likely sideline him the rest of the season, coach Byron Scott’s options were limited.

Rookie 7-footer Semih Erden, acquired Thursday from Boston, has a bit of a shoulder injury and isn’t in great condition, so Scott said he’s unlikely to play in the next three games.

Ryan Hollins, a 7-footer from UCLA, has struggled and didn’t warrant being put in the starting lineup.

“It hurts us big-time,” Scott said of losing Jamison, the team’s leading scorer at 18.0 points a game. “He’s one of our leaders, our leading scorer, one of our better communicators out there.”

Point guard Baron Davis, acquired Thursday from the Los Angeles Clippers, also won’t play tonight, Scott saying he’ll debut “Friday (in New York) at the earliest, Sunday (at home vs. New Orleans) at the latest.”

Davis worked out Monday with a few teammates and went through practice Tuesday, but the Cavs are planning to exercise caution with the 31-year-old, who has had three knee surgeries.

“I’m anxious to see him on the floor,” Scott said. “He looks good. In practice, he makes everybody better.”

Luke Harangody, acquired along with Erden, is expected to be in uniform tonight and will likely see some action on the front line, where Scott said starters Samuels and J.J. Hickson will basically be interchangeable at the power forward and center spots.

The Spurs, who start DeJuan Blair and Duncan at those positions, operate pretty much the same way. Of course, they also feature swingman Manu Ginobili.

“They just know how to play,” Scott said. “They’ve been together so long. They know each other so well.
“Pop (coach Gregg Popovich) continues to drive those guys, which I think they love,” he added. “The other thing I think they love is everybody continues to write them off.”

That happened long ago to the Cavs, whose 11-48 record makes tonight’s game a meeting between the best and worst teams in the NBA.

For Samuels, though, it will be a special night. The 22-year-old had 12 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench Sunday against Philadelphia, but was just 1-for-8 from the field Friday against New York. Samuels also had 12 points Wednesday against Houston, but grabbed just one board in 18 minutes.

“He knows what we’re doing and the last few games he’s played pretty well,” Scott said. “I figure I’ll give him a look.”

That’s all Samuels asks.

“I’m excited,” he said. “Every day I wake up, I’m excited.”

Tonight

  • WHO: Cleveland vs. San Antonio
  • TIME: 7 o’clock
  • WHERE: The Q
  • TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WTAM 1100-AM

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.