October 2, 2014

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Cavs’ Samardo Samuels looks improved in preseason win

CLEVELAND — Samardo Samuels knows the Cavaliers desperately need someone to replace Antawn Jamison’s offense.

Samuels

That in mind, the native of Jamaica spent time in Charlotte this summer working with the veteran power forward, who signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent.

The work was evident Monday night, when Samuels displayed a much-improved mid-range jumper and scored a team-high 14 points as the Cavs opened exhibition play with a 91-85 victory over Italian League member Siena Montepaschi at Quicken Loans Arena.

“I worked on it a lot,” said the 6-foot-9 Samuels, who has slimmed down to 246 pounds. “Being around Antawn Jamison this summer kind of helped. That’s his game. Me having the same ability as far as the pick-and-pop, it was very important to add that to my game.”

Samuels finished 6-for-8 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds in 28 minutes, with virtually all his jumpers hitting nothing but net.

“My mindset was whether it was five minutes or two minutes, just give it my all,” he said. “Every game I play from now on, I want to give the same effort.”

Undrafted after spending two years at Louisville and now in his third season with the Cavs, Samuels has had some encouraging stretches, but he’s been inconsistent. Frequently, that’s been due to a lack of focus.

“Being in my third year, I don’t have so much room to mess up,” Samuels said. “Coach (Bryon) Scott, me and him had a serious talk before the season.”

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So far, the 23-year-old Samuels seems to have gotten his coach’s message.

“I’ve been impressed with Samardo since the summer,” Scott said.

“He really listened to what we had to say as far as what he had to do. He did all those things.”

Like Samuels this summer, the Cavs got Scott’s halftime message Monday.

Cleveland trailed 36-33 at intermission, at which time it was shooting .303 from the field (10-for-33) and had only five assists. After intermission, the Cavs scored 58 points on .676 shooting (23-for-34) and had 13 assists.

“I just said, ‘This is not us,’” Scott said. “If we expect to be any good this season, we can’t come out playing at half speed. We’ve got to come out playing at full throttle.”

The Cavs did that in the second half, especially at the start of the third period, when C.J. Miles and Tristan Thompson combined for 14 points in a 16-7 run over the first 4:06.

Miles, who started at shooting guard, hit a 3-pointer and had two strong drives in the spurt, while Thompson, who started at power forward, made three straight shots as a result of being active around the rim.

The rest of the Cavs eventually followed suit, as Cleveland pushed the tempo and prevented Siena from setting up its defense. During one stretch, the Cavs scored on seven straight possessions.

“It was more us running our early offense,” Scott said. “We didn’t do a good job of doing that in the first half.”

Siena fought back to tie the game at 72 with seven minutes left, but the Cavs went on an 11-0 run and held on down the stretch.

Post up note

Point guard Kyrie Irving hit the weight room in the offseason and added 10 pounds, which he wants to utilize in the low post at times this season.

“He thinks he’s Kyrie ‘Hercules’ Irving now,” Scott quipped.

The 20-year-old Irving mentioned Golden State coach Mark Jackson, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chauncey Billups and Brooklyn’s Deron Williams as having noteworthy post-up games among past and present point guards.

“It’s definitely a piece I’ve added to my game,” Irving said. “We’ll see when the real games start. I absolutely will call my number.”

Irving went 1-for-7 from the field Monday, but still had 10 points in 21 minutes because he made 8-of-9 free throws.

Earn it

One of the reasons Miles started at shooting guard was to lessen the pressure on No. 4 overall pick Dion Waiters. Scott also wanted to take a look at Miles with the other starters and show Waiters nothing will be given to him.

“Just like Kyrie last year, Dion has to earn that (starting role),” Scott said.

Miles initially said it was just the preseason and he wasn’t too excited about getting the starting nod, but later added, “I guess you can look at it as being my job to lose.”

That’s far from the case, as Scott said Waiters will probably start three of Cleveland’s seven remaining preseason games.

Waiters was up and down Monday, clanking jumpers in the first half but coming on strong in the second to finish with 11 points, three rebounds and an assist in just 15 minutes.

The Syracuse product had a stretch where he drove for a left-handed layup, fed Tyler Zeller with a no-look pass and hit a step-back jumper from the baseline. On the flip side, he blew several defensive assignments and didn’t do much when the ball was not in his hands.

Tip-ins

  • Thompson finished with 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting for the Cavs, while point guard Donald Sloan, who is battling Jeremy Pargo (DNP-CD) for a roster spot, had 13 points, three rebounds, two assists, three steals, a block and three turnovers in 27 minutes.
  • Scott used only 11 of the 20 players in camp. Other than Sloan, everyone who played is a virtual lock to make the team.
  • As was the case Saturday in the Wine & Gold scrimmage, starting small forward Alonzo Gee did next to nothing, finishing with two points, two rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes.
  • Like Waiters, Zeller started slowly but finished with seven points and seven boards in 26 minutes.
  • Siena hosted 33 3-pointers, making 12 (.364). Point guard Bobby Brown, who is from Cal State Fullerton, had a game-high 22 points on 6-for-18 shooting, including 5-for-13 from beyond the arc. Shooting guard Matt Janning (Northeastern) had 21 points and made 5-of-8 3-pointers, while Daniel Hackett (Southern Cal) added 14 points for Siena, which has just four players from Italy on its 12-man roster.
  • Tonight’s preseason game in Canton against Milwaukee will be televised by Fox Sports Ohio.
  • Paid attendance was 12,468, but the actual crowd was about half that.

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