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We’re talking ‘bout practice …
Flash Forward … Tuesday afternoon at Cleveland Clinic Courts marked the final practice before the regular season tips off on Wednesday night against Brooklyn. And other than the date of Andrew Bynum’s return, almost all the questions have been answered heading into the campaign.
The only lingering question that hasn’t been answered after a month of Training Camp and preseason is who will start at the small forward against the Nets.
Two players are in the mix for the starting spot – Alonzo Gee and Earl Clark – and CJ Miles remains part of the conversation. (Although Mike Brown said on Tuesday that Miles’ minutes will probably come at the backup 2.)
Despite missing four of Cleveland’s final five preseason contests with a pair of leg ailments, Miles feels good about where he’s at – at either SF or SG – moving forward.
“I’ve been able to do fine in every situation they’ve put me in,” said Miles. “I take pride in being able to do that, though. Whether it’s off the bench or as a starter or whatever the role may be, just being able to help my team in any situation. My job is to play when they put me out there; his job is to figure out the best situation to put guys in to play with each other. So I just wait for my name to be called.”
Coach Brown has said several times this preseason that no player has truly separated themselves during the preseason. (Although he admitted he's "leaning" towards Clark at this point.)
Miles appeared in four games with one start (at 2-guard) and averaged 12.0 ppg, shooting 43 percent from the floor. Clark started five of the seven games he’s appeared in an averaged 6.7 ppg on 39 percent shooting. Clark saved his best offensive performance for the preseason finale against Charlotte, notching 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. The incumbent, Alonzo Gee, played in five game – starting three – and averaged 5.2 ppg. Gee did lead the squad in three-point shooting, however, at 56 percent.
Of course, none of these statistics are what really matter most to Mike Brown. With the roster’s current makeup, defense will be the main emphasis from the small forward spot. And all three can more than hold their own.
“The reality of it is, it’s not necessarily always who starts,” asserted Coach Brown. “I know that’s the glamour thing. (But) you look at San Antonio for all these years and I don’t think anybody in this building right now or anybody in the game of basketball can tell me that Manu Ginobili doesn’t deserve to start. What it is a lot of times is: who do you think you want on the floor at the end of the game to try to help you win.”
Injury Update … It’s still unclear whether either will see action in Wednesday night’s home opener, but both Sergey Karasev and Tyler Zeller have been cleared to play.
Zeller has been battling the injury bug all preseason – suffering a hip flexor in the Wine and Gold Scrimmage and undergoing an emergency appendectomy on October 11. Karasev was shelved for the final two preseason games with a sprained left ankle.
Both practiced on Tuesday.
Shooter’s Touch … A couple weeks ago, when Tristan Thompson was asked about how his transition to shooting right-handed was coming along, he said, “There’s no blueprint for when it’s going be like Kyle Korver’s (shot), but I’m going to keep working every day and just get better.”
The third-year forward has been working on his shot and it’s already made a difference. A career .586 free throw shooter (who shot 48 percent in college), Thompson shot it at a .667 clip in 36 preseason trips to the stripe. From the floor, Tristan combined to shoot 47 percent through his first two years and was at 52 percent during the preseason.
On Tuesday afternoon, Thompson – working with assistants Jamahl Mosley and Tim Grgurich – showed just how close he is to Kyle Korver’s form, splashing home one three-pointer after another.
Don’t fret. Thompson likely won’t be taking too many three-point attempts – (he’s tried only five in his career) – but it’s good to know that his right-handed shooting touch is that much better and more fluid than his left-handed attempts used to be.
Listen as C.J. Miles and Head Coach Mike Brown discuss Tuesday's practice with the media.
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