Irving, Cavs welcome Raptors to the 'Q'
By Sports Network
|Toronto Raptors' head coach Dwane Casey yells instructions in third quarter action against the Boston Celtics during their pre-season NBA Basketball game in Boston, Massachusetts December 21, 2011. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)
No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers will commence the 2011-12 NBA season tonight with a showdown versus the Toronto Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena.
Irving is not expected to start in his NBA debut, but has tremendous upside coming into his rookie campaign. Irving played in 11 games as a freshman for Duke last season, averaging 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 27.5 minutes per game. He shot 52.9 percent, including 46.2 percent from three- point range over that span, but missed the majority of the season with a right toe injury.
The Cavs had reached the postseason in five straight seasons until finishing with a dreadful 19-63 mark a year ago, and were able to snag two top picks in the 2011 NBA Draft. Along with Irving, forward Tristan Thompson was plucked with the fourth-overall selection and earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors last season, averaging 13.1 points and team highs of 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 30.9 minutes per game in 36 games with Texas.
Cleveland made some moves in the offseason, including waiving veteran guard Baron Davis and dealing forward J.J. Hickson to Sacramento in exchange for guard/forward Omri Casspi and a protected first-round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Thompson is likely to see more time right away with Hickson gone for head coach Byron Scott.
Antawn Jamison, Ramon Sessions and Anthony Parker will lead this young group of players, while Jamison posted a team-high 18.0 ppg in 56 games a year ago for the Cavs, who will play three of five games at home to start the season before embarking on a seven-game road trip.
Toronto will play four of five road games to kick off the campaign and has missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. It went 22-60 last season and named Dwane Casey the team's new head coach back in June.
Casey spent the last three years as an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks, who won their first NBA title over the summer. The Raptors needed a replacement for Jay Triano and Casey vows the team will improve.
"We will get better," Casey stated. "The roster has a good talent base. The experiences I've had... all that has helped what I stand for, what I plan to instill in our guys and staff."
The Raptors hope to have a healthy season from Andrea Bargnani and the rest of the roster in order to compete in the talented Atlantic Division. Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan and Jamaal Magloire are all solid pieces to work with as the Raptors move forward in their quest for success. Toronto also added forward Rasual Butler and center Aaron Gray to the mix this offseason.
Toronto won two of three meetings with Cleveland last season, but the Cavs have prevailed in 17 of the last 22 matchups between the teams. The Raptors have lost 13 of 16 games at the Q.