Russian sharp-shooting prodigy Sergey Karasev made his preseason NBA debut on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks. I had a chance to catch up with the 19-year-old who was selected 19th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer for a few minutes before the game.
Karasev talked about learning Mike Brown's defensive system, the advice he recently received from fellow Russian NBA'er Andrei Kirilenko along with his thoughts on his adopted hometown. That conversation is below.
It was encouraging to hear the rookie talk about the focus he has on the defensive end of the floor right now. He will ultimately need to prove to Brown that he is a competent defender in order to crack what appears to be a pretty solid 10-man rotation but he certainly has the skill set and ability to make that happen.
Karasev eventually took the Quicken Loans Arena floor for the first time late in the second half. While also knocking down a three-pointer, Karasev's Cavs highlight-reel began in earnest with this lob to fellow rookie Anthony Bennett.
He eventually finished with three points, two assists and one steal in 14 minutes of work.
Kyrie Irving leading defensively at point of attack
The Bleacher Report team asked me to grade multiple areas of Kyrie Irving's preseason performance against Milwaukee this morning and that article is posted here. Besides turning the ball over five times, Irving was his typical self offensively by shooting 50 percent on the night for 14 points in less than 24 minutes of work.
The area of his game I was most encouraged by, however, was the improving approach he demonstrated on defense.
The Bucks could be the worst team in the NBA this season–at least they looked the part on Tuesday. Nevertheless, they're still an NBA team who was held to 35 percent shooting collectively for 48 minutes by a Cavs team who finished last in the league in opponent field-goal percentage last year.
That new identity Mike Brown is working to establish on defense must ultimately begin with Irving, who appears dedicated to becoming a complete superstar on both ends this season. My thoughts on Irving's defensive effort during the first test of the 2013-14 campaign previously posted at BR are below.
It is only one preseason game to be sure, but Irving appeared focused defensively on a per-possession basis far more often than he was during the 2012-13 campaign.
While defending Brandon Knight with just under eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, for example, Irving hustled to stay in front of Knight after the Milwaukee guard gained a step on Irving before swiping the ball away later in the possession. That type of defensive recovery is something we haven't seen from Irving on a consistent basis throughout his first two years in the league.
For the game, Knight and Ridnour, who Irving matched up with defensively during his time on the floor, finished a combined 2-for-11 shooting with only nine points. Irving also finished with two steals and two blocked shots. While he has a long way to go in order to become a complete superstar on the defensive end, Irving's first preseason game was certainly a step in that direction.
For more on Cavs / Bucks check out this must read from Cleveland Jackson if you haven't already – Chris Grantland: Back in Cleveland with a preseason win. Next up is the Orlando Magic on Friday as preseason Cavs madness continues.