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Irving impresses new fans in Cavs’ scrimmage

- Associated Press - Sunday, December 18, 2011

CLEVELAND, OHIO (AP) - Kyrie Irving made a strong impression on Cleveland fans during the Cavaliers' free scrimmage at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday.

Irving received the loudest ovation during player introductions and the No. 1 overall draft pick from Duke was cheered throughout the scrimmage.

"It was a great feeling to be out there," he said. "When I pulled up into the parking garage, a lot of nerves were going. It was a lot of fun to finally play at the Q and be out there with my teammates."

Cleveland fans are counting on Irving to be the centerpiece in the Cavaliers' rebuilding project after the departure of LeBron James. Cleveland won 19 games last season.

Irving, whose Gold team defeated the Wine team 67-57 in the scrimmage that lasted three quarters, quickly provided a couple of highlights. Less than a minute into the game, he threw an alley-oop pass to Omri Casspi for a dunk. He then drove past Ramon Sessions and scored on a left-handed layup.

Irving added two more alley-oop passes that resulted in dunks and picked off a pass at midcourt and drove in for a dunk of his own. He finished with 14 points, nine assists, six rebounds and five turnovers in 31 minutes.

"I'm focused on getting better every day," Irving said. "I'm trying to fit into this team as best as I can. That's the most important thing right now."

Three of Irving's assists were on alley-oop passes, which brought the crowd to its feet.

"I've been doing those lob passes ever since I can remember, even in the eighth grade when no one could dunk," he said. "I've been practicing that my whole life. I don't think there's an art to it. It's a basketball play."

Cleveland coach Byron Scott hasn't committed to Irving as his starting point guard in the season opener against Toronto on Dec. 26. Irving came off the bench in Friday's preseason opener against Detroit and scored 21 points in 27 minutes.

The door for Irving to start opened last week when the Cavaliers waived Baron Davis under the NBA's new amnesty rule. The Cavaliers host the Pistons in the final preseason game Tuesday. Scott has said he won't make his decision until the opener, but Irving is expected to start.

Tristan Thompson, the No. 4 pick in the draft, scored 12 points and had six rebounds in 26 minutes.

NOTES: Casspi, who had been sidelined with a sore knee, scored nine points in 17 minutes. He's expected to be the starting small forward. ... Former Cavaliers C Zydrunas Ilgauskas was in attendance. He retired after playing last season with Miami. Ilgauskas would like to stay in basketball in some capacity. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do," he said. "It's been a long time since I've been home at this time of the year. This is kind of new to me." ... G Manny Harris (foot) will likely be out for two weeks. ... The Cavaliers waived F's Kyle Goldcamp and Tyrell Biggs.

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