CLEVELAND — Two days ago, Cavaliers rookie Sergey Karasev missed a preseason game because he was in the Bahamas getting his work visa. Thursday, he was in the starting lineup at shooting guard.
With normal starter Dion Waiters out with a right hip contusion, coach Mike Brown started the No. 19 overall pick in the draft in Cleveland’s 96-84 exhibition win over the Detroit Pistons at Quicken Loans Arena.
The 6-foot-7, 196-pound Karasev finished with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting, three rebounds and one assist in a team-high 34 minutes. He hit his first shot, a 3-pointer, then didn’t do much until putting up seven points on 3-for-3 shooting in the fourth period while playing with Cleveland (3-1) reserves.
“He seems like he’s not afraid,” Brown said of the left-handed Russian. “At least I don’t think he is. He plays like he’s not.”
The Cavs were also without combo guard Jarrett Jack (inflamed left knee) and swingman C.J. Miles (sore left leg) against the Pistons, so Karasev, who will turn 20 on Oct. 26, got plenty of opportunities to show what he could do.
So did Jermaine Taylor, who continually knifed his way through Detroit (2-3) defenders en route to 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting in 20 minutes.
“I was impressed with the way those two guys played,” Brown said. “They kept the game simple, they moved the basketball, they played great ‘D’ and they ran the floor.
“I applaud both those guys for the performances they had. I thought it was really good.”
The 6-5, 210-pound Taylor is a fantastic competitor and above-average defender from Central Florida who has spent parts of two seasons in the NBA since being drafted 32nd overall in 2009.
However, he’s a below-average shooter and a long shot to make the roster — unless the Cavs cut point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who has a small amount of guaranteed money.
“He’s got to be with the right team, right fit,” Brown said when asked why Taylor hasn’t found a home in the NBA. “He’s athletic, he’s quick, he’s strong and he’s got a nose for the rim. … It’s just got to be the right fit. Maybe we are (the right fit). I don’t know yet.”
Karasev is likely to spend some time in the NBA Development League this season, but he’s got a nice jumper, can put the ball on the floor and is an intelligent player.
Eventually, Karasev will also be able to play some small forward, but right now he lacks the physical strength needed at that position.
“I have to show Coach he can trust me,” he said. “If he decides to put me on the bench or in the D-League, I’ll work every minute. … I’m ready to play five minutes, 30 minutes. I just want to help the team as much as I can.”
Karasev learned the game from his father, Vasily, once a star point guard who coached him on the national team and professionally in Russia.
“He was tougher on me than the other players,” Karasev said. “The other players told that to me. I was the key player on that team. Every day, he showed me all the little mistakes.”
The rookie made a few of those against the Pistons, most notably fouling Chauncey Billups and 6-10, 270-pound center Andre Drummond on 3-point attempts. The latter came as the 24-second shot clock was about to go off.
“Every once in a while, the 19-year-old crops into play,” Brown said.
Karasev also committed a bad reaching foul after failing to keep Billups out of the lane, but overall he looked comfortable on the floor.
“He’s got a confidence to him that most guys his age don’t have,” Brown said. “It’s like an older veteran confidence. Most guys his age have a cockiness, not a confidence.”
Brown said No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett has asthma and sleep apnea. Brown also has sleep apnea and uses a machine to help him breathe more easily and sleep at night.
“It’s been tiring to watch him,” Brown said of Bennett. “Every time I look over, he’s going (feigning repeated deep breaths). He makes me tired.”
Bennett finished with 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting against the Pistons.
“The sky’s the limit,” Brown said. “We’re getting a taste of what he could be.”
In addition to Waiters, Jack and Miles, the Cavs were also without Tyler Zeller (appendectomy), Carrick Felix (hernia) and Andrew Bynum (knee surgery), while the Pistons were minus Rodney Stuckey (thumb) and Brandon Jennings (jaw).
Waiters said he got hurt Tuesday against Charlotte and also won’t play Saturday at The Q against Indiana. The other injured players, other than perhaps Miles, are expected to miss that game as well.
“I’d rather be ready for the season,” Waiters said.
Bynum, who missed all of last season, played some 3-on-3 Wednesday at practice and went through a hard workout on the floor before the game, even dunking at one point.
Asked when Bynum might play 5-on-5, Brown said, “I think he’s close.”
Alonzo Gee, who started at small forward, had zero points and three fouls midway through the first quarter. He had four fouls in his first 10 minutes and finished with one point on 0-for-4 shooting in 15 minutes. Being eased back from hamstring soreness, he didn’t play in the second half.
(bullet) Anderson Varejao was all over the place early and finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes. He had six points and eight boards in nine first-quarter minutes while going against a monster Pistons front line of Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.
(bullet) Henry Sims, who looks like he’s earned a spot on the team, had eight points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes. That means he and Varejao combined for 18 points and 21 boards in 44 minutes.
(bullet) Tristan Thompson (11 points on 5-for-13 shooting, seven rebounds in 25 minutes) hit nothing but net on a 17-foot right-handed jumper from the baseline.
(bullet) Kyrie Irving didn’t score until hitting a 3-pointer right before halftime, then dominated the third quarter. He finished with 15 points and six assists in 26 minutes.
Quote of the day
“They are not going to be perfect. Hopefully, over time, you get exactly what you’re looking for from that position. If you don’t, you look someplace else for it. I’m going to let it marinate.” — Brown, on his team’s small forwards.