Cavaliers' Garland Rising When Many Rookies Get the Blues

Sam Amico

CLEVELAND -- It is about at this point rookies typically hit a wall of fatigue, but so far Cavaliers guard Darius Garland is going in the other direction.

The Cavs are now beyond the official midway point of the season entering Monday's home game vs. the New York Knicks (5 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).

After a rocky rookie start, Garland is averaging 15.7 points and 6.0 assists over the last 10 games. He is shooting 43 percent from the field and a sizzling 91 percent on free throws in that stretch. He is also coming off a 16-point, five-assist performance in Saturday's loss at Chicago.

Now for the bad. Garland committed eight turnovers vs. the Bulls -- and is averaging 3.2 in January. That's way too many for a team's primary ballhandler.

But as teammate Kevin Love pointed out recently, this really is like Garland's freshman season in college.

Garland turns 20 years old in a week (Jan. 26). He is 6-foot-1 and appeared in just five games last year at Vanderbilt. He passed that number with the Cavs by the second week of November. In fact, he has proven to be quite durable with the Cavs -- starting in all 43 games.

Garland was one of three first-round picks by GM Koby Altman. The second was guard/forward Dylan Windler. A stress reaction in Windler's leg will keep him off the floor until next season. The third first-rounder was Kevin Porter Jr., who has shown a nice upside but is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

So Garland has been a survivor playing alongside second-year man Collin Sexton in the backcourt.

"We're making progress. It's more consistent now," Cavs coach John Beilein said of Garland and Sexton recently. "We saw flashes early in the year, but it's too much to expect a young backcourt to be consistent (right away). We're seeing it right now. The game is slowing down for a lot of our younger players."

Garland has been showing that, picking it up at a time of year when many rookies are slowing down. The next step will be learning how to win, as the Cavs (12-31) are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They are having serious issues playing well for all four quarters and are struggling mightily to close out games.

That's just life with a rookie point guard and a young and small starting backcourt.

But Altman, Beilein and the Cavs merely want to see Garland show promise. For the most part lately, that has been the case.

LOTTERY BOWL

The Cavs began their six-game trip on a high note, winning at Detroit and pulling off an upset at Denver. But they enter Monday's game as losers of four straight.

The Knicks (11-32) have been even worse. They have lost three straight and are just 1-8 since Jan. 3. Four of the losses in that span are by no less than 20 points.

Along with all the that, the Knicks are expected to be without rookie R.J. Barrett, sidelined Saturday with a sprained ankle.

Basically, it's more of the same for these two franchises, as both are headed for another summer in the draft lottery. It's been particularly bad for the Knicks, who have reached the conference semifinals an embarrassing one time since 1999-2000.

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