Cleveland Cavaliers rookie guard Darius Garland has had a bumpy start to his NBA career, but his strong performance on Friday night brought praise from head coach John Beilein and some of the team’s veterans.
While the Cavaliers lost 119-110 to the Milwaukee Bucks, Garland displayed what he can bring to the Cavs during his 35 minutes on the court. After the game, Beilein noted how impressed he was with the rookie’s growing confidence and increasing improvement.
“He just looked like he felt really sure of himself, very confident on the floor,” Beilein said. “He is starting to get a command for the offense, he’s starting to take some charge on some things and then he’s playing against some really good guards every minute, so he is improving there.”
Garland finished with a team-high 21 points, while connecting on 8-of-14 from the field. In addition, he was 5-of-7 on 3-point attempts and also dished out six assists. That balanced and efficient night led Tristan Thompson to point out the continuing growth shown by the 19-year-old.
“He’s becoming who we thought he could be,” Thompson said.
Those six assists by Garland were part of a season-best 32 in that category for the Cavs. Larry Nance Jr. expressed his hope that such play was just the beginning.
“Unselfishness is contagious,” Nance said. “Hopefully we can all catch that.”
Nance also echoed Thompson’s praise toward Garland, mentioning that things really seem to be clicking for the No. 5 overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft.
“The game is slowing down and I think we’re starting to see what kind of player and point guard we have,” Nance said.
Early on, Garland struggled to adapt to the faster pace of the NBA. That slow start was likely due to the fact that his collegiate career on the court had consisted of just five games last year and that he hadn’t played in a meaningful game for nearly a year due to injury.
In 19 games this season, Garland is averaging 10.9 points, 3.1 assists and 1.5 rebounds per game, while connecting at a 38 percent rate from the field.
The hope is that Friday night’s effort was just the first of many more strong efforts for him in the years ahead.