Practice Notebook: A Measuring Stick, Minutes For Stevens, And Injury Updates

Photo via

Photo via

Practice Notebook: A measuring stick, minutes for Stevens, and injury updates

You must have an active subscription to read this story.

Click Here to subscribe Now!

The Cavaliers head to Milwaukee for their first of four matchups with the Bucks on Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum. The mid-November game is just one of 82 on the schedule, but it serves a different purpose, too.

This game is one that’s viewed at as a bit of a measuring stick game for the Cavaliers. The Bucks have been there and done that – winners of the 2021 NBA Finals – and are the consensus pick to win the Eastern Conference come late-May. Milwaukee has gotten off to a strong start, currently second in the conference with a 10-3 record.

This matchup, like the pair of games with Boston earlier this year, give the Cavaliers a chance to see where they stack up with one of the NBA’s best teams. This time, the Cavs have the added chance to snap a losing streak while doing it. At the top, they're not choosing to look at this as anything other than just another game. 

"I mean, not to me," Bickerstaff said when asked if there was additional meaning for this game. "I can see why there would be more weight on a game like this. For us, it's the same thing we've talked about, your standard, so, if you're playing to your standard every night, how is one game more important than the next?"

It’s no secret the Cavs haven’t played their best basketball as of late. That’s not something that’s worth pressing the panic button over, as Bickerstaff has routinely mentioned that he wants the team to be playing its best basketball at the end of the season, not the start.

“All games are definitely important, but some feel a little bit more important than others, especially this one,” Cavs big man Evan Mobley said after practice Tuesday. “It's the first time meeting then this year and they got off to a great start. So, it's gonna be definitely a challenge and we're gonna try to take it to them.”

While Wednesday may mean more than just another regular season game, it will certainly mean more when the Bucks come to town January 21 for the fourth and final regular season meeting between these two teams.

Minutes for Lamar Stevens

On Sunday night the Cavaliers received a boost from seldom used Lamar Stevens in a spot start. The team was down Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, and Dean Wade, pushing Stevens (and Kevin Love) into the starting lineup.

Stevens played well in the loss to Minnesota. He was on the court for 30 minutes and was Cleveland’s second-leading scorer with 15 points on 5-of-10 from the floor. It was a strong enough performance to warrant playing time for Stevens, even when the rest of the team is healthy.

“Every year he finds his way on the floor,” Bickerstaff said of Stevens after practice on Tuesday. “He deserves the opportunity, it's early and we're still trying to figure out lineups and rotations and that type of stuff. Injuries play a part, but he's a rotational player, and I've just gotta figure out a way to get him on the floor.”

Stevens playing well on Sunday is a bit more impressive when it’s considered that it was just his second time all season seeing significant action. He played 18 minutes against the Pistons on Nov. 4, but other than that played less than five minutes in just two other games.

“Just trusting that the time was gonna come,” Stevens said after the loss against Minnesota. “Preparing every night as if I know I am gonna play. When I don't, just not allowing it to deter me or get less encouraged, I guess. Just work even harder and prepare for that time and trust that that time was gonna come.”

With how well he played on Sunday night, Stevens should be considered to see time regularly, especially considering how Isaac Okoro’s minutes have fluctuated with less than stellar play. If Stevens starts to replace Okoro in the rotation in the short term, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Injury updates

The Cavaliers are dealing with a bit of an injury bug as Mitchell, Allen, and Wade all missed Sunday night’s game with various injuries. Those names can be added to Darius Garland as key rotation members that have missed this this season, and that’s not including point guard Ricky Rubio who hasn’t played a minute yet this season as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL that ended his season last December.

Bickerstaff did say on Tuesday that Mitchell went through practice with the team before departing for Milwaukee, but Allen and Wade did not. Mitchell is listed as questionable for Wednesday night, while Wade is doubtful and Allen has been ruled out with a non-COVID illness. 

As for Rubio, he was seen at Cleveland Clinic Courts on Tuesday going through post-practice work. That’s been a staple of Cavs practices this year, but Tuesday was the first time that Rubio has been seen going through one-on-one work, rather than one-on-zero work.

This doesn’t mean that a return for Rubio is imminent or anything like that, but it is a step in the right direction.