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Cavaliers sticking to plan after tough season

Associated Press Modified: April 27, 2012 at 5:46 pm •  Published: April 27, 2012

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — They suffered through costly injuries, a relentlessly brutal schedule and lopsided losses.

The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't finish the season as much as they survived it.

"A grind," said coach Byron Scott.

It ended with a 32-point loss in Chicago and a roster that included eight players who spent part of the season in the NBA's Developmental League. But the Cavs, who went 8-28 after Feb. 21, found some optimism despite a 21-45 record that will place them in the NBA's draft lottery for the second straight season.

Kyrie Irving brought the Cavs hope.

The No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft, Irving was the league's top first-year player — by a longshot. Fearless with the ball in his hands, the 20-year-old, who played in just 11 games as a freshman at Duke before going pro, averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds and shot 87 percent from the free-throw line.

Beyond his statistics, Irving convinced the Cavaliers that the worst is behind them and they'll return to the playoffs one day.

Not now. But soon.

"We're headed in the right direction," Scott said Friday, speaking to reporters after meeting individually with his players. "It's still going to be a long process, guys. We're probably not going to be there this coming year, but if we hit home runs in the draft it puts us in a position to get much better quicker."

The Cavs will have two first-round picks and general manager Chris Grant estimated the team will be around $20 million under the salary cap. It can't hurt to have a little luck along the way, which is what happened a year ago when the Ping-Pong balls bounced Cleveland's way in the lottery and they drafted Irving.

Only a few hours into the offseason the Cavs have already had some good fortune.

On Friday, they won two tiebreaker drawings at the league offices in New York that will improve their position in the June 28 draft. The Cavs won a drawing against New Orleans and are slotted to choose third overall if no team jumps them in the May 30 lottery.

Also, the pick Cleveland got from the Los Angeles Lakers in the trade for guard Ramon Sessions will be No. 24 overall after the Lakers won a tiebreaker over Memphis.

Cleveland was represented at the drawings by owner Dan Gilbert's son, Nick, who was the lucky charm last year when the Cavs won the lottery. The lowest the Cavs will select is No. 6, a pick that should give them another player to pair with Irving.

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