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Young Cavaliers growing into winners

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013

There's no denying the Cavs have been on a steady climb. After a loss on Jan. 2, they were 7-25 and tough to watch. But they've gone 13-13 since and done it without center Anderson Varejao, who was having an All-Star caliber season before undergoing knee surgery and developing a blood clot in his lung.

They are far from a finished product, but with a talented, young core led by the marvelous 20-year-old Irving — and two first-round draft picks this season, the Cavs may be close to moving back in among the Eastern Conference's top teams.

"It reminds me of 1986," said former majority owner Gordon Gund, who attended Wednesday's game. "We had four rookies all starting on that team, too, in Brad Daugherty, 'Hot Rod' Williams, Mark Price and Ron Harper, which was a darn good group. This reminds me very much of that. If they get the playing time, they're going to get much better, and Byron is willing to let them do that.

"The more time they get, the better they'll get."

Scott has mostly been patient with his young team, which got a huge boost when general manager Chris Grant acquired Ellington, center Marreese Speights and a future first-round pick from Memphis in January. However, there have been times when Scott wondered if the Cavs would ever learn.

He stayed on them, and in recent weeks, they've shown an attention to detail that has allowed the Cavs to pull out some tight wins.

"We've been a little bit more focused," Scott said. "When you're right there, when you give yourselves an opportunity to win, that to me is showing progress, especially against some of the teams we've played. To be able to go on the last road trip and talk to the guys about winning two of three and our guys were able to do that, that's a big confidence-booster."

The game has slowed down for Cleveland's rookies, who now understand what's expected of them on and off the floor. As he sat at his locker before facing Toronto, Zeller studied film of the Raptors on his iPad, looking for tendencies, anything to get an edge.

The No. 17 overall pick last year, Zeller remembers being lost in his first two months.

"The first, shoot, 20 or 30 games, everything was just flying," he said. "You were just trying to catch up. Now you can kind of see things happening. You can get to a spot and whether you make the play or not, you can at least kind of see things happening whereas before you really didn't know what was going on.

"Hopefully we continue to get better and carry it over into next year."

And by then, someone else will be pushing a stroller.