An early conversation with Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff helped 19-year-old rookie Isaac Okoro control his first-game jitters and secure a 107-104 preseason win on Saturday, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes.
Okoro, who scored 18 points (including 16 in the fourth quarter), converted an and-one layup with 0.3 seconds left to help the team defeat the Pacers. He also impressed the franchise with his defensive work, guarding the likes of Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Holiday throughout the game.
“I wanted him to shoot the ball every time he was open. Pretty simple,” Bickerstaff said of what he told Okoro. “Obviously he’s capable of making shots. I think he was uncomfortable in those moments, still trying to search and catch a rhythm. But I wanted him to have the confidence and I wanted his teammates to give him that confidence as well that when he’s open, take those shots, knock those shots down and then the rest of the game opens up.
“He had an opportunity to take shots early on that I thought he turned down. Because of his ability to attack the rim and high level-finishing, if people have to press up on him, he’s going to be a nightmare to guard.”
Okoro and the Cavaliers will play Indiana at home for a second straight time on Monday, then travel to New York to play the Knicks on Wednesday. The team’s final preseason contest will commence on Friday against New York.
There’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- The Pistons have hired Travon Bryant as an assistant coach with a focus on player development, his agency, Career Sports & Entertainment, announced on social media. Bryant spent the past three seasons serving as an assistant with the Nets.
- Wizards guard Ish Smith is dealing with lower body soreness, coach Scott Brooks said, as relayed by Ava Wallace of the Washington Post. Smith missed the team’s first preseason game against the Nets on Sunday, with Brooks expecting the soreness to heal in the coming days.
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines the Hornets‘ preseason game from Saturday, along with the debuts of both LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward. Ball went scoreless and registered four turnovers in 16 minutes off the bench, but he also grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out four assists and made multiple highlight plays. Hayward scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in 19 minutes, shooting 4-of-8 from the floor.