Darius Garland just missed out on making his second consecutive All-Star Game.
The Cleveland Cavaliers star floor general isn’t worried by that lack of recognition compared high-level Eastern Conference peers, though. He’s far more focused on helping his young team level up in a loaded field of Eastern Conference title contenders.
“I will use it as motivation after this, after the All-Star break,” Garland said Thursday night after his name was left off the list of 2023 All-Star reserves, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “It’s whatever. We’ve got other games to play. We’ve got somewhere we want to get to, trying to get to the playoffs. The All-Stars will come.”
Garland certainly used his All-Star snubbing in that capacity in Thursday’s heated win over the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies. He dropped 32 points and 11 assists in the Cavaliers’ impressive victory, out-playing All-Star reserve counterpart Ja Morant and even teammate Donovan Mitchell, voted in as an Eastern Conference starter.
Let’s just say that Bernie Bickerstaff was hardly surprised by Darius Garland’s performance against the Grizzlies. He learned long ago not to be fooled by the 23-year-old’s amiable resting exterior, fully confident Garland’s best basketball will come in wake of him not being selected an All-Star.
“As kind and nice and polite as he is, he does have a killer instinct in him,” Bickerstaff said. “Whenever people overlook him, whenever people snub him, he uses that as fuel.
“People better watch out.”
The Cavaliers are 32-22, half game back of the Brooklyn Nets for fourth in the East. Led by a defiant, extra motivated Garland, don’t be shocked if Cleveland surges up the standings over the season’s second half, entering the playoffs as one of the most dangerous teams in the league.