Darius Garland hasn’t quite been himself over the first few weeks of 2023-24. Once the Cleveland Cavaliers star inevitably reverts back to his career norms going forward, it’s safe to say steadfast confidence in his game will have played a major role in that development.
After Cleveland took down the Detroit Pistons on Friday without Donovan Mitchell, Garland stressed his case as one of the “best guards” in basketball.
“Nobody can really guard me, and that’s been my mindset for a couple years now,” he said, per Ethan Sands of Cleveland.com. “I think I’m one of the best guards in this league. You have to come in with that confidence and the positivity that nobody can stay in front of you out there.”
Darius Garland’s subpar season so far
Garland dropped 28 points, three rebounds and three assists on 10-of-19 shooting during the Cavs’ 108-100 victory over the Pistons in an in-season tournament battle on Friday. The performance is his highest-scoring of the season so far, and marks just the third game he’s hit at least 50% of his shots.
Garland’s relative struggles have flown somewhat under the radar nationally amid an injury-ravaged start for Cleveland in 2023-24. He hasn’t been immune to them, either. Hamstring issues kept Garland out of four straight games in late October, while he missed the Cavs’ Wednesday win over the Portland Trail Blazers with a neck injury.
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It’s safe to say enduring injury issues while acclimating to Cleveland’s new offensive attack has played a part in Garland’s underwhelming play so far. He’s averaging 18.7 points and 5.7 assists per game while shooting 30.3% from deep, numbers far below those he registered over the last two seasons while establishing himself as one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers and shot-creators.
Garland isn’t the only one whose confidence in him has remained unwavering in the season’s early going. On a team featuring Mitchell, dynamic third-year big man Evan Mobley and former All-Star center Jarrett Allen, Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff knows his team will only reach its peak with Garland hitting his.
“We know how important Darius is to us,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “He is the leader of this team. The ball is in his hands, and he’s got the keys. We don’t go where we want to go without him being at his best.”