John Wall and Kyrie Irving, the past two No. 1 overall picks, will play each other for the first time on Saturday. Wall and Irving have known each other for about four years, but were unable to play each other in high school because Irving had just transferred to St. Patrick’s (N.J.) and was ineligible when his team defeated Word of God Academy (N.C.) during Wall’s senior year. Wall was also unsuccessful in recruiting Irving to Kentucky, with Irving choosing Duke.
The two were on the same team during the Rising Stars Challenge in Orlando, with Irving claiming MVP honors and Wall putting on a slam dunk show. Irving nearly missed their first career matchup as he sat out with the flu on Friday against Chicago. Cleveland Coach Byron Scott said before the game that Irving told him that he was fine and able to play and as if on cue, Irving grabbed a seat on a service cart about 50 feet away and playfully blew the horn, upsetting the security guards standing nearby. Irving is the favorite to win rookie of the year honors, averaging 18.5 points and posting a player efficiency rating better than Magic Johnson in his rookie year.
“He’s doing a great job with his team,” Wall said. “Another point guard that you’ve got to watch out for in these upcoming years. Can play basketball, run pick-and-roll very well, shoot the ball very well. It’s going to be a great challenge. Just got to go out there play basketball and see who’s team gets the win.”
Coach Randy Wittman has reinserted center JaVale McGee in the starting lineup after benching him in the second half against Milwaukee and at the start against Orlando. Andray Blatche is back after missing the previous 15 games with a strained left calf. Blatche said he wouldn’t focus on the trade rumors surrounding him before the March 15 deadline.
Rashard Lewis and Nick Young will be out. Young said he hopes to return soon. Antawn Jamison will play at Verizon Center for the first time since he was traded to Cleveland in February 2010.
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Tipoff: 7 p.m. TV: Comcast SportsNet; Radio: 106.7 (WJFK FM). Check out a live box score for today’s game here.