J.B. Bickerstaff speaks out on Darius Garland taking ‘beating’ for Cavs: ‘We just got to find a way to protect him’

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers star Darius Garland can’t seem to catch a break this season from a physical standpoint, and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff wants that trend to stop.

The 22-year-old has dealt with multiple injuries since the 2022-23 campaign started. While none have been too serious in nature, they’ve certainly impacted his performance at times.

Garland tried to play through a thumb injury on Friday against the Denver Nuggets. He started the game with a wrap around the injured thumb, but he couldn’t get comfortable while wearing it, so he took it off.

Later in the game, with the wrap off, Garland took a blow to the injured thumb, causing him visible discomfort.

He also took a smack to the eye and suffered a kick to the groin area in the game against Denver. It wasn’t a fun night for the young star. After the game, Bickerstaff spoke about Garland’s thumb, explaining that the team needs to figure out a way to protect it.

“He’s out there taking a beating,” Bickerstaff said. “He kept fighting. We’re gonna have to figure something out as a way to protect it. But I don’t know if you can. It’s tough the way he plays and the way he’s defended. People are handsy and they do a lot of swiping at the ball trying to get steals, not in a malicious way by any means, I’m not trying to say that, but his hands are involved in a lot of the plays. I thought he got through it. He’s a tough kid.”

Bickerstaff continued.

“I don’t think it was handicapping him,” he said of Garland’s thumb issue. “But I do think as the game went on, and he was getting chopped and hit more, there was a little bit of irritant. Anything that you’re recovering from, think about getting hit, it’s gonna be a pain thing. We will make sure that it’s not something that can get worse.

“We just got to find a way to protect him.”

Despite getting roughed up against the Nuggets, Garland turned in a gutsy performance. He dropped 21 points, eight assists and four rebounds in a game where the Cavs didn’t have Donovan Mitchell.

But it wasn’t enough, as the Nuggets walked away with a 121-108 victory. The result snapped a three-game winning streak for the Cavs.

Garland’s health will certainly be critical moving forward. The one-time All-Star is averaging 21.4 points, 7.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game this season, and Cleveland can’t afford to lose him for an extended period of time.

As long as the Cavs are in relatively good shape from a health standpoint when the playoffs arrive, the expectation from many fans is that the team will make its first deep playoff run in several years.

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Jason has covered the NBA for multiple years and is very excited about the future of the Cleveland Cavaliers.