In order for Sergey Karasev to have any chance at cracking the rotation he was going to have to wow Cavaliers coach Mike Brown.

Thursday night he did.

Karasev had 10 points and four rebounds but his impressive performance extended well beyond the numbers. He played 34 minutes he defended (eventually fouling out) he skipped a pass between his legs to Jermaine Taylor and he showed a quiet confidence rarely seen in a 19 year old.

Brown started him at shooting guard in part to see how he would respond. The answer? Remarkably well.
“To be 19 and to do that in a starting environment is pretty impressive” Brown said. “I sat back and said ‘OK wow. This kid might have something to him.’ ”

But before anyone anoints the 6-foot-8 Karasev the opening-night starter at small forward clearly the biggest position of need midway through the preseason there are a couple of issues to consider: Tyler Zeller and Brown’s beliefs.

What does Zeller have to do with Karasev? Not much except that former coach Byron Scott tossed Zeller into the starting lineup against the Indiana Pacers in the final preseason game last year and Zeller glistened against All-Star Roy Hibbert. He had 13 points and seven rebounds and limited Hibbert to four points and five rebounds. Based on that single preseason performance Zeller looked like a Rookie of the Year candidate. By February however Zeller was worn down overmatched and exhausted.

Beyond that Brown doesn’t really view Karasev as a small forward. Perhaps eventually he’ll be able to defend the position but right now Brown is leery to match him up against some of the league’s bigger stronger small forwards. He’s content leaving him at shooting guard where he looked awfully comfortable Thursday.