INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — What should we expect from the Cavaliers’ in the preseason opener?
Well, not a whole lot. Not unless you think watching guys fighting for a roster spot is a good time.
That’s pretty much the story as the Cavs prepare to take on Italian club Montepaschi Siena on Monday at Quicken Loans Arena. They immediately follow with their second preseason game Tuesday in Canton against Milwaukee.
Cavs coach Byron Scott has already figured out his strategy. He says he’ll play the starters (to be announced) 20-24 minutes, and use up to seven reserves each night, giving them minutes “in the high teens or maybe the high 20s.” Bench guys who don’t play Monday will likely get those minutes Tuesday.
Makes sense, as Scott must trim the roster from 20 to 15 players before the Oct. 30 regular-season opener. It won’t be easy, either.
A lot of Cavs aiming to stay in the NBA are similar in stature and talent. But if you ask Scott, that’s one of the things that makes this preseason so great.
“We have guys that are fighting to be on this team and fighting to get into the rotation,” he said. “That’s why (practice has) been so competitive.”
Those wishing to make the team can impress their coach not just by showing a flair for finishing plays and putting the ball in the basket, but by bending their knees and shuffling their feet. In fact, Scott is likely to put even more stock in who plays well at the other end.
“We want to be able to defend,” he said. “We want to see how (good) our pick-and-roll defense is going to be, our post defense … The key areas for us will be (opponsing) field-goal percentage, rebounding and turnovers. Those are three areas that we’re really, really trying to focus on.”
With a young lineup featuring second-year point guard Kyrie Irving, rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters and second-year power forward Tristan Thompson, the Cavs aim to run, gun and have lots of fun.
Scott cited Irving and Thompson as people who could potentially increase their point-production — and listed others such as Waiters, swingman C.J. Miles, power forward Samardo Samuels and small forward Alonzo Gee as those who “you hope can collectively pick up the slack.”
But if you want to utilize an up-tempo offense, you’d darn well better be willing to buckle down on defense first.
“Again, I’m not so concerned about the offensive end,” Scott said. “I think we can (play the desired pace) just by getting stops, because that allows us to get up and down the floor.”
LOTS OF MILES
When the Cavs signed Miles in free agency over the summer, they did so with the idea that the seventh-year swingman would be rejuvenated with a change of scenery. Miles felt that way, too.
In other words, the Cavs plan to feature him considerably more than Utah did in his first six NBA seasons. That much could be seen in just the Wine & Gold Scrimmage alone. Miles was active and always around the ball, finishing with nine points and four rebounds.
“He did a lot of things we talked about him being able to do,” Scott said. “We talked about him being a guy who we can run pick-and-rolls through, a guy who can slash. He loves dribble handoffs because he can turn the corner or shoot the jump shot.”
It was exactly the sort of thing Scott told Miles would happen when Scott recruited him.
“When I talked to him this summer, I told him, ‘You will love our offense. The position that you play … you’re going to get a lot of opportunities,'” Scott said.
After the scrimmage, Scott said Miles practically hugged him “to death.”
“(Miles) said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this,” Scott said. “I said, ‘This is what I told you when we were on the phone. You’re going to get an opportunity to showcase some of the things I know you can do very well.'”
• When asked if he would reveal the starting lineup for the preseason opener on Sunday, Scott smiled and laughed. “Probably not,” he said.
• As for making some cuts after the first two preseason games, Scott listed the odds as “50-50.”
• Cavs guard Daniel Gibson, coming off April foot surgery, said he appreciates just suiting up more than ever. “I actually had butterflies before the (scrimmage),” Gibson said. “I haven’t had those in forever. … I felt like a kid again.”
• Montepaschai Siena has already played one NBA team this preseason — losing 106-77 in San Antonio on Saturday. Former NBA guards Bobby Brown (Kings, Hornets) and Matt Janning (Suns) are two notable members of Siena’s roster.
• Tuesday’s game against the Bucks is one of two preseason games to be televised by FOX Sports Ohio. Tipoff is 7 p.m. FSO will also televise the Oct. 17 preseason game at Philadelphia.