Cavs’ preseason loss shows small forward job still open

CANTON, Ohio — Random observations, and a few facts, from the Cavaliers’ 92-74 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday from the Canton Memorial Civic Center:

• It’s extremely early, and it would be unfair to make a call after just three preseason games, but of the three candidates for the starting small forward spot, C.J. Miles has looked the best to me.

• Granted, coach Mike Brown wants someone to defend, rebound and keep the ball moving at that spot — not exactly Miles’ strengths. He’s more of a Have Ball, Will Shoot kind of guy. But Miles has looked better than Earl Clark, who’s taller than Miles (6-foot-10 to 6-6) but has been out of sorts. Things may be different in practice, but Clark just hasn’t looked comfortable or polished in games.

• The third candidate, Alonzo Gee, has played just nine minutes this preseason — all in the first half Tuesday. Gee missed his only shot and grabbed one rebound. He started last season and is the best defender of the trio, but he had a tendency to disappear under former coach Byron Scott. That’s not something Brown will tolerate.

• Tuesday’s game was ugly with a capital ‘U’. That’s preseason basketball, but it’s also going to be the Cavs from time to time under Brown. He wants his team to defend, rebound, scratch, claw and keep the opponent’s score low. That said, it would only be fair to mention the Cavs were without four key regulars in Anderson Varejao (rest), Tyler Zeller (appendectomy), Jarrett Jack (knee inflammation) and Gee, who sat out most of the night.

• Also out were Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix, who have spots on the roster. Karasev traveled to Russia to obtain his work visa, while Felix has a hernia. That left Brown with a few fellows who are still trying to make the team. One of them, Henry Sims, started at center in place of Varejao.

• The Cavs decided it would be best for Karasev to get his visa now, as Brown would rather have the rookie swingman miss a meaningless preseason game than practice.

• Rookie point guard Matthew Dellavedova was the beneficiary of Jack’s absence, receiving 24 minutes, scoring seven points and passing for seven assists. But he struggled mightily defending Bobcats veterans Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions. Obviously, that’s too be expected.

• Regardless, Dellavedova stands a good shot to make the team. Brown has repeatedly made it clear he doesn’t want Dion Waiters playing point guard, even with Jack injured. That makes Dellavedova the third-string floor general — at least for now.

• Speaking of Jack, his knee issue doesn’t sound that serious. Brown indicated beforehand that had this been a playoff game, Jack likely would have been on the floor. So the Cavs are just giving Jack a chance to rest and let the injury heal. He’ll probably be out another week.

• As for center, the Cavs have three and they’re all pretty good (Varejao, Zeller, Andrew Bynum). None played Tuesday. That probably goes a long way in explaining the final score, and especially, the lack of a real inside presence defensively.

• Still, Brown liked most of what he saw from Sims, who scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. One big man is going to make the team from the group of training camp invitees, and Sims may have the edge.

• Actually, Brown wasn’t too disappointed in anyone. He seemed to like the idea that the Cavs (2-1) suffered their first obvious setback. It gives him more of a reason to teach and preach defense.

• OK, now for the guys you deeply care about who are the heart of the team — guys like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, et al. Not surprisingly, Irving (quietly) had the best game of anyone, scoring 15 points in 24 minutes. He even led the Cavs with two blocked shots.

• Waiters (seven points) and Thompson (four) were considerably less effective. Both looked a little exhausted, actually. But most importantly, both seem like the rest of the Cavs (especially Irving), in that they respect their coach and expect to be better this season.

• Waiters after the game on Brown: “I love how he coaches me. He takes me out, he talks to me, he puts me back in. He knows what’s best for me.”

• Finally, I spoke to Bobcats coach Steve Clifford following the game. He is close with Brown and seems to have his young team headed in the right direction. You can read the quick interview in my blog.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO