CLEVELAND — Mike Brown called a timeout 53 seconds into a preseason game.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about the Cavaliers entering the 2013-14 season.
Yes, the Cavs dropped a 102-79 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night at The Q — but that’s basically beside the point.
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What’s considerably more telling, once again, is how Brown plans to manage his team. He plans, to put it simply, to keep an eye on the details.
So, why did Brown call a timeout 53 seconds into the game?
Answer: Anderson Varejao.
That’s right — the team’s all-time energy guy and the one player on the current roster who succeeded under Brown during Brown’s first Cavs stint (2005-10).
But before we go any further, it should be noted Varejao didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, he was just being himself. He was just being aggressive.
“This is the preseason,” Brown said of why he called the quick TO. “Andy is a little ahead of the group right now.”
Varejao was defending Pacers center Roy Hibbert. Rather than allowing entry passes to make their way to Hibbert unchallenged, Varejao stepped in front of the big man on the low block.
That’s the way Varejao is actually supposed to defend — and actually when Varejao is at his best. The idea, of course, is to force Hibbert to battle for position and make it so that any pass thrown into the post comes from over the top.
But Brown was worried that if a pass came, and Hibbert got it, the Cavs’ other defenders wouldn’t know how to react. In short, Brown kind of wanted Varejao to take it easy.
“He was doing something that I would allow him to do later on, whether it’s a month or two months,” Brown said. “I just had to tell him, ‘I know you’re guarding Hibbert, but don’t worry about it. Fight him, if he catches (a pass), play him. You don’t have to front him.'”
As Brown indicated, these are just practice games. And it’s all about practicing the right way. So he called the timeout.
“My guys looked at me (and asked), ‘You gonna let us play?’” Brown said, before smiling and telling them he would, in fact, let them play.
Overall, Brown seemed to like most of what he witnessed from the first unit.
Varejao finished with eight rebounds in 23 minutes. Kyrie Irving scored his preseason average of 15 points (and grabbed five rebounds with five assists). Tristan Thompson and rookie Anthony Bennett each added 11 points — with Bennett also snaring 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Plus, when the main men were on the court, it was a fairly back-and-forth physical affair.
“It was an ugly, nasty game,” Brown said. “I enjoyed it.”
That, too, tells you very much about where the Cavs are today, where Brown hopes they’ll go, and how he plans to go about getting there.
Cavs center Tyler Zeller (appendectomy) said he isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for the regular-season opener Oct. 20 vs. the Brooklyn Nets.
Zeller averaged 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds last season as a rookie.
• Pacers forward Danny Granger sat out with a strained right calf and is listed as day-to-day. Granger missed all but a handful of games last season with knee issues.
• The Pacers aren’t too concerned with their lousy preseason record (1-5). Except for Friday’s loss to Chicago (and perhaps Saturday’s game vs. the Cavs), it’s pretty clear the Pacers weren’t really trying to win. Instead, they’re using different lineups and aiming to see who can make the team. “I think we’re alright,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel.
• Cavs guard C.J. Miles was cleared to play but remained on the bench. He missed Thursday’s game against Detroit with a sore leg.
• The Cavs waived 6-foot-9 undrafted rookie guard Michael Lee following Saturday’s game. The roster stands at 19 heading into Sunday’s preseason contest in Columbus vs. Philadelphia. Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO