INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — When you’re a team like the Cavaliers, it’s easy to feel like you’re getting a raw deal.
Small market. Losing record. Lots of young players.
In the NBA, that type of reputation doesn’t exactly garner a lot of respect. Not from opposing teams, not from major media outlets, and certainly not from the officials.
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Now, no one is suggesting the NBA office has set out to rip off the Cavs — because it’s not. Nor is anyone saying the refs enter games making a conscious effort to favor the Cavs’ opponents — because they’re not.
But anyone who follows the NBA has heard of the “superstar call.” Anyone who follows the NBA knows the best players rarely foul out of games. And anyone who follows the NBA is well aware that rookies and role players usually don’t get calls.
Again, none of this is mandated by the league. So don’t get the wrong idea.
It’s just that, well, in the NBA, you have to earn respect from the officials. Right or wrong, folks, that’s just the way it goes, and the way it always has.
So when you see Cavs rookie center Tyler Zeller get clubbed under the basket . . . with no whistle . . . it likely aggravates you. It aggravates Zeller and the Cavs, too. Especially when Zeller gets called for a ticky-tack foul at the other end.
The same applies to rookie guard Dion Waiters and second-year forward Tristan Thompson and on and on and on.
So, what’s Cavs coach Byron Scott to do?
The answer is probably not a whole lot. Not anything, really.
“Referees are not going to give us a lot of calls, period,” Scott said. “I told our guys that before the season even started. So don’t cry about it. Just keep playing.”
As for earning the refs’ respect, well, there’s no really predicting how that works, either. As commissioner David Stern will tell you, the refs aren’t robots. They’re actually real live humans who make mistakes. Everyone hates them for it, but hey, that’s reality.
“The only way we’re going to get their respect is just by playing hard every single night,” Scott said. “We know we’re getting hammered a lot and we’re not getting calls.
“But at the end of the day, we look at the stats and we’re right there — either even or (with) more free throws attempted than our opponent. So we can’t cry about it too much.”
Of the 30 NBA teams, the Cavs rank 19th in free throws attempted at 22.6 per game. That’s almost nine less than the league-leading (and league-darling) Lakers and their star-studded lineup of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and others. As of Dec. 4, the Lakers were attempting a whopping 31.3 foul shots a night.
On the bright side, the Cavs (4-14) are beginning to make the most of the freebies they’re occasionally given — having improved from their struggles from the line earlier this season.
Either way, Scott has been able to maintain his composure, keeping his cool and avoiding picking up technicals, or worse, getting tossed from games.
That’s pretty much by design, too.
“My problem is, when I get a tech, I kind of go overboard,” Scott said, smiling. “So it kind of goes from techs to $35,000 fines or ejections. I’m trying to keep my cool as much as possible.”
It’s not always easy, but when you’re the Cavs, what choice do you really have?
• Power forward Kevin Jones, recalled from the D-League Canton Charge on Tuesday, says he wasn’t deterred in his quest to return to the Cavs. Jones was waived at the end of training camp. “I always kept faith in myself,” he said. “I just so happened to be in a great situation in Canton. I was familiar with Coach (Alex) Jensen. It gave me an opportunity to grow.” Jones recorded four double-doubles in five Charge games. He comes to the Cavs with D-League averages of 23.6 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.
• Dion Waiters did not practice Tuesday and is questionable for the Cavs’ home game Wednesday vs. Chicago. Waiters sprained his left ankle in Saturday’s loss to Portland. He then missed Monday’s game at Detroit. If Waiters can’t go, Scott said he’s likely to use a different starting lineup than the one that started Monday. In that game, an 89-79 loss, Omri Casspi started at small forward, with Alonzo Gee moving to shooting guard. However, the Cavs trailed 30-17 at the end of the first quarter. “Just looking at that aspect of it, I would have to say right now, I’m about 75 percent sure it probably won’t be the same lineup,” Scott said. He did not want to elaborate beyond that.
• The Cavs-Bulls game Wednesday is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. ET. It will be televised by FOX Sports Ohio, with the Cavaliers Live pregame show starting at 7:30.