INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Random hits on the Cavaliers entering Tuesday’s home game against the New York Knicks:
• Mike Brown is well aware of the early struggles and said he and Kyrie Irving have had several talks about the state of the team. Brown has told his young star not to get discouraged.
• Brown said he told Irving, “You have to keep playing.” Brown wants Irving to know that he’s focused on the bigger picture. The coach also mentioned how Jarrett Jack missed a lot of time in the preseason, and Andrew Bynum didn’t play at all. Those things mess with chemistry when the games count.
Article continues below ...
• When talking to reporters at the Cavs’ practice facility Monday, Brown referred to the first month of the season as “training camp with games.” He added: “We have to figure this thing out on the fly.”
• The Cavs are 7-13 overall but have won three of four. Problem is, the lone loss was one of those ugly blowout things (at Atlanta). Given the newness of everything and shuffling of lineups, Brown isn’t necessarily surprised.
• “It might happen to us again,” he said of the potential for bad losses. “We’re not going to go out and be world beaters and beat everybody by 20 and hold teams that score 100 to 80 (points) and 39 percent (shooting). I think that’s part of the growth process. You have to remember the majority of these guys won 24 games (last season).”
• Clearly, the Cavs’ biggest struggles have been on offense. Even with Bynum, they don’t score underneath enough. They’re second in the NBA in shots taken from 10-19 feet. They’re 27th in scoring at 92.4 points and 28th in assists at 18.4 per game. Yuck.
• Now, some of this can be attributed to Brown using eight different starting lineups already. But as he has said repeatedly, he will keep searching until something works. On the bright side, he may have found it. The recent five of Irving, Bynum, Tristan Thompson, C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee are making a pretty strong case to keep starting.
• The Cavs sometimes run sets that begin with the point guard above the key between the circles, two big men at the each of the elbows near the free-throw line, and two wings in the corners. Ideally, this opens up the lane and makes it easier for the point guard to feed the high post (opposing big men rarely guard that area effectively). Once the point guard passes to the high post, he sets a screen in one of the corners and the options should be plenty from there.
• The Golden State Warriors run something similar with a great deal of success. That’s mostly because of their abundance of quality perimeter shooters and passers. It’s a basic offense, but the Cavs have only worked on that end of the floor about 25 percent of the time. Mostly, guys just aren’t making shots. Perhaps that’s because the looks they’re getting (as mentioned previously) aren’t the best.
• Along with that, the Cavs run a lot of low pick-and-rolls, as written about in a story on Bleacher Report. But the spacing and ball movement are leaving something to be desired. Not to make excuses, but the integration of Bynum certainly plays a role. Thompson, for one, has openly admitted it’s taking him time to adjust to Bynum’s long-and-wide presence. But don’t misunderstand. Bynum’s teammates are thrilled to have him out there — especially defensively.
• Speaking of defense, the Cavs started strong, became extremely shaky, and have picked it back up recently. They’re 16th in the league in opponent’s scoring (99.6 points). More promising than that is their rebounding. Thompson and Varejao have looked very good in that area, with the Cavs pulling down 44.0 boards a night. That’s 10th-best in the NBA.
• And if you think the Cavs have had issues … the Knicks come to Cleveland off a 41-point home loss to the Celtics. It took place after back-to-back wins of 30-plus points. Since the Knicks (5-14) had hopes of true contention, you can safely call them a basketball calamity right now.
• Still, Jack sounded a warning. “This is a team that won 54 games last year,” he said of the Knicks. “I think that’s what people forget. Most of those core pieces are still there.”