Cavs Report: Starting small forward not always finisher

BY foxsports • October 29, 2013

If there's one thing that's clear, it's that Mike Brown isn't overly concerned with who starts at small forward in the Cavaliers' season-opener Wednesday vs. Brooklyn (7 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).

And if the Cavs' coach isn't worried, then you shouldn't be either.

Brown said Tuesday he is leaning toward starting Earl Clark over Alonzo Gee, and that C.J. Miles (a third candidate) will come off the bench primarily at shooting guard.

But the coach added it's not usually about who starts. It's about who finishes.

"You look at San Antonio for all those years," Brown said. "I don't think there's anyone in the game of basketball that can tell me Manu Gibnobili doesn't deserve to start. What it is, the majority of time, is who do you want to have on the floor at the end of the game to try to help you win?"

Gee was the starter last season in the Byron Scott era. Clark came to the Cavs via free agency in the off-season. He entered the NBA as a power forward but has since made the shift to the "three" spot. That's not very common, and a credit to Clark.

Brown used No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett as an example of such a transition. The Cavs want Bennett to be a power forward, period. They want Clark and Gee to do what Brown expects from the small forward, period.

And that would be to defend, rebound, keep the ball moving and provide other needed intangibles.

"The three and the four are not interchangeable, it's two completely different positions," Brown said. "The two and the three are. That's why for us, with Anthony Bennett, he's strictly a four. We don't want to get him any more confused than what he is right now.

"Same with Earl. 'Hey, you're strictly a three.' We'll see if that helps, in time, become more effective down the road as opposed to right now where we'll be going through some growing, learning experience."

Who has done that the best through the preseason and training camp at the three? Even Brown will admit there's no clear-cut answer.

So who starts Wednesday will be a gut feeling for Brown, a hunch that really doesn't determine who will finish the game -- or even be the long-term starting small forward.

"I think a lot of it for me is by feel," Brown said. "You do your homework, stats and watch the game film but I know at the end of the day, I've got to feel it (in my gut), then I'm going to go with it."

Clark, 25, is entering his fifth NBA season. He averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds last season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Both were career-highs.

Gee, 26, is also entering his fifth season. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.9 rebounds last year with the Cavs.

Big on Bynum

Miles made it fairly clear that he, for one, has been impressed with what he's seen from Andrew Bynum.

The 7-foot free-agent signee has been practicing and going five-on-five for about a week and a half. He missed all of last season in Philadelphia with knee issues.

"I don't talk to his trainers or anything, but (Bynum has) been working hard ever since I've seen him," Miles said. "He looks as good as I've seen him in the last couple years. My biggest thing is whenever he's ready, we'll welcome him with open arms. We'll let him clog that paint up as much as he wants."

Mostly, it seems that Miles appreciates Bynum's overall size and strength.

"You can't teach size -- and you can't teach talented size," Miles said. "There's not a lot of guys that are that big that do what he does that aren't strictly space-eaters. There's not a lot in the league. Sometimes you forget until he gets out there again on the floor, I haven't been on the floor with him in so long, you get out there and we do some drills, and he's humongous. He'll pivot and turn around, and you'll be standing there feeling like a little kid."

In that regard, Miles is happy he's not the one having to guard Bynum in practice.

"I couldn't imagine having to russle with him every play, like Andy (Varejao) and Henry (Sims) and Tristan (Thompson) and those guys. Tristan weighs almost the same as me. I couldn't even imagine."

Injury update

Cavs second-year center Tyler Zeller (appendectomy) and rookie guard Sergey Karasev (ankle) are expected to be available for Wednesday's game.

Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) is doubtful, and guard Shawn Livingston (neck) is probable.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO


share story