Posts Tagged ‘Mike Brown’

Cavs Suspend Bynum Indefinitely

Andrew Bynum's passion for the game has come under question. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Andrew Bynum’s passion for the game has come under question. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Cleveland Cavaliers announced Saturday morning that they have suspended center Andrew Bynum “indefinitely” for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Bynum did not travel with the team to Boston, where the Cavs and Celtics will play at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Bynum has played in 24 of the Cavs’ 28 games this season and has started the last 18. He’s had his highs and lows, but has looked rather stiff at times and has shot 42 percent. The Cavs have been worse both offensively and defensively with him on the floor than they’ve been with him on the bench.

Bynum missed all of last season with knee issues and his desire has been questioned since he was in high school. According to Yahoo!‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, it may be that lack of desire that’s at the center of the suspension…

Random thought: This situation may be another reason to appreciate Phil Jackson, who was somehow able to get productive play out of Bynum. Of course, Bynum averaged a career-high 18.7 points and a career-high 11.8 rebounds over 60 games in his final season in L.A. … under current Cavs coach Mike Brown.

Two years later, Bynum isn’t the same player and his career in Cleveland could be over. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that the Cavs are trying to trade him…

Schedule A Part Of Cavs’ Struggles


VIDEO: The Starters chat about the struggling Cavs

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – We’ve probably done enough dissection of the struggling Brooklyn Nets, whose main problem is the health of three of their top six guys. So let’s move on and try to figure out what’s wrong with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs didn’t have nearly the expectations that the Nets did, but they’ve been a lot more healthy and were a team we all expected to take a big step forward this season, compete for a playoff spot, and show potential free agents that this was a team you’d want to join. They have a new coach, a couple of new veterans, and a developing young core surrounding a star point guard in his third season.

But here they are at 4-11, tied with the Nets, having lost seven of their last eight games and ahead of only Milwaukee and Utah in point differential per 100 possessions. Their four wins have been by an average of 3.5 points and their 11 losses have been by an average of 13.0. So their point differential is that of a 3-12 team and it hasn’t been late-game luck that’s done them in.

There are trade rumors involving Dion Waiters, who they drafted with the No. 4 pick (ahead of Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond, among others) just 17 months ago and their No. 1 pick from this year has shot 21 percent and is receiving DNPs. If things don’t turn around soon, this will be the ugliest situation in the league (if it isn’t already).

So how does it turn around?

Mike Brown, with help from a healthy Anderson Varejao, has made a difference on defense, where the Cavs are allowing 4.0 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season. They’ve defended the paint better, they’ve done a better job of keeping their opponents off the free-throw line, and they’ve rebounded better. Considering where they were last season, it would have been near impossible to regress in those three areas and they still have a long way to go on defense, but progress is progress.

On offense, the Cavs have regressed. In fact, only three teams – Utah, New York and Milwaukee – have taken bigger steps back on that end of the floor.

Most regressed offenses (points scored per 100 possessions)

Team 2012-13 Rank 2013-14 Rank Diff.
Utah 103.6 12 92.2 30 -11.4
New York 108.6 3 98.2 24 -10.4
Milwaukee 100.9 21 93.4 29 -7.5
Cleveland 100.8 23 94.1 27 -6.7
Oklahoma City 110.2 2 103.8 9 -6.4

The Cavs have shot better (and more) from 3-point range, but they’re not getting to the basket as much as they did last season and they’re shooting worse when they get there.

Cavs shooting from restricted area and 3-point range, last two seasons

Season RFGM RFGA RFG% %RFGA 3PM 3PA 3P% %3PA
2012-13 1,238 2,211 56.0% 32.0% 547 1,581 34.6% 22.9%
2013-14 170 329 51.7% 26.2% 106 302 35.1% 24.1%

%RFGA = Percentage of total FGA from the restricted area
%3PA = Percentage of total FGA from 3-point range

Kyrie Irving‘s 3-point percentage has dropped quite a bit this season (he’s 1-for-12 in his last three games), but he’s taken more of his shots from the restricted area than he did last season. Inside, the issue is the Cleveland bigs, who don’t exactly dominate the paint.

Andrew Bynum has shot 7-for-24 in the restricted area, Tristan Thompson has also shot less than 50 percent near the basket, and Varejao has turned into a jump shooter. He has taken 40 percent of his shots from mid-range, up from 23 percent over his first nine seasons. Overall, the Cavs have attempted 33.2 percent of their shots from mid-range, in a virtual tie with the Wizards for the highest rate in the league.

Turnovers are another issue. Last season, the Cavs had the sixth lowest turnover rate in the league, coughing up the ball only 14.3 times per 100 possessions. This season, they’re turning it over 17.1 times per 100 possessions, the eighth highest rate in the league.

Irving’s turnover rate is about the same, but Jarrett Jack has the second highest turnover rate (behind only Victor Oladipo) of guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game. A few other rotation guys have seen their turnover rates increase.

At this point in the season, schedule has to be taken into account. The Cavs have played the eighth toughest schedule in the league (accounting for location and days of rest). They’re one of only two teams (the Nets are the other) that has yet to play two consecutive home games and eight of their 15 games have been against the league’s top 10 defenses. (They’re 3-4 and scoring 101.5 points per 100 possessions against non-top-10 defenses.)

After they visit Boston on Friday (7:30 ET, League Pass), the Cavs get their first homestand, hosting the Bulls on Saturday and Nuggets on Wednesday. Amazingly, they won’t get their first homestand of more than two games until late January, but they’ll have a couple of practice days in the next week and only two of their next 10 opponents rank in the top 10 defensively.

So, just by virtue of their schedule, the Cavs should see their offense improve. And hey, they’re only two games out of a playoff spot.

But there’s still some fixing to do on offense. They have to cut down on their turnovers, take better shots, and hope that Bynum can be more effective as the season goes on.

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 22


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Nov. 21

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Brown won’t panic over Cavs’ start | Dolan opens up on Woodson, Stoudemire | Pistons focus on pick-and-roll defense | ‘Foreign Legion’ fueling Spurs’ solid start

No. 1: Brown not about to overreact to Cavs’ slow start — The Cavs remade their roster in the offseason, bringing in center Andrew Bynum, stable veteran guard Jarrett Jack and versatile forward Earl Clark as the highlights of their free-agency remodel. With those moves on the dockett, plus having an All-Star guard (Kyrie Irving) in the fold and the return of rebounding maven Anderson Varejao from injury, Cleveland was thinking a playoff run was a near sure-thing. Yet the Cavs awake this morning with a 4-8 mark, second-worst in the Central Division, and haven’t looked anything like a postseason contender. Despite the early struggles, coach Mike Brown isn’t about to hit the panic button on the season, writes Bob Finnan of The News-Herald & Morning Journal:

Even though there’s panic running rampant throughout the fan base, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown isn’t about to follow suit.

His team has lost four of its last five games and is embarking on a rugged two-game trip this weekend.

The Cavs (4-8) are 1-6 on the road this season.

His biggest obstacle is getting his team to compete.

Playoff projections seem almost absurd after the way the Cavs have started the season.

But Brown isn’t about to overreact.

“It’s too early for that,” Brown said after practice on Thursday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Don’t get me wrong — we want to win games while we’re going through this process. Nobody likes to lose. But I don’t know if I’m a guy who would panic, anyway. What does panicking do for you?

“I’ve got a job, and my job is to help this team get better and try to win games. If I panic, they’re going to panic, and it would just be chaotic. I don’t care where we are. I’m not going to do that.”

“There should be a lot of expectations,” he said. “I didn’t take this job to just say, ‘I’m OK getting 10th, and that’s an improvement from last year.’ I took this job because I think we can get to the playoffs. Is it going to be a process? Yes. Is it going to happen overnight? No.

“I didn’t take the job to hope that there wouldn’t be expectations placed upon us, because that’s what you play for. You play to compete. We’ve just got to bounce back.”

After their 98-91 loss to Washington on Wednesday, Cavs guard Jarrett Jack said the coaches shouldn’t have to nudge players to compete.

“There’s no remedy to effort,” he said. “That’s the one thing you control. It’s nothing Coach can do. Nobody should have to ask anybody to play hard.”

“You can’t buy into anything if you don’t put forth the necessary effort for it to be successful. At this particular point, that’s our biggest problem. One through 15, it’s something we all have to get control now, or we’re going to lose control of this before it’s too late.”

Jack said playing hard is not an acquired taste.

“We’ve got to grasp a hold of that concept, because playing hard is a skill,” he said. “It’s not anything anybody can teach you, but bringing it each and every day is a learned skill that you have to have in this league in order to be successful.”


VIDEO: Mike Brown isn’t about to panic over Cleveland’s slow start

***

No. 2: Dolan gives Woodson a vote of confidence – The Knicks, much like the Cavs, haven’t lived up to their lofty expectations so far this season. A 3-8 record and talk of panic from one of the team’s better players are proof that things aren’t going so hot in New York. When things start this slowly — especially in a media fishbowl of a town like the Big Apple — talk turns to the man leading the troops, in this case Mike Woodson, and whether or not he’s lost the team. Knicks boss James Dolan, however, answered that question (and many others about the future of the Knicks) in a wide-ranging interview with the New York Post‘s Mike Vaccaro:

MV: I’m sure you heard the chants that have already started to fire Mike Woodson, which comes with the territory, naturally …

JD: Yeah …

MV: How patient will you be with him? He understood when he took the job the expectations that go with it. Will you give him a long rope?

JD: I have a lot of confidence in Woodson, and one thing I can say about Mike is he has the respect of all the players. They all respect him. And he treats them fairly and relatively equally, and that’s part of where the respect emanates from. And those are hard things to get from a coach. When a coach loses a team … that’s when a coach is kind of done.

MV: The Knicks started 18-5 last year and it didn’t end the way you wanted it to; at this point I assume you’d flip that script?

JD: You know what? I wouldn’t take last year’s team for this year’s team, because this year’s team is more designed to be a playoff team, whereas last year’s team was 18-5 but look who was playing: we had Rasheed Wallace who was doing everything for us, right? And we just started losing player after player … by the time we got to the playoffs that 18-5 team wasn’t the team that was playing in the playoffs. If they were I think we would’ve beaten Indiana.

MV: So this bad start …

JD: It’s going right according to plan (laughs) …

MV: Do you think you’re a good owner?

JD: Yeah. I do.

MV: Why?

JD: I think I watch out for my fans. I try to give them a good product. I care for the teams. I’m emotionally involved and intellectually involved. I think an owner needs to be present. When an owner is not present that’s when things tend to go awry. The players, the coaches, the fans know there’s somebody in charge. They may not like what I’m doing but it’s much better than having nobody there. Nobody there just leaves you in despair.

MV: For Knicks fans there’s one word that riles their passion more than any other: Isiah.

JD: Amazing, isn’t it?

MV: And you surely know the panic that ensues when a Glen Grunwald gets fired and people wonder, “Is Isiah coming back?”

JD: I can’t control what’s in other people’s minds. I can tell you that he’s a friend of mine. We speak, but not as often as we used to because he’s really involved in other things now. We’ll message back and forth once in a while. We used to talk a lot more often. He seems to be moving into another phase of his life, he’s not as basketball-centric, he’s doing a lot of charity work, he got his masters [in education, from Cal-Berkeley], he actually uses me to bounce business ideas off of …

MV: Do you still consult him, too, about basketball ideas?

JD: Not really. For Isiah, I don’t know that he’ll ever be able to work in New York. I just don’t know that he’ll ever get a fair shake, going forward in New York?

MV: If you could take a mulligan on the $100 million Amar’e contract …

JD: Nope.

MV: Because the first year was that important?

JD: We would not be where we are today without Amar’e. That summer, the summer of “The Decision,” there were a whole bunch of free agents, and the guys put their thing together in Miami, and Amar’e agreed to come to the Knicks, gave us a launch pad by which we could convince the other guys like Tyson [Chandler] to come, and ultimately Carmelo to come play with us. Do I think Carmelo would have come if we didn’t have Amar’e? No, I don’t think he would’ve. These free agents, when you get to this level of player — the Carmelos, the LeBrons, the Durants — the first thing they want before the money or anything else is to be on a winning team. They’ve got to believe they have a shot.

MV: So does it sadden you to watch him in a diminished state?

JD: I still have hope. You cannot ask for a guy to be more dedicated, more disciplined, than Amar’e. He does his rehab, he does his workouts, he does everything, he’s on it every day, and that’s worth a lot, too. If there’s justice in this world, his knee will heal up to the point where he can play more minutes and make the contribution he wants to make.

MV: What are your impressions of Mikhail Prokhorov?

JD: I don’t get to see him much but he clearly wants to win, which is a good thing. He’s the only guy paying more taxes than we are which is a club I wouldn’t necessarily want to be part of with him (laughs). I think he wants to win, I know he wants to win, he wouldn’t be putting the resources in that he is otherwise. But, I mean, he’s still my competitor. As a person I kind of know him, I’ve had lunch with him but other than that I don’t really know him well.

MV: One thing you share is that you’ve both expressed belief your teams can win a title this year. Do you really believe the Knicks can or was that just a usual declaration of high expectations?

JD: I think this team can win a championship.

MV: As presently constituted?

JD: I think there are a lot of teams that could win the championship this year. I think the Clippers can win. Are they going to? I hope not. I hope we win the championship. I think we have the pieces in place to do it. The skill level is there but there’s so much more to the game than that, and it’s really in the hands of the players. They have to believe in themselves, they have to put in the work, the effort, the discipline, they have to listen to the coach, they have to execute a strategy and put an effort in every game. And they have to get themselves to be the best team they can be at the end of March. It’s OK right now not to be the best team you can be. Last year by the end of the year we were struggling. I’d rather see it go the other way. I’m not happy, believe me, about the record where it is now. But the warts that are showing up now are things you can work on, things you can fix. Now you test the character of your team to see if it’s willing or able to do that, if the coach is able to do that, to make those fixes. Can they win the championship? Yes. They definitely can win the championship. There have been other championship teams that weren’t nearly as talented as this one. But they had something that this team needs to develop.

***

No. 3: Pistons working to improve pick-and-roll defense — A quick jaunt over to the NBA.com/Stats tool reveals that the Pistons have struggled to keep opponents from scoring in the paint, which may be coming as a direct result from Detroit’s problems slowing down the pick and roll. After a 93-85 loss to the Hawks in Atlanta, Detroit’s big names say locking down the defense on that play has become a top priority from here on out, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free-Press:

Josh Smith says the Detroit Pistons need a little more physicality.Maurice Cheeks and Greg Monroe say the Pistons are physical enough.

But all three agree the Pistons must get better at guarding the pick-and-roll. That was theme yet again in the Pistons’ latest loss — a 93-85 loss Wednesday to the Atlanta Hawks in Smith’s return to his hometown.

The Hawks shot 50.7% from the field, and the Pistons’ defense is last in the NBA in allowing opponents to shoot 48.5%.

The Hawks’ very first play featured a pick-and-roll from Hawks point guard Jeff Teague and power forward Paul Millsap. Millsap set the pick and rolled to the basket without any resistance where Teague found him for an easy lay-up. Andre Drummond was way late to provide help.

“It’s multiple things,” Monroe said. “I think we have to guard it with more than two people.

“In this league, there will be a lot of plays where they might beat those two people, but it’s the second line of defense that we’re having a little bit of trouble with.”

Cheeks pointed out it’s tough to provide another defender when you are concerned with spot-up three-point shooters such as the Hawks’ Kyle Korver.

But maybe things should be simplified. The team can try to adjust to personnel, but maybe they should just have a couple coverages to eliminate confusion.

***

No. 4: ‘Foreign Legion’ working wonders for Spurs – The Spurs, like last season, find themselves at the top of the Southwest Division thanks to the play of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, right? Well, not exactly. San Antonio has surged to the top of the division standings and is among the West’s best because of that star trio most know, but moreso because of their bench play, which has affectionately been dubbed the ‘Foreign Legion’ by Dan McCartney of the San Antonio Express-News:

Depth has long been a Spurs hallmark, particularly during their recent ascent back among the league’s elite.It isn’t just a luxury. With Tim Duncan approaching 40, Manu Ginobili not far behind and Tony Parker coming off a grueling summer of international hoops, having a strong bench capable of providing an assortment of options is absolutely essential in their quest to capture another championship.

“It’s something we depend on,” head coach Gregg Popovich said after the Spurs beat Boston going away on Wednesday, 104-93. “We’ve got a good, focused second group. They play very aggressively. We look for that and we need it.”

They certainly got it against the Celtics, dominating the battle of the bench 34-16 to account for the winning margin and more. It was another strong performance from a unit that ranks fourth in bench scoring (39.7 points per game), total production and production differential.

The bulk of that output is provided by the Foreign Legion of Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills, who have combined to break open numerous games already. Not just a collection of cool accents, they have the No. 6 plus-minus, at 16.6 points per 100 possessions, among 20 four-man lineups that have played at least 30 minutes together, and the second-best among units that do not include either Duncan or Parker. Their collective offensive rating of 117.2 points per 100 possessions is 14 points higher than the team’s average.


VIDEO:
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich praises the team’s reserves

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dirk Nowitzki is donating $20 for every 2-pointer the Mavs make this season to help fund research on a rare disease called Hunter syndromeMike Dunleavy is the new starter in Chicago while Jimmy Butler is on the shelf … Magic swingman Arron Afflalo may be making a quiet push for an All-Star spot

ICYMI Of The Night: Kenneth Faried, aka “The Manimal”, has always been a favorite around these parts …


VIDEO: Kenneth Faried finishes off the nice Ty Lawson alley-oop

It’s Getting Late Early In Cleveland

Kyrie Irving, Mike Brown and the Cavs are trying to figure things out. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Kyrie Irving, Mike Brown and the Cavs are trying to figure things out. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Some Cleveland fans might have assumed that the drama around the Cavaliers left town about the same time The Multiple MVP Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned packed up and vamoosed. Mike Brown probably figured nothing could top the start of last season in L.A. for hyperventilating and zaniness, seeing as how he was terminated just five games into the season.

But they all would be wrong – Brown has even admitted it – because the first three weeks of 2013-14 for the Cavs has been dripping with turmoil and uncertainty, much of it only leaking out publicly in the past 24-48 hours.

An ESPN.com report Saturday disclosed that Cleveland’s players held a closed-door, players-only meeting after their 29-point loss at Minnesota. The comings and goings of players from center Andrew Bynum in his endless knees rehab to shooting guard Dion Waiters and his alleged blue flu have cut into those players’ opportunities and continuity, while having a trickle-down effect on the rest of Brown’s rotation.

Then there’s the protection mask point guard Kyrie Irving has had to don – and the speculation that it had more to do with physical manifestations of the Cavaliers’ internal strife than inadvertent contact with Minnesota’s Corey Brewer.

Jason Lloyd, who covers the Cavs for the Akron Beacon Journal, went to the unusual lengths of enumerating a 41-item list Saturday night, pegged to Irving’s 41 points in the 104-96 overtime victory at Washington but needed on merit to clear the air a little in northeast Ohio.

Consider a few of these nuggets:

1. There have been a lot of wild stories flying around regarding the Cavs’ players-only meeting Wednesday at Minneapolis and what did/didn’t happen. Here’s what I know.

2. Mike Brown entered the locker room to begin his postgame speech when Kyrie Irving interrupted and asked him to leave the room so the players could talk. Brown was happy to do so and Irving started things off.

3. The meeting was intense – the Cavs played terrible and lost by 29 points – but two players who were in the room both privately said some of the speculation has been overblown and it wasn’t combative, nor was Dion Waiters a target of the meeting. The players weren’t very happy, but no specific player was singled out.

And:

6. As for Waiters and this illness, Mike Brown said he has been to the doctor twice and has a prescription. I’ve heard whispers Waiters knew he was going to get demoted to the second team. Did he know that and make up this illness? Is he really sick? The only one who really knows the answer to that is Waiters.

7. No one on the team has really seen or heard from Waiters since Wednesday’s game. He didn’t attend Friday’s shootaround because of this illness and didn’t make the trip to Washington for tonight’s game. No one I talked to really knows how sick Waiters is or what all this is about.

And:

14. [Irving] obviously didn’t do a very good job of that last week when he blew past Mike Brown during the Chicago game, but I’ve been told numerous times that was an isolated incident between coach and player.

15. One player said Irving has never reacted inappropriately to a critical comment a teammate has aimed toward him.

16. All that being said, Irving has done well the last few days. He called the meeting in Minnesota on Wednesday and Brown raved about his ability to command the huddle and keep the guys together during Saturday’s win. More importantly, he finally shot the ball the way he is capable of shooting.

And:

20. Andrew Bynum is starting without really practicing with the starters. C.J. Miles has started the last two games at shooting guard without really practicing. Earl Clark shifted to power forward tonight without any practice there.

21. Brown told Clark on the flight Friday night to Washington he was going to use him at power forward. They went over a few things on the flight, talked more about it Saturday morning, but that was about it.

And that’s cherry-picking through barely half of Lloyd’s list of talking points.

A 3-7 start prior to Saturday’s OT outcome wasn’t in Cleveland’s plans when it staked out an Eastern Conference playoff berth for itself next spring. Neither, for that matter, was the meager production from No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett – modest, sure, but not this meager. Waiters might not be healthy but he certainly isn’t happy, based on news reports, and Irving has struggled with both his shot and his leadership ability.

Offensively, the Cavs have been a mess, ranking 29th with an offensive rating of 96.2. Last season, under Byron Scott, they were 19th. They have a lot to iron out, and it’s not clear if newcomer Jarrett Jack’s agenda – resolve stuff, now! – actually was served.

After Saturday’s game, Jack tried to smooth things out for reporters:

“Things happen. We’re able to talk amongst one another. You can have a disagreement. That’s very much OK. It’s not against the law. But the whole thing about it is, if you’re going to have a talk or any conversation, a resolution should be the reason for having it in the first place. That was the whole reason why we called the meeting, had the discussions. I like the place that we’re in right now.”

Cleveland’s next game isn’t until Wednesday when it faces Washington again, so it’s hard to know what’s what. Or who’s sick, who’s cranky and who’s getting under whose skin.

If LeBron Had Stayed In Cleveland…


VIDEO: LeBron James greets Cavs fans during a matchup last season

Their 3-6 start might suggest otherwise, but it’s pretty clear from a quick scan of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster and a few glimpses of their play so far in 2013-14 that they are better off than they were a few seasons ago.

But are they better off than they were 40 months (plus a couple of weeks) ago, when LeBron James had yet to play for any other franchise and, as a free agent for the first time in his career, at least was contemplating a re-up with the Cavs?

It’s a classic “what-if,” parallel universe, hypothetical to which there’s no correct or incorrect answer, which makes it ideal for the blogosphere. Bandying about what might have happened, or even what should have, is so much more entertaining than simply chronicling what did or rehashing why it did.

In broad strokes, the impact on the Cavaliers, on James and on the league are easy enough to discern. Cleveland surely wouldn’t be 105 games under .500 over the past three-plus seasons and 0-for-postseason qualifying if it still had the NBA’s most dominant player on hand.

James very likely would have just as many MVP trophies, All-Star appearances and gold medals, and nearly as much endorsement income, but his vault still might have only store-bought jewelry. Notably, the league’s owners and players might be working under a significantly different collective bargaining agreement, because the jolt provided by Miami’s Big Three roundup — a central issue of the 2011 lockout — never would have happened. The road to the Eastern Conference title still would run very much through Cleveland, so the urgency to tighten the new CBA — with its harsher luxury taxes and shorter contracts — wouldn’t have been the same.


VIDEO: Fans react to LeBron James’ decision in 2010

Drill down to the details, though, and some of the trickier differences in James’, Cavs fans’ and our realities might leap out at you. Such as:

No Kyrie Irving. No Tristan Thompson, for that matter, and very likely no Dion Waiters or Anthony Bennett either. The Cavaliers had to both be bad, and accept being bad, to get those guys (trading away Mo Williams, one of James’ more competent teammates, in the Clippers deal that delivered the Irving Draft pick). Winning 50 or 55 games a year primarily carried along on James’ shoulders would have meant, instead, more Christian Eyengas and Jared Cunninghams.


VIDEO: Best moments from Kyrie Irving in 2012-13

No Mike Brown. But then, no Bryon Scott either. Since Brown was dumped and Scott was hired during that week or so when Cleveland thought it could entice James to re-sign, the former wouldn’t be back working at The Q had James stayed. Then again, Scott almost certainly would have chafed with the organization’s superstar-indulging ways, leading to headbutting in general and eventually a predictable outcome to a classic franchise player vs. head coach conflict. Who’d be coaching the Cavs right now? Hmm, maybe George Karl would be the one getting a second shot.

The supporting cast would be different without necessarily being better. The last Cleveland team on which James played included Daniel Gibson, Danny Green, J.J. Hickson, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Antawn Jamison, Coby Karl, Jamario Moon, Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Parker, Leon Powe, Sebastian Telfair, Anderson Varejao, Delonte West, Jawad Williams and Mo Williams, among others. Varejao, alone, remains. Cavs GM Chris Grant surely would have patched, spliced and caulked as desperately as he could to keep reasonable pieces around James, but Draft positions and the club’s forever difficulty attracting top free agents would have undercut that strategy. (Having witnessed first-hand Kevin Garnett‘s career arc in Minnesota, I can attest: building around a young star is easier, or at least a more synchronized effort, than rebuilding around an impatient veteran star.)

The NBA’s balance of power would be quite different. Miami, relying on Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and, hmm, some third piece way less dangerous than James, likely wouldn’t have gone to three Finals and won two. Oklahoma City might have broken through in 2011 and decided that keeping James Harden for a repeat, perhaps three-peat, was worth it. If Irving sticks in L.A. with that Clippers’ pick in 2011, Chris Paul might actually have wound up with the Lakers — remember, the lockout probably would have played out differently, in tone and in duration. Maybe Dwight Howard stays put in Orlando if James stays in Cleveland. Heck, maybe even Carmelo Anthony stays in Denver – unless he could find a way to hook up with Wade and Bosh.

Fewer rings for James? As in zero? Probably. And if he signed a contract to stay with the Cavs that included an opt-out, the speculation about him moving this summer would be ten times louder than it is now — and far more likely. His choices of destinations might be far different, too (Brooklyn? The Lakers? A reinvigorated push from Dallas?).

There are a hundred things that would be different had James stayed in Cleveland, including the promishing state of the Cavs’ current roster. The Decision wound up being, in its way, “The Butterfly Effect” of the current NBA landscape.

Cavs Sticking By Bennett As No. 1 PIck Endures Slow NBA Start


VIDEO: Greg Anthony on Anthony Bennett’s tough start to season

Gilbert Arenas famously kept a “hit list” of the teams that let him slide into the second round of the 2001 Draft, a perceived slight that he turned into a large chip on his shoulder and eventually three All-Star appearances. Other players scan the names of those selected ahead of them and commit themselves to proving the scouts, the experts and even those rivals somehow wrong for the draft order.

But when you’re taken No. 1 and you’re expected to be best in show, who do you use for motivation? If the target is on your back, where do you aim?

That’s just one of the snags on Anthony Bennett‘s slow start with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season.

“You look at your own resume at the end of the day,” said Cavs guard Jarrett Jack, a veteran and something of a guardian these days for the 20-year-old from Toronto who, somewhat surprisingly, heard his name called before all others last June. He has not heard his number called much since.

“Regardless if you’re a valedictorian, summa cum laude or if you were just a ‘C’ average student,” Jack was saying before Cleveland’s game in Chicago the other night, “you gave it everything you had and that’s kind of where the chips fell. So many people put up a measuring stick that’s not for them. Go out there and do what’s comfortable for you.

“People push you into believing you’re something that you’re not. Not to say he isn’t or he is, but it’s very, very early. In the season and in a lot of people’s careers.”

Bennett unexpectedly popped up at No. 1 – where a lot of the same experts and scouts expect to see his countryman, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, next June – for a bunch of reasons. from team needs to Nerlen Noel‘s prolonged recovery from knee surgery. Fast starts by Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams (No. 11), Orlando’s Victor Oladipo (No. 2) and Boston’s Kelly Olynyk (No. 13) have grabbed most of the early rookie spotlight.

Cleveland, gifted in the lottery with the top pick, went in with dual agendas: add another long-term piece like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, while chasing a playoff berth. General manager Chris Grant settled on Bennett decisively – they phoned in their choice 15 minutes early to draft HQ that night – and haven’t wavered. (By the way, if Bennett somehow weren’t available and the Cavs kept the pick, they likely would have taken Ben McLemore, who went No. 7 to Sacramento.) (more…)

Blogtable: One Tough Team To Read

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

This week, we borrow three questions from The Starters season preview podcasts.


Toughest team to read | Asik’s future in Houston | Pick a Wildcat to build around


Which team is the most difficult to forecast?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comMemphis. A team like Milwaukee might wind up cusp of the playoffs or it could plunge well into the lottery because of its mix of role players, inexperience and possible mediocrity. But to me, the Grizzlies are a bigger mystery because they’ve been a contender, but one generating wildly mixed predictions this fall. They underwent a coaching change from Lionel Hollins to Dave Joerger, and it’s unclear if Mike Miller brings enough shooting help to materially change the Grizz offense. I still like this team but, boy, the preseason pickers have them all over the West standings from about fifth to ninth.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI’ve seen the Lakers picked to finish anywhere from fifth to 12th in the Western Conference. The opening night win over the Clippers notwithstanding, there are so many questions. Of course, the most importance is when and how Kobe Bryant will return from his torn Achilles tendon. Can Pau Gasol stay healthy all year to hold things down in the middle? Can an aging Steve Nash hold up at all?  Do they have enough offensive firepower to survive in a loaded Western Conference? It all seems one big roll of the dice.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: There are a few out there. What will Denver do? How will the Lakers jell without and then with Kobe? Will Andrew Bynum play for the Cavs ? All are solid candidates, but the Dallas Mavericks are one giant question mark. They’ve got nine new players around the veteran core of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon are your starting backcourt. Samuel Dalembert, who averaged 16 minutes a game last season with Milwaukee, is your starting center. They’re loaded with guards and light on muscle. Some think the offense will light it up and the defense will stink. Some think they’ll make the playoffs, others think they won’t get close. It should be interesting.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
(Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThe Thunder. When will Russell Westbrook return and at what level? Can Jeremy Lamb go from a successful D-League season to contributing in the big leagues to help replenish the depth? Will Reggie Jackson turn promising signs into reality and become a dependable Westbrook replacement and eventually a big factor off the bench? The organization that prides itself as a model of stability is suddenly facing a lot of variables.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comA lot of them are difficult and Atlanta is at the top of the list. The Hawks have a very good big-man rotation with Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Elton Brand. They have good shooting at every position and a quick and developing point guard — Jeff Teague — who  can create openings for his teammates. But they have a new coach, are a prime candidate for a midseason trade, and have a very suspect bench, especially until Lou Williams returns.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: After that opening night performance from their unheralded bench, I’d think the Los Angeles Lakers would be the slam dunk pick in this category. They were already going to be extremely difficult to evaluate because of their reliance on Kobe Bryant and the fact that no one knows exactly when they’ll get him back and what sort of shape his game will be in when he does return. But when we wake up to Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar and Jordan Hill highlights on NBA.com and NBA TV, we’ve officially entered the basketball version of the Twilight Zone. Sure, it’s just one game. And the Los Angeles Clippers clearly are not now what we expect them to be. The Lakers, however, offer up all sorts of strange possibilities. They are playing loose this season, even after Kobe returns, and Mike D’Antoni is not operating under the same sort of pressure he did last season. They could get on an inspired roll to start this season and make some noise in the Western Conference … or opening night might have just been one of those nights and they’ll be a speed bump for the true contenders in the West this season. You just never know in a situation like this one.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogTo me it has to be the Lakers. Will Kobe be back to anything approaching his very best form? When will Kobe even be back? With Dwight Howard gone, will Mike D’Antoni be able to play an even more uptempo style of play? Will Pau Gasol go back to dominating the interior? Will Steve Nash stay healthy? Will Chris Kaman find a freezer large enough for the cow he purchased? Will Nick Young crash any more toboggans? There are just so many questions that have yet to be answered in Hollywood.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA.com Deutschland: Probably the Cleveland Cavaliers. They want to make the playoffs, and looking at the roster they sure could. But there are a lot of question marks also. How much is Bynum going to play? How many games will Anderson Varejao last. Can Kyrie Irving stay healthy and, more importantly, take the next step and be more committed on defense? I’m also curious to see how Mike Brown will set up this offense. They have the potential to land at 5 or 6 in the East, but falling to 9 or 10 isn’t impossible.

Hanson Guan, NBA.com China: The Thunder. Because Russell Westbrook will miss more time than expected, and even if he returns ahead of schedule, his healthy status remains up in the air. The Thunder are my favorite to take the West, but without Westbrook the whole season, I really don’t know how far they can go.

LeBron: The Evolution Of His Game

Editor’s note: As the NBA embarks this week on a new season, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James stands as the league’s most iconic figure. In Part Two of a three-part series on James and his place in the league, we take a look at how James’ on-court game has changed since he burst onto the scene straight out of high school in 2003 and how his early failures shaped the player he is today. 

In Part One (Sunday), we looked at the people who have helped shape James into an international marketing force and a difference-maker for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. In Part Three (Tuesday), we’ll weigh in on where James stands in the greatest-of-all-time argument.


VIDEO: The LeBron Series — Growing Up

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – May 31, 2007 was the day LeBron James seemingly put it all together. In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals in Detroit, James scored 29 of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ final 30 points in a double-OT victory that helped the franchise and its star reach The Finals for the first time.

As usual, James was nearly impossible to stop when he got into the paint. And no Piston defender was able to stay in front of him without help. But the difference on that night was that his jumper was falling. There was a ridiculous, pull-up 23-footer from the right wing to tie the scorein the final minute of regulation. There was an even crazier three in front of the Pistons’ bench to tie it with 1:15 to go in the second overtime.

The Pistons — one of the best defensive teams in the league — were helpless.

“It was very Jordanesque,” Detroit’s Chauncey Billups said afterward. “That kid was on fire, it was crazy. He put on an unbelievable display out there. It’s probably the best I have seen against us ever in the playoffs.”

James was 22 at the time. That performance was six years ago. And in the six years since, that basketball prodigy has evolved into a much different and much better player.

The evolution has not been a straight path. While his game has expanded and improved year by year, there have been hiccups along the way. And everything has come under the intense scrutiny that comes with being dubbed as “The Chosen One” in high school.

From star to MVP

With his combination of size, skill and athleticism, James was ready to be a star from the time he was drafted at the age of 18. He lived up to the hype right away, becoming the third rookie in NBA history — Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan were the first two — to average more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. And he did it with little variety in his game.

That night in Detroit, at the end of his fourth season in the league, all of James’ offense in the final 16 minutes originated from the top of the key. There was a single give-and-go through Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the high post, but everything else was James dribbling on the perimeter and either getting to the basket or pulling up for a jumper. Only one of his 18 baskets in that game came off an assist.

James’ shooting and efficiency
Season EFG% TS%
2003-04 43.8% 48.8%
2004-05 50.4% 55.4%
2005-06 51.5% 56.8%
2006-07 50.7% 55.2%
2007-08 51.8% 56.8%
2008-09 53.0% 59.1%
2009-10 54.5% 60.4%
2010-11 54.1% 59.4%
2011-12 55.4% 60.5%
2012-13 60.3% 64.0%
Career 52.4% 57.5%
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5*3PM))/FGA
TS% = PTS/(2*(FGA + (0.44*FTA)))

That was the kind of player he was. He attacked from the outside in.

“We tried to post him up at times,” says then Cavs assistant Michael Malone, “and sometimes he would, sometimes he wouldn’t.”

For opponents, the No. 1 priority was preventing James from getting into transition. If they could do that, the next step was keeping him out of the paint and making him a jump shooter. From his second year on, he was one of the best finishers in the league, shooting about 70 percent in the restricted area.

That accounts to 1.4 points a shot. Comparatively, his jumpers, even when accounting for the extra point he got when he made a three, were worth just 0.8 points. So defenders sagged off of him, went under the screen, and played the odds. Complicating things for defenders, though, was that he’s been a willing and competent passer since the day he entered the league.

“I tried to make him think,” says Shane Battier of his days guarding a younger James. “If he was instinctual, there’s not much I can do.”

The hiring of Mike Brown as coach in James’ third season helped him become a better defensive player. But though he was unstoppable at times and the most complete player among the league’s top stars, his numbers didn’t change much from his second season through his fifth. It was in his last two years with the Cavs when James really established himself as the best player in the world, becoming a better shooter and more efficient scorer.

He got into the paint more, got to the line more, and his jumper started to improve. And with a better supporting cast for their star, the Cavs jumped from 19th in offensive efficiency (in both 2006-07 and ’07-08) to fourth (in both ’08-09 and ’09-10). They held the league’s best record each year and James earned his first two MVP awards.


VIDEO: James claims MVP in 2009-10

Expanding his game in Miami


VIDEO: LeBron makes his famous ‘Decision’

James’ move to South Florida not only gave him two All-Star teammates but a coach who would finally get him to step out of his comfort zone. In that first season in Miami, coach Erik Spoelstra used pie charts to show James and Dwyane Wade that they needed to add more variety to their offense.

James in the post, last 5 seasons
Season Reg. season Playoffs
2008-09 5.3% 6.8%
2009-10 6.4% 6.3%
2010-11 8.0% 8.3%
2011-12 13.9% 15.3%
2012-13 11.9% 16.0%
% of total possessions, according to
Synergy Sports Technology

Though Wade clearly had to make bigger sacrifices, James saw his usage rate go down. He learned to play off the ball a little and even dabbled with a post game. His standard field goal percentage hit a career high of 51 percent in 2010-11, though his effective field goal percentage and efficiency took a dip because he shot fewer free throws and 3-pointers.

It was Season 2 in Miami that brought the biggest change in James’ game and, ultimately, his first championship.

“When we lost to Dallas,” Spoelstra says, “he put in a lot of time that summer, really to help us establish a back-to-the-basket post-up game.”

James began to work out of the post a lot more than he ever had and reduced his 3-point attempts. In The Finals against Oklahoma City, he shot just 7-for-38 from outside the paint, but he destroyed the Thunder inside.

And it was in that playoff run that Spoelstra and the Heat turned to the idea of positionless basketball. Thanks in part to an injury to Chris Bosh, they used more one-big lineups, with James essentially playing both power forward and point guard at the same time.

Last season, with Ray Allen adding more shooting to the rotation, the Heat assumed a full-time identity.

“Their situation has evolved where he has become the lead guy,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says of James. “[In 2011], they didn’t have all that stuff sorted out and so we took advantage of that, and they’ve adjusted brilliantly since.”

James is the primary attacker, of course, but he has also become a pretty good shooter. After making fewer than 33 percent of his 3-pointers in his first eight seasons, he shot 36.2 percent from beyond the arc in 2011-12 and then 40.6 percent last season.

“The scouting report used to be he would lose faith in his jumper,” Battier says. “That’s no longer the case. That’s the biggest difference, but that’s a huge difference. It changes the way you have to guard him.”

“That doesn’t happen by accident,” adds Spoelstra. “That doesn’t happen by you getting your reps in games. That was a lot of repetitions before and after practice, and in sessions on his own.”

With his own shooting improvements and all the space he was creating for his teammates, the Heat became the best shooting team in NBA history last season, registering an effective field goal percentage of 55.2 percent.

The priorities when defending James are basically the same as they always have been. Defenders still don’t want to see him in the open court, and they still need to keep him out of the paint. According to SportVU data, the Heat scored 1.67 points per James drive* last season. The league averaged just 1.03 points per possession. (*Drive = Any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the basket and is dribbled within 10 feet of the basket.)

James can now attack opponents from the inside out, using his refined post game to bully himself to the rim or draw extra defenders and create open looks for his teammates. And when he does have the ball on the perimeter, he’s better able to punish defenses for sagging off.

“Those became pivotal shots in the San Antonio series,” Spoelstra says. “It was the only thing they would give us.”

The Spurs’ strategy of making James shoot from mid-range worked for much of the 2013 Finals. But the new James eventually came through, appropriately sealing Game 7 with a 19-foot jumper.

“I looked at all my regular season stats, all my playoff stats, and I was one of the best mid-range shooters in the game,” he said afterward. “I just told myself, ‘Don’t abandon what you’ve done all year. Don’t abandon now because they’re going under.’

” ‘Everything you’ve worked on, the repetition, the practices, the off-season training, no matter how big the stakes are, no matter what’s on the line, just go with it.’ And I was able to do that.”


VIDEO: LeBron , Heat hot early in Game 6 of 2013 Finals

Closing the deal

Improved post game? Championship No. 1.

Improved jumper? Championship No. 2.

Of course, James’ journey to the top of the mountain was not quite that simple, because he really was good enough to win championships in 2010 and 2011.

In his final year in Cleveland, the Cavs held a 2-1 series lead over the Celtics in the conference finals. But they blew it, with James shooting 18-for-53 (34 percent) over the last three games. In Game 5, his final home game in Cleveland, he shot 3-for-14 and acted like he’d much rather be somewhere else in the second half. Even if many doubted his championship mettle, that game was stunning.

In his first year in Miami, the killer instinct was there through the first three rounds, as James made several huge plays late in games against both the Celtics and Bulls. But then something changed in The Finals against Dallas.

He didn’t play terribly, but he played passively, more like a ball-distributing point guard than a 6-foot-8 freak of nature with the ability to take over games. In a six-game series, he got to the free-throw line a total of 20 times. Many wondered if he would forever be known as a superstar who couldn’t close the deal.

“I definitely didn’t play up to the potential I knew I was capable of playing at,” James said of the Dallas series in a recent interview with ESPN the Magazine’s Chris Broussard. “So you could make any assessment — I froze, I didn’t show up, I was late for my own funeral. You can make your own assessment. I can’t argue with nothing.”

Less than a year later, James was faced with another moment of truth, Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals in Boston with the Celtics leading the series 3-2. That night, five years after that memorable game in Detroit, he had another breakthrough.

There were no signs of passivity as James racked up 45 points (on 19-for-26 shooting), 15 rebounds and five assists, sending the series back to Miami.

That was the night things changed, perhaps forever. Six games later, LeBron James had his first championship.

What was the difference between that game in Boston and some of the others that came before it? Only James really knows.

“The best thing that happened to me last year was us losing The Finals and me playing the way I played,” he said the night he won his first title, “It humbled me. I knew what it was going to have to take, and I was going to have to change as a basketball player, and I was going to have to change as a person to get what I wanted.”

The development of his  game, the development of the Heat’s system and the shedding of whatever mental roadblock was holding him back in 2010 and 2011 all contributed to James going from the best player in the world to NBA champion.

Staying at the mountaintop won’t be much different from getting there. Every season is a new journey, and James almost took a step backward this past June. If Kawhi Leonard didn’t miss a free throw in a critical and series-changing Game 6 of The Finals, if Bosh didn’t get a key rebound, or if Allen didn’t hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history, the scrutiny would have been right back on James for the two ugly turnovers he committed in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

That’s sports. And that scrutiny is what comes with having the kind of talent that no one has ever seen before.

Now, we see what comes next.

“I want to be the greatest of all-time,” James said as he began his quest for championship No. 3. “I’m far away from it. But I see the light.”


VIDEO: James fuels Heat’s back-to-back title run

Howard: ‘No Regrets’ … But Steamed Harris Is Wearing No. 12 In Orlando



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If Dwight Howard is really trying to put his checkered recent past behind him, he has a strange way of making it happen.

The Houston Rockets’ All-Star center has jilted fan bases in Orlando and Los Angeles (Lakers) in each of the past two seasons, bolting for what he believed to be a better situation in each instance. But he still wants to feel the love in both places. After staying silent for weeks while he was orchestrating exists from both places, Howard is finally opening up about how things went down.

The break-up in Orlando was about him not trusting the folks in charge to have his back after he and Stan Van Gundy‘s routine head-butting on certain things went public during that infamous post-shootaround scene where Van Gundy told reporters that he knew Howard had asked that the Magic fire him.

When the Magic fired Van Gundy in May 2012, Howard’s mind was already made up. He was gone. The trade to the Lakers ended in disaster as well, with Howard being unable to co-exist with Kobe Bryant and his misgivings after the franchise hired Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown instead of Howard’s preferred choice, Phil Jackson.

Howard explained his thought process to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“There were some things that I missed about Orlando,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of situations that nobody really knows that I kept on the inside, but there’s some things about Orlando that I missed. I’d say that getting out in the community and doing a lot of stuff that I did, I miss doing that stuff in Orlando and the relationships that I built with a lot of people over there in Orlando. I miss that.

“But I have no regrets. I’m happy everything happened the way it happened. Even though I got hurt in the process and I had to go through a tough time, it made me a better person. I’m more mature now. I know how to handle situations different than I did back then.”

Howard views the Rockets as a championship contender.

He thinks Houston has similar talent to the 2008-09 Magic squad he led to the NBA Finals.

On Tuesday, Howard compared Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons to Hedo Turkoglu and Rockets shooting guard James Harden to Courtney Lee but also added that Harden has more scoring ability. He compared Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley to Rafer Alston and Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin to Anthony Johnson.

Howard said he was disappointed that, last February, after the Magic acquired Tobias Harris in a trade, the team granted Harris’ request to wear No. 12, Howard’s old number.

“I just think that despite whatever happened, there was a lot of things that I did and that we did as a team, and that number was special down there,” Howard said. “And I was a little bit upset about that.”

What Howard may not realize is that Harris is wearing No. 12 to pay tribute to a close friend who had died of leukemia at 17 years old.

Simply put, Howard can’t have it both ways. He can’t depart the way he did and expect anyone in Orlando to hold him in the same regard they did before the bottom fell out.

The Magic might change their tune some day, years from now when the sting of the divorce wears off a bit more. And Harris will rock that No. 12 jersey well. He was one of the biggest and most promising surprises for a Magic team that struggled mightily last season in their post-Howard existence.

Clearly, this drama is not going away, no matter how many times everyone involved tries to make it so. Howard will have to relive and rehash these things every time he sets foot in Orlando and Los Angeles. And maybe that’s the ultimate burden he’ll have to bear, the eternal venom from fan bases scorned (Magic fans will at least admit they were torn to shreds when he left).

Howard says he has no regrets … time will tell!

One Team, One Stat: Three Seasons Worth Of Bad ‘D’ In Cleveland

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next is the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team poised to make a big jump this season.

The basics
CLE Rank
W-L 24-58 28
Pace 95.0 12
OffRtg 100.8 23
DefRtg 106.9 27
NetRtg -6.1 27

The stat

3 - The Cavs are the only team to rank in the bottom five in defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons.

The context

There are a few reasons Mike Brown is back in Cleveland, but a primary one is how poorly the Cavs played defensively under Byron Scott. Scott wasn’t blessed with the most talented or most veteran-y rosters in his three seasons — Alonzo Gee played 37 more games than any other Cav in Scott’s tenure and Anderson Varejao played just 81. But you don’t have to be that talented or experienced to play decent defense, and Cleveland wasn’t anywhere close to decent.

Cavs defense, 2012-13
Category CLE Rank
Opp2PT% 51.1% 28
Opp3PT% 37.2% 25
DREB% 72.6% 25
OppTmTOV% 16.1% 7
OppFTA Rate .304 28

As you can see from the table to the right, the one thing the Cavs’ defense did decently last season was force turnovers. Otherwise, they were bad across the board. Their opponents shot well from everywhere, they didn’t rebound well, and they fouled too much.

The Cavs were particularly bad at protecting the rim, allowing their opponents to shoot 64.1 percent in the restricted area, the third-worst mark in the league. They lacked rim protectors, but the problems started with breakdowns on the perimeter and continued with poor weak-side help.

Here are some defensive lowlights from a March 31 game where the Hornets (a mediocre offensive team) shot 18-for-27 in the restricted area and scorched the Cavs for 112 points (on about 93 possessions)…


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In comes Brown, who had the Cavs in the top-seven in defensive efficiency in three of his five previous seasons in Cleveland. Of course, Brown had LeBron James, as well as a healthy Varejao. In fact, the two seasons where the Cavs didn’t rank in the top seven defensively under Brown were the two seasons in which Varejao didn’t play a full season.

Cavs defense under Brown

Season DefRtg Rank vs. Lg. Avg. Varejao GP
2005-06 102.6 14 -0.8 48
2006-07 98.9 4 -4.8 81
2007-08 103.7 11 -1.1 48
2008-09 99.4 3 -6.0 81
2009-10 101.5 7 -3.4 76

Varejao’s health is key and it’s great news that he was cleared to play this week. It’s hard to expect anything out of Andrew Bynum at this point, but he could provide a defensive lift as well.

Still, if the Cavs want to challenge for a playoff spot, they will need improvement from their young bigs, as well as those wings that failed to help from the weak side in some of the examples above. So it should be no surprise that Brown is focusing on defense for the first few days of training camp.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTmTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponent FTA/FGA