CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Final thoughts from a dismal performance against the Bobcats, who are already 3-0 against the Cavs (counting the meaningless preseason)…
* Kyrie Irving walked out of the Cavs’ locker room and into the x-ray room across the hall minutes after the game ended, which is never a good thing – particularly given Irving’s injury history. But he simply banged his elbow on the court and had some numbness in his arm. The x-rays were negative and he said he’d be fine to play Saturday at Indiana.
* The problem was Irving didn’t have any feeling in his arm during the fourth quarter, when he missed all three of his attempts (and both of his free throw attempts). The arm was clearly bothering Irving, which he admitted afterwards. If he had some feeling in that arm, the Cavs may have snuck out a victory on a night they really didn’t play well.
* It’s only two games, so let’s not go crazy here. But I’m concerned with Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett. Waiters has not looked good thus far, and finally Mike Brown benched him for essentially the second half against the Bobcats.
* Waiters just doesn’t look comfortable at either end of the floor, and his silly mistakes on the defensive end are clearly driving Brown crazy. But before anyone starts overreacting, remember how much Tristan Thompson struggled during the first two months of last season? Now he’s blossoming into a terrific player. Waiters needs some time, but he’s clearly struggling right now.
* As for Bennett, it would probably be a good idea if he eased off on the 3-pointers for a little while. C.J. Miles talked about that during the preseason, when Bennett’s first pro shot was an air ball on a 3-pointer. He just entered the game and the first shot went up seconds later. The same was true Wednesday during the win over the Nets, when Anthony fired a 3 moments after entering. At least Friday he played nearly five minutes before getting his first shot up – and yes, it was again a 3-pointer.
* Bennett is 0 for 8 through his first two games, including 0 for 5 on 3-pointers. The Cavs knew he was raw when they drafted him. That’s fine. But it’s time to cool it a little on the 3-pointers. Miles’ point in the preseason was for Bennett to make it easy on himself and try to get to the basket for his first look or two. It might be time to reiterate that point.
* The Cavs got 2 points from their starting shooting guard and small forward. Two. Obviously that has to change. Miles’ great night covered some of the blemishes, but the Cavs will need more from Waiters and Earl Clark (or whoever is manning that small forward position).
* Waiters and Clark are shooting a combined 32 percent (10 of 31). Again, it’s only two games. But those are ugly numbers.
* Give Miles credit. He was strictly a shooter last year who didn’t defend well at all, but he defended well in the preseason and that is now carrying over to the regular season. Miles came up in the NBA through Jerry Sloan’s system, so obviously he knows how to defend. It just wasn’t on display last year.
* “I’m in way better shape than I was in at the beginning of the season (last year), which allows you mentally to stay in the whole game and not make mistakes,” Miles said. “When you’re tired you make mental mistakes. You’re lazy or you’re late. (Brown) has a real voice on that (defensive) end and he’s made it evident that you’re not going to play (if you don’t defend).”
* Brown said prior to the game he’s going to juggle the lineups that close out games. That was evident Friday when he used Jarrett Jack and Miles after using Waiters and Earl Clark on Wednesday.
* Jack was uncharacteristically shaky late in the game with a turnover off a bad pass, then he rushed the game-tying shot that resulted in an air ball. The Cavs could’ve used the rest of the clock after inbounding with 17.4 seconds left, but instead Jack launched with 12.2 left. It wasn’t a good look.
* Andrew Bynum’s touch around the basket is still off, which is to be expected given how much time he has missed. The Cavs are increasing his minutes in tiny increments. He played less than 8 minutes on Wednesday, then increased that to 10 minutes on Friday. He’ll likely sit out Saturday, then we’ll see if they can bump him to 12 or 15 on Monday. Brown said the end goal is still to get Bynum back in the starting lineup, but he’s in no rush for that to happen.
* Don’t look now, but Tristan Thompson is shooting 79 percent from the free-throw line right handed. He was 9 of 10 on Friday. At the rate he’s improving, Thompson can be a future All-Star. That didn’t seem possible a year ago at this time. That’s why it’s important to stay patient with Waiters.
* B.J. Evans, the Cavs’ director of basketball communications, came to Cleveland from the Bobcats’ media relations department. Between last week’s preseason game here and this game, Evans walked around Time Warner Cable arena like the mayor of Charlotte.
* Struck up a conversation with former North Carolina college basketball coach Matt Doherty at Friday’s game. “You know, I was drafted by the Cavs in the sixth round in 1984. That's back when they had six rounds,” he said. “Who was the GM?” I asked. “I dunno,” he replied. “He got fired.”
“Jarrett, Andy and I are the oldest guys on the team. If we get get out there and we play hard, those guys will do the same. Same thing with Kyrie. Kyrie gets out there and dives on the floor, other guys will dive on the floor. It's contagious. My biggest thing is I can't keep talking about winning if I'm not going to buy into what we really want to do.” – C.J. Miles
The Cavs (1-1) travel to play at the Indiana Pacers (2-0) at 7 p.m. on Saturday.