CLEVELAND: Twenty-one thoughts tonight for 21 offensive rebounds in the Cavs’ 93-78 win over the Milwaukee Bucks…
1. My story off this game was awful. Seriously, like, worse-than-the-Bucks type of bad. Don’t waste your time. Moving on.
2. This was a great win for the Cavs, but a terrible game to watch and write about. They haven’t had a whole lot go right since returning home from that West Coast trip, so any night that ends with the starters on the bench the entire fourth quarter and the Cavs ahead by double figures is a good night.
3. We spent a lot of time talking to Mike Brown prior to the game about the Anthony Bennett situation. I won’t rehash what’s already out there. You can find it here. Tonight sort of became the night for reporters to lay it all out there regarding Bennett, who played the final 5:14 of the blowout. It was his first appearance in a game in nearly two weeks.
4. When we were in Portland last week, Brown said Bennett could still benefit from the experience he’s getting. “This is the first and only time he’ll come to Portland and face this environment being in a back-to-back, feel what it’s like to a certain degree to play in L.A. and then come experience this tonight as a group,” Brown said. “Whether it’s in the huddle or halftime or whatever, he can always listen and learn and grow.”
5. It was a strange response, particularly since Bennett has already experienced plenty of back-to-backs and didn't play against the Lakers. Then tonight Brown said he wanted Bennett around the team, around the scouting reports, the practice plans, etc… He said after the team’s afternoon practices, Bennett (who doesn’t live far from the facility) often returns in the evenings for extra work with an assistant coach.
6. Of course, he could still do all that and still play in games in Canton. That’s the beauty of having the affiliate so close to home. More to the point, everything he said about Bennett could also apply to the rest of the Cavs’ youngsters like Carrick Felix and Sergey Karasev, both of whom have spent considerable time in the D-League.
7. When I asked Brown about the discrepancy tonight between Bennett and the other rookies, he said he’d send Tyler Zeller down before Dion Waiters because Waiters was the fourth pick in the draft and “you have visions of thinking, ‘This guy can help us sooner than later.’”
8. It was a clumsy example, which Brown himself seemed to realize about halfway through. But here’s the underlying point someone else mentioned to me tonight and I think has merit. In a polite way, Brown is saying Bennett has too much talent for the D-League. But he obviously can’t say that because then it’s a slight to everyone else in the D-League, including his own guys like Felix and Karasev.
9. The Cavs privately believe if Bennett was getting the type of minutes Victor Oladipo is getting in Orlando (32 per night), he’d put up numbers comparable to Oladipo, who is averaging 13.7 points, but shooting just 41 percent (30 percent on 3-pointers). We’ll never know, of course, because the Cavs are in win-now mode and Brown obviously doesn’t believe Bennett can help them win right now.
10. This is taking much longer than it should because Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico won’t shut up and keeps looking over my shoulder.
11. After I finished Final Thoughts following the game against the Bulls, I realized I could’ve saved myself a lot of time just by pointing out that the Bulls are where the Cavs are trying to get. They don’t care who’s hurt, who has been traded or who is left, they just play hard. Every single night. Terry Stotts would have to be the early favorite for Coach of the Year based on what he’s doing in Portland, but my vote right now goes to Tom Thibodeau. Remarkable what he gets out of those guys every night.
12. But they’re also a veteran team that knows how to win. Which is how we get back to the Cavs. Brown was talking this morning about guys “staying in the circle” when adversity strikes instead of splintering or fracturing, which seems to happen far too often. Even the players in the locker room admit it. I thought Brown was very poignant this morning addressing it.
13. “Is everybody going to be in the circle, stay in the circle?” he said. “Or you’ve got one foot in and one foot out? If you’re a young team that doesn’t know, or a losing team that doesn’t know, then that in my opinion is the hardest thing to get instilled in a group of individuals more than anything else. You can X and O to death and all that. But when times get tough, are we going to stick together and fight together? Are we going to do what is easy to do? Everybody has people in their ear. When they leave this building, they’re saying: ‘It’s not your fault, it’s the coaches fault’ or ‘It’s the system’ or ‘It’s that player’ or ‘they don’t have good enough players.’ And that’s where the fractions can happen or the splitting can happen.”
14. I’m not going to speculate as to who or what Brown was referring to, but he certainly seemed to be delivering a message.
15. Brown said prior to Luol Deng’s arrival, the Cavs were relying on Jarrett Jack and Anderson Varejao. Brown pointed out that Jack has bounced around the league a fair amount, has been in some winning and some losing situations. Varejao, Brown said, has won plenty of games in his day, but has spent the last three years losing a lot of games.
16. “We have three young guys we’re relying heavily on (Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson) who have not won yet. So they’re experiencing, with pressure now, how to win, how to defend, how to try to execute and all that other stuff while staying in the circle. And then still trying to be who they think they can be, whatever that means. There’s a lot going on with the group that we have to continue to fight, teach, talk about and grow. And hopefully it happens sooner than later. That’s why I keep saying it’s going to be a process and it’s not going to happen overnight.”
17. “If your company has poor performance year after year after year, all of a sudden (snaps fingers) it ain’t going to change like that,” Brown continued. “You may have to make some changes with your rules and regulations. You may have to make some changes with your personnel. A lot of things you may have to do and over time, hopefully you’ll see gradual improvement until some day you finally get it and take off.”
18. With the trade deadline a month away, that “make some changes with your personnel” felt like a warning shot over the bow. Stay tuned.
19. Waiters was pretty funny last year talking about the officials and how he didn’t know any of their names. He would run up to all of them and say, “Hey ref!” A few of them would tell him he needed to learn their names.
20. I finally remembered to ask him Friday if he ever got around to learning their names. “Nope,” he said. So I asked him if he had a favorite official, to which he said yes. “But, uh,” he said before pausing. “I can’t remember his name. I only know his face.” Classic.
21. I’ll give Brown the final thought tonight on Bennett: “Nobody expected it to be this hard. I’m sure he didn’t expect it to be this hard. He’s a competitive guy who has a competitive spirit. You can see the talent he has and the fire he has. He just needs to keep staying with it, which he’s doing a nice job of, then when he gets his opportunity, try not to let it go.”