CLEVELAND: Final thoughts following a preseason win over the Detroit Pistons at the Q…
* First an opinion: No one has definitively said this, but I’m getting the sense Andrew Bynum could return to the court for the season opener Oct. 30 against the Brooklyn Nets in a limited role. If not in time for the opener, soon after.
* Of course, that’s assuming Bynum doesn’t suffer any setbacks. He hasn’t yet. The Cavs keep giving Bynum guideposts in his recovery and he keeps hitting them. Team personnel seemed pleased to sort of show him off to the media Wednesday by allowing him to play in a 3 on 3, half-court scrimmage in front of reporters. I wasn’t there (smashed up the car driving home from Tuesday’s game in Canton, took the day to talk to 147 people from the insurance company) but from all accounts, Bynum looked great. He's down to his playing weight, as I wrote during the game, so the last step seems to be a return to practice.
* The Cavs have internally discussed the merits of playing him in the preseason, but that seems unlikely. Their last home game is Saturday night and he won’t be ready by then. After that, they’re in Columbus and Cincinnati for games next week, then fly from Cincinnati to Charlotte for the preseason finale. The overwhelming belief seems to be that Bynum is better served to remain in Cleveland for treatment and more work rather than waste three days away from the facility just for a few minutes in a preseason game. If the Cavs had a home preseason game closer to the start of the season, I think there would be a greater chance Bynum could make an appearance. Instead, his debut will likely come when the games matter.
* He’ll obviously be rusty, no matter when he returns. But the belief within the team is he can still have a major impact on a game even if he starts slowly and only plays 15 minutes.
* As Mike Brown said tonight, there isn’t much of a difference between the 3 on 3 half-court game he played on Wednesday and a full-scale 5 on 5 practice. But Greg Oden has already illustrated how fragile this situation is. Oden is trying to come back with the Miami Heat after missing four years, and he already had to temporarily shut it down because of swelling in his surgically-repaired knee.
* Even if Bynum makes it back for the start of the season or early November, there is no guarantee he lasts the entire season without incident. His knees could flare up at any moment.
* With that out of the way, onto the game itself.
* Shortly after the draft, a member of the Cavs organization told me Mike Brown would want to send Sergey Karasev to the D-League at the start of camp and would want to start him at small forward by the end of October. Brown never reached either of those extremes, but it’s obvious Brown is high on Karasev and it’s easy to see why.
* Brown said the veterans will get all the opportunities at the start of the season and rookies like Karasev and Carrick Felix would really have to wow him to crack the rotation.
* Neither Earl Clark nor Alonzo Gee have been exemplary at small forward (although Clark had his best game yet there on Thursday), but it doesn’t matter because Brown views Karasev as more of a shooting guard than small forward.
* The positions are similar, but Brown doesn’t want Karasev trying to guard some of the bigger small forwards. Brown joked with Karasev during practice Thursday morning that he only weighed about 155 pounds. Karasev, not quite yet a master of the language and still learning Brown’s humor, didn’t get that it was a joke and he tried correcting Brown with his actual weight.
* Brown put the players through a Godfather-length film session on Wednesday. He said it included 70 plays from Tuesday’s loss to the Bobcats and was so long, even he started to doze off.
* Among the plays Brown included was Gee’s terrible shot over a double team and Clark’s extensive dribbling toward nowhere. Only hours earlier, Brown said he wanted his small forwards to take good shots when open and not spend too much time dribbling and trying to create for themselves, yet that’s precisely what both Gee and Clark violated.
* Even after Brown pointed out to Clark what he didn’t like on film, Clark doesn’t seem to be backing down. “A small forward has to dribble the ball in my eyes,” Clark said. “What you want me to do? Just stand in the corner and be a power forward? Then I’ll play power forward. I’m just going to play the game and take whatever comes to me. I understand what he’s saying, he doesn’t want me to overdribble … but sometimes you have to be aggressive and make plays for your teammates.”
* Clark had 10 points and four rebounds against the Pistons after struggling miserably with his shot through the first three preseason games, but he was never worried about his awful shooting percentage and said he just needed to stop thinking so much. “The first couple games, I was thinking about the plays, thinking about making other people happy,” he said before the game. “You just have to go out there and play basketball.”
* Gee and Clark are battling for the starting spot, but the loser is probably out of the rotation entirely. Brown said the other night he’d like a 10-man rotation during the season, but only using nine is more likely. Ignoring Bynum for a moment, the Cavs still have Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Clark, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Jarrett Jack, Gee, C.J. Miles, Anthony Bennett and Tyler Zeller. That’s 10 guys for nine spots. Gee and Clark are a little too similar, and Miles is needed for his shooting ability off the bench. That means the loser could be out of Brown’s rotation entirely. And if/when Bynum is healthy enough to play, Zeller’s minutes will be chopped.
* More to come in part two.