PHILADELPHIA: Final thoughts from Andrew Bynum’s grand return and another bad road loss…
* The longer Mike Brown stood against the wall and listed the things he didn’t like about his team Friday night, the more he began to resemble Byron Scott. For three years, Scott looked incredulous in some of his postgame interviews.
* Scott said his players did things in games they never practiced, they weren’t following the game plans, they weren’t defending the way he wanted. He said they’d go over plays in practice, he’d point out the mistakes on film and all the players said they understood, then went out and made the mistakes again.
* Now here’s Brown from tonight: “I’m surprised at what I've watched the last two ball games. Just the little, basic, fundamental stuff that we talk about on a daily basis we're not doing. Nobody has a sense of urgency to do it. That's what concerns me. We show the guys the clips on how they don't box out or how they don't get back in transition and they understand it, they say, ‘My bad’ but then we go out and do it some more. That's what's concerning to me.”
* Everyone wants to pound on the Cavs for their offense – and it certainly wasn’t good tonight. But this team will never win consistently until they give effort and defend consistently. They did a nice job the first four games, but that has fallen apart in the last two road games.
* Now is not the time for giant overreactions, such as insisting it was a mistake bringing back Brown or calling Anthony Bennett a bust. It’s six games, folks. That’s 0.07 percent of the season, or about the equivalent of one game (0.06 percent) in an NFL season. Deep breath everybody.
* Here’s a news flash for people who hate Mike Brown’s offense: The Cavs had the second-worst offense last season under Scott, when they also had the league’s worst defense. All of these problems won’t be solved overnight, but the problem isn’t the offense.
* Don’t believe me?
* Here were the 10 worst teams in shooting percentage last season ranked in inverse order: Charlotte, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Washington, Indiana, Chicago, Minnesota, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Memphis. Four of those teams (Milwaukee, Indiana, Chicago and Memphis) made the playoffs. Three of the four (the Bucks being the exception) won at least one round and two of the four (Grizzlies and Pacers) made the conference finals.
* Now here are the 10 worst teams in defensive shooting percentage last season ranked in inverse order: Cleveland, Portland, Sacramento, Charlotte, New Orleans, Phoenix, Minnesota, Brooklyn, Orlando and Detroit. The Nets are the only team from that list to make the playoffs and they lost in the first round to – wait for it – the Bulls… That team with the lousy offense.
* The Cavs won’t win consistently until they defend consistently. That’s the bigger issue.
* Brown started experimenting with lineups tonight and I would expect that to continue. Bennett’s shoulder injury (he doesn’t think it’s serious) forced some of the tinkering, but I’d expect it to continue.
* Andrew Bynum played alongside Anderson Varejao, then it was Bynum and Tyler Zeller together. Sergey Karasev played a few minutes to start the fourth quarter and Brown tried the three-guard tandem for the first time (Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack). None of it really had the desired affect.
* Brown threatened lineup changes, but I’d be surprised if he makes any before Saturday’s rematch against the Sixers. Typically coaches threaten changes for a game or two first to try and get the players’ attention, then they actually start shuffling if the threats don’t work. The Cavs have played six games. Typically changes don’t start happening until after 10 games. We’ll see.
* The small forward situation is not good right now. The Earl Clark experiment at small forward is off to a terrible start, but Alonzo Gee has proven over the last two years he isn’t much better. C.J. Miles is playing the best of anyone, but the Cavs need him with that second unit right now.
* In a brief, anonymous poll of about four or five players tonight, it was a consensus that yes, teams that lose consistently can create a losing mentality, but none of them thought that was happening with this team. A couple thought that losing mentality crept in last year, but insist it’s not true now because the errors can be corrected.
* Nearly half of the roster turned over from last season until now (seven of 15), but only three of those seven are getting consistent minutes (Clark, Bynum and Jack). That means much of the same core is back.
* Scott often said last season the Cavs would act far too confident for what they should be. They’d play well for a quarter or a game and think they were ready to take on the world, and often it ended with them falling on their face. Now Brown is saying many of the same things.
* Former assistant coach Joe Prunty, now with the Nets, used to tell the players good teams are good because they play like they’re bad. They hustle and scrap after every loose ball, they defend on every possession. Scott used to say when he was with the Lakers he feared losing, which motivated them to win. This team doesn’t have any of that.
* “We’re good, but we need to stop telling ourselves we’re good,” C.J. Miles said. He’s got a point.
* Jack has not played well the last few games, but this is why they brought him here. Bynum is still immersed in his rehab and trying to get back to being some form of the player he once was, but Jack needs to take hold of this team a little more. Part of the reason the Cavs brought him here was his leadership, his grittiness in the postseason and his steady hand. It’s time he starts showing it.
* “(Playing hard consistently) is one thing in this league that people don’t view as a skill, but it’s the most important,” he said.
* Rookies. Thirty minutes before tip-off, Matthew Dellavedova was in the media work room getting some coffee. Guess he needed it to stay awake since he knew he wasn’t playing. He only had about a half-cup and said he doesn’t drink it before every game, but he’s been doing it lately.
* There was a minor skirmish in the Cavs locker room tonight postgame that ended with a Philadelphia reporter being tossed out. I didn’t see the whole thing, and each side is telling a conflicting story, but the gist of it is John Gonzalez from Comcast was standing in front of Bynum’s locker when he came out of the shower. The media relations staff asked Gonzalez to move – and here is where the stories differ. Gonzalez and a few other reporters say he did move, but the Cavs staff asked him to move again, while the Cavs say he wouldn’t budge. Regardless, Gonzalez said something about acting like a “tough guy” and he was soon escorted out of the locker room. Might have been the most exciting part of the night.
* By the way, I tweeted the same thing Bynum said after the game. Given the reputation of Philly’s fan base, it’s boo job on Bynum was pathetic. “It was funny to me,” Bynum said of the boos. “I thought it was a little weak. I thought it was going to be much worse.”
* There’s no such thing as a must win in Game 7 of the regular season, but I’d strongly encourage the Cavs to win this game at home tonight against the Sixers. Then it’s right back out on the road Monday and Wednesday at Chicago and Minnesota. The road on the road isn’t getting any easier.