CHICAGO: Mike Brown did his best to begin smoothing the turbulence of this young season, but as soon as he inserted Andrew Bynum into the starting lineup, he is forced to reshuffle yet again.
Bynum was excused from the team Tuesday to tend to a family medical matter. He is expected to rejoin the team in Washington, D.C., in time for Saturday’s game against the Washington Wizards.
Bynum is healthy, a league source said, and this has nothing to do with last week’s comments when he admitted to contemplating retirement.
He will miss today’s game at the Minnesota Timberwolves and Friday’s home game against the Charlotte Bobcats, meaning Anderson Varejao is once again the starting center.
When Bynum returns, however, he’ll again be the starter — except in the second game of back-to-backs, when he will still sit to rest his sore knees.
“It’s going to be disjointed for a while,” Brown said. “But hopefully every time we step on the floor, we get a little bit more comfortable. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Bynum played his best game in his first start Monday against the Chicago Bulls. He set season highs in minutes (21), points (11) and rebounds (six). His up-and-under move on All-Star Joakim Noah went viral almost immediately and displayed terrific footwork and agility for a 7-footer with bad knees.
Brown loved the fact that every time the Cavs threw the ball to him in the post, they either came away with an easy basket or at least a terrific look. The problem was they didn’t go to him enough, often ignoring him for long stretches at the start of the second half.
That’s why Brown devoted much of Tuesday’s practice at Moody Bible College to getting Bynum acclimated to the other starters and, more importantly, getting the other starters acclimated to him. It was only the Cavs’ fourth practice since the season began, so Bynum participated in the full practice before leaving the team.
“We don’t know how to play with a guy like that,” Brown said Monday after the game. “I thought almost every time he touched it on the block, something good happened.”
He still commands double teams every time he touches the ball. In the simplest of plays, the Cavs almost always have a shooter open in the corner (either the shooting guard or small forward) when Bynum is on the floor. The problem is finding ways to get him enough touches.
“It’s going to be a big adjustment for all of us, especially the other four guys,” Irving said. “Drew is an established big man in this league and takes up a lot of space. We just have to get used to him being out there, getting him going and playing off him, especially in the beginning of the game. We want to get him easy touches, easy baskets and just keep him going.”
Brown was furious with Irving during Monday’s loss, following him to the end of the bench after he subbed out of the game late in the first quarter and giving him an earful. Neither player nor coach revealed much about it after the game, except Brown said, “there was a lot going on. Not just with him, but with the whole team.”
When asked Tuesday if he and Irving had kissed and made up, Brown laughed and said, “We never split up.”
“I’m just coaching him,” he added. “I’ve coached Dion, I’ve coached Andy. In Charlotte, you saw I took Dion out of the game [early in the third quarter] and didn’t play him the rest of the game. Maybe because it’s Kyrie [it gets more attention], I don’t know. But I’m going to coach all of our guys whether it’s Andy, Andrew or Kyrie. I don’t know anything else to do.”
Brown has said for about a week now that the Cavs’ games are also doubling as their practices. That’s a difficult concept for a team trying to make the playoffs, but Brown believes the current struggles are temporary.
He was aggravated the second unit has been under construction just because of Bynum’s presence. He knew Bynum’s time with the second unit was going to be brief, so he made the switch now despite Bynum still not being allotted full starter’s minutes.
“We’re probably going to take our lumps now, but I feel once we figure it out, we’ll be better for it sooner than later,” Brown said.
“I could wait another month or another three weeks or two weeks [to start Bynum], but with the way our schedule is right now with the lack of practice time, our games are going to have to be our practices at times. We know the thing we have to do better as a group is not let the obstacles or adversity we’re going to face with the newness hinder our ability to go play through that stuff and try to get a win.”
There still is no timetable for when, or if, Bynum will get up to 30-plus minutes, but he said he plans on eventually playing in back-to-back games and believes his minutes will be dramatically increased within a couple months.
“They’re taking everything really slowly,” Bynum said. “Maybe after January.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.