By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: One of Mike Brown’s points of emphasis this season has been getting the guards to help in rebounding. The results thus far have been mixed.
Jarrett Jack grabbed nine rebounds in a win against the Los Angeles Clippers and four other times has grabbed at least five rebounds, but is averaging 2.8 per game — his lowest total in three seasons. Kyrie Irving is averaging 3.1 rebounds, down from his first two years in the league, while Dion Waiters’ average of 3.2 is up significantly from last season (2.4).
Waiters’ figures shouldn’t be a surprise. Given his athleticism and upper body strength, Brown believes Waiters should average between five and six rebounds a game.
“Coach has been on Dion’s [butt] about rebounding,” Jack said.
Brown wants the guards positioned around the free-throw line and “elbow” any time an opponent’s shot goes up, particularly against teams that shoot a lot of 3-pointers. Long shots tend to create long rebounds that carom back to the free-throw line. When guards sink below that, they’re mixed in with the big men and of no use. When they drift beyond the free-throw line, they’re out of position as well.
“If you leak out, you’ll be a terrible defensive rebounding team or you won’t be able to run much because they’ll be getting second shots and scoring,” Brown said. “We want to make sure our guys understand our areas of responsibility when it comes to rebounding and try to cover those areas really well for us so we don’t get beat on any long rebounds or 50/50 balls that are bouncing outside the paint.”
The Cavs were crushed in rebounding by the Portland Trail Blazers in part because the guards were often out of position and creeping toward the restricted area instead of staying close to the free-throw line, Brown said. That’s not to put all the rebounding woes on the guards, however, because Brown said the big men were out of position at times, too.
But by staying where they should defensively, the Cavs can create nights like the win against the Clippers when Irving, Waiters and Jack combined for 18 rebounds. Of course, it’s all about getting the right rebounds. Brown said a guard can grab five rebounds a night, but it’s the one he misses late in the fourth quarter that can cost a game.
“There are times we give up a big rebound in that area and it may not impact their stat line,” Brown said. “They may still get four or five rebounds, but it can impact the game because it’s a possession we could’ve gotten if we would’ve boxed out and rebounded the area we needed to correctly.”
Brown was so astonished when a Milwaukee reporter pronounced Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name correctly while asking a question that Brown stopped and applauded before answering.
Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ first-round pick last summer (15th overall) commonly known as the “Greek freak,” was inserted into the Bucks’ starting lineup this week. At 19 years and 12 days old, he is the youngest player to start a game in Bucks history and the youngest player in the NBA to start since Andrew Bynum was 19 years, 4 days old when he started for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Brown got a long look at Antetokounmpo last summer when he attended Tim Grgurich’s camp in Las Vegas.
“He looked like he’s going to be a special talent,” Brown said. “Watching him on film, you just see the potential. He’s a 6-9 point guard or point forward that is extremely athletic, plays with a lot of energy and is very long. He has a lot of intelligence, a great feel for the game. He’s just going to get better, which is scary.”
The Cavs entered Friday as the league’s second-highest scoring team since Dec. 2 (110.3 points) … The Cavs’ reserves are averaging 40.2 points, fourth-best in the NBA. … Irving entered Friday averaging 27 points per game against the Bucks, his highest mark against any opponent in the NBA.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. 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.