PHILADELPHIA: When the Cavaliers needed a basket late in games last season, former coach Byron Scott put the ball in Kyrie Irving’s hands and told him to go make a play. Now that Mike Brown has returned, Irving and his new coach are still trying to figure each other out in late-game situations.
The Cavs never had the chance to really work on end-game scenarios in the preseason, because a number of starters were out with minor injuries and Brown rarely played the starters into the fourth quarter. But it has already occurred four times in their first five games entering Friday’s game at the Philadelphia 76ers.
Anderson Varejao hit a game-winning shot in the final minute to beat the Brooklyn Nets in the opener, but Jarrett Jack launched an ill-advised 3-pointer coming out of a timeout near the end of a loss at the Charlotte Bobcats.
Since then, Irving had the ball in his hands against both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks. He had a good look, but missed against the Timberwolves after beating J.J. Barea off the dribble, then missed on two chances against the Bucks when he first dribbled the ball off his foot, then missed a contested, off-balance 3-pointer from the wing.
“We’ve done it a little bit in practice but doing it in practice is one thing, doing it live is another thing, especially against another team,” Brown said. “So I have a better feel of what these guys can do. I have a better feel of where I want to put them. And they have a better feel of what I want.”
Brown wanted Varejao to set a screen for Irving late in the game against the Timberwolves, but Irving waived it off and said after the game he didn’t need it to beat Barea. But Irving conceded Thursday he should’ve taken the screen.
“We should’ve put another pick-and-roll in and put Kevin Love in a pick-and-roll,” Irving said. “It would’ve been me and him one-on-one to the basket.”
Both Brown and Irving said they’re learning by trial and error right now and still figuring out what the other wants. Brown wants the ball in Irving’s hands at the end of games, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has to take all of the final shots.
“Kyrie is our best player, and the ball will end up in his hands and we’ll ask him to go make a play at the top of the floor,” Brown said. “But then there are other times we feel like we have some very good basketball players and good shot makers and good screeners. You’ve got Dion [Waiters] who can take the last shot. You’ve got C.J. [Miles] who can take the last shot. You’ve got [Jarrett] Jack who could take it. Other guys are going to have other opportunities, too, but the first option will be Kyrie a lot of times.”
On his first trip to Philadelphia, Matthew Dellavedova’s first stop was the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the legendary Rocky steps.
Dellavedova was a big fan of the Rocky movies as a child, so he handed a stranger his phone Thursday to record Dellavedova running up the 72 stone steps just like Sylvester Stallone did in the film. Dellavedova sent the video to his sister, who added the famous Rocky music in the background. Dellavedova posted the 15-second clip to his Instagram account. Dellavedova said he took his time getting up the steps.
“I wasn’t pushing too hard,” he said. “It was a bit of fun before dinner.”
The only people at Wells Fargo Center not booing Andrew Bynum on Friday were likely cheering the Cavs. Waiters, Jack and Alonzo Gee were all expecting large cheering sections.
Waiters, a Philadelphia native, said he had to buy more than 80 tickets when the Cavs visited last season and he said the number was even higher for this trip. Gee has family from his father’s side living in the area and Jack grew up in Washington, D.C., and still draws a big crowd.
Waiters, incidentally, said he loved Philadelphia’s famous cheese steaks growing up, but he has cut them out of his diet.
“Now I have one in the summer, but that’s it,” Waiters said.