INDEPENDENCE: The names are out there — NBA veterans still without a team who could be considered an upgrade over the players on the Cavaliers’ bench. Yet two weeks into the season, the Cavs aren’t believed to be aggressively shopping in the leftover bin that includes guys like Mickael Pietrus, Kenyon Martin, Derek Fisher and Gilbert Arenas.
Josh Howard was there, too, until the Minnesota Timberwolves recently signed him to a one-year deal.
Just because the Cavs haven’t already signed Fisher as their backup point guard or another veteran doesn’t mean they’re content with their bench — far from it. If things don’t improve, they haven’t ruled out bringing in a veteran.
“If I said I had the right pieces from the bench standpoint, then I’d be lying,” coach Byron Scott said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m satisfied with the way our bench is playing because I’m not. I know our bench can play a lot better than they’ve played.”
The Cavs’ front office is fully aware of the free agents available and they’re constantly monitoring the situation, but they’ve also gone to great lengths to build a roster of youth that can grow together. The season isn’t quite yet 10 percent complete.
Eventually a veteran free agent could be signed, but it isn’t expected soon.
Fisher won five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and Martin is a former All-Star known for his defensive prowess, which could shore up the two biggest needs on this team — defense and bench production. But Martin turns 35 next month, has a history of knee problems and a reputation as a volatile presence in a locker room.
Right now, however, he’s willing to play for anyone who will call.
“If someone calls me tomorrow, I don’t care who it is, whether it’s losing or winning at this point,” Martin told Yahoo! Sports earlier this month. “If someone calls me tomorrow and wants me to come in, I’m going.”
Scott joked after practice on Friday he wasn’t addressing the team’s woeful bench because he’s too busy addressing the defense — and rightly so. Scott promised to deliver two defensive practices in advance of tonight’s home game against the Dallas Mavericks and he delivered. He was pleased with the defensive intensity for a second consecutive day. Now he hopes it translates onto the court since the Cavs are allowing opponents to make more than half of their shots.
But the bench issue still has to be addressed, whether from the inside or outside. Scott reiterated Friday he’s patient at times, but alsoimpatient. Guys on the roster have to start producing soon or the Cavs might be forced to look at some of the remaining veterans.
“Do I think the bench can play better? Yes,” Scott said. “If there’s a guy out there who we think can help us, we should definitely pursue that guy. I want to win. I want to be competitive every single night.”
Scott is keeping Omri Casspi in his rotation at least through the weekend and leaving C.J. Miles out of it. Miles will eventually get another chance, perhaps sooner than later, but Scott wants to give Casspi a fair look while also giving Miles a few days to clear his head after a brutal start.
Miles is shooting 23 percent and hasn’t yet gone to the foul line. His defense has been sporadic at best.
Miles said the second unit doesn’t have dynamic playmakers like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, so they must be even more precise in their sets both offensively and defensively.
“We don’t have two guys with the ball at all times who can make a play for themselves and everybody else,” Miles said. “So everything can’t break down. We have to be able to run more sets, run the floor and we have to defend better than the first group does.”
Miles said the second unit cranked up the defensive intensity in practice to give the starters a better look and to adjust to playing at a more frenetic pace. The plan is for that to carry over into games, although that has yet to be determined.
“We lack a little size, especially while Tyler was out,” Miles said. “We have to know who we are and what we’re going to be. That’s been the big focus the last few practices: Knowing how to play. We’ve been in there pressuring the heck out of these guys trying to get used to the mentality that when we step on the floor, we’re going to get up and guard guys, we’re going to push guys. We’re not going to play as many minutes, so we shouldn’t have to worry about getting tired.”
If they do get tired, or if Cavs officials get tired of waiting, there are plenty of veteran free agents waiting for the phone to ring.
As expected, Tyler Zeller was cleared to return to the court. Tonight’s game against the Mavericks will be his first in 12 days since suffering a concussion and fractured cheekbone in a victory at the Los Angeles Clippers. That was the last time the Cavs won a game. … Luke Harangody had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and is expected to miss about six weeks. Harangody initially injured the knee in practice about a week ago. He rested it, then tried playing through it, but Scott said the pain was so bad Harangody struggled to get up and down steps. The Cavs cannot call anyone up from the Development League to replace him without removing Harangody — or someone else — from their 15-man roster.
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