By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
DALLAS: Luol Deng was hurt and upset at how he was portrayed in a weekend New York Daily News report and said he hopes his teammates believe him when he says he’s happy to be here.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I start talking and turn my back on what’s in front of me. It’s not me, it’s not who I am,” Deng said. “I’m really upset that’s written about me and I just hope guys within the team understand that. It’s something we don’t need right now.”
The Daily News quoted a source close to Deng saying the newest Cavs player is shocked by the chaos within the team and called it a mess.
“Obviously we’re losing, I’m not happy,” Deng said. “But to go as far as to say I’m frustrated with the guys, that to me doesn’t make sense. … We know we’re struggling, we know we’ve got to get better as a team. But writing an article like that is just giving a writer who wants everyone to read whatever he’s writing. I’m really disappointed and it hurt me a little bit because I do care about the guys in the locker room and I’ve never in my career had something like that written about me. I’m disappointed.”
Deng spoke to the Beacon Journal at length Friday after practice on what is troubling the Cavs, who enter today’s game at the Dallas Mavericks on a four-game losing streak. This team hasn’t looked the same since returning home from a fairly successful West Coast trip, although they showed small signs of improvement in Saturday’s loss at the Houston Rockets.
Deng sees a team that tries to play the same way regardless of the personnel on the floor. He doesn’t think the players do a good enough job of identifying mismatches and exploiting them.
“Right now as a team, we can be any five on the floor and we still want to do the same things. It can’t be that way,” Deng said. “You have to play to your personnel on the floor. I think that comes with maturity. I don’t think anyone is not doing it on purpose, but it’s something we’ve got to learn.”
Coach Mike Brown has been asking for better ball movement for weeks, yet Kyrie Irving still dribbles too much and tries to attack entire defenses by himself. Brown changed his starting lineup Saturday and moved in Jarrett Jack to give the Cavs another ball handler and create a little more movement. He thought it worked, but he denied making the move to prevent Irving from playing 1-on-5 basketball so often.
“That’s something that I’m working with him on anyway,” Brown said. “I wasn’t trying to send a message by starting Jack.”
The Cavs remain in a precarious position entering today’s game at Dallas. They’re four games out of the final playoff spot in the East, but also just four games ahead of the Orlando Magic for the NBA’s second-worst record. Last week was particularly difficult, filled with a report Irving wants out of Cleveland, sniping within the locker room and demands from both the coach and general manager for guys to give better effort on the court.
“It’s been a tough week obviously, but our guys are trying,” Brown said. “I thought they competed [Saturday], we just couldn’t get it done. Anytime we step up and play the right way, it’s a positive.”
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.