By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDEPENDENCE: During a private conversation with Kyrie Irving a few weeks ago, coach Mike Brown did his best to keep his star encouraged by itemizing all that has worked against the Cavaliers since the start of training camp. It’s quite a list.
That list is also why Brown is resisting to declare the Cavs have turned the corner by winning three of their past four entering tonight’s home game against the New York Knicks. By Brown’s standards, the Cavs are merely progressing along the timeline he envisioned given the hurdles in front of them.
“We struggled when we probably should have,” he said. “Now we’re starting to figure things out better than what we did three or four weeks ago.”
It wasn’t long ago Brown was installing new sets during morning game day shoot-arounds and using games as practices. As Brown pointed out to Irving, the Cavs didn’t use any preseason lineups the coach thought they’d use during the regular season, nor did he close any preseason games with his typical closing group.
Andrew Bynum missed the entire preseason, then Brown tossed him into the starting lineup before he ever practiced with the starters, Jarrett Jack missed the bulk of the preseason with minor swelling in his knee and C.J. Miles missed time in the preseason with a calf injury.
“The month of November was training camp with games and we had to figure this out on the fly,” Brown said. “The month of December is a time for us to kind of figure out where we are.”
The Cavs have shot better than 41 percent only once in the four games, but they have rebounded well and received incredible post play from Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson.
“We feel we’re hitting our stride,” Jack said.
Brown cautioned that more brutal beatings, such as Friday’s loss at the Atlanta Hawks when the Cavs trailed by 29, could be ahead. This is still a team struggling to get any sort of offensive production from its shooting guard and small forward positions, Irving is still struggling to find his shot and the Cavs’ defense, although improved, is inconsistent.
Brown made it clear Monday he doesn’t expect this team to win games by 20 points and hold high-powered offenses to 80 points, but he’d like a more consistent effort every night.
“Bringing the effort every night is something young teams struggle with. That’s kind of where we are right now,” said Bynum, who won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. “When we come to play, we’re doing pretty good things out there.”
Many of the players on this roster have only known losing in the NBA. Brown, in contrast, has only known winning. He has taken his teams to the playoffs every season as a head coach.
The key now is for Brown to get this group to eradicate the past three years of losing from their psyche.
“Sometimes when you go through that, it’s almost like the plague,” he said. “It can hang over your head. So now when you go through games, not only do you feel like, ‘This thing’s going to fall apart,’ but your opponent has a certain confidence that, ‘Hey, these guys haven’t won in a few years. We can turn it on and kick their behinds.’ So there’s some hidden things that you’re fighting against during the course of ballgames whenever you step out on the floor.”
Brown has observed that mentality seeping in across all Cleveland sports. He has heard fans tell him the Browns will find a way to lose, such as Sunday’s stunning loss at the New England Patriots.
“Yeah, they lost [Sunday] and it sucked,” Brown said. “But you know what? … Let’s fight. Let’s support one another and try to get rid of that attitude right now because at the end of the day, it will help you as a group to become that winner that everybody so desperately wants.”
Sims, Felix back
The Cavs recalled Henry Sims and Carrick Felix from the Development League. Sims averaged 15 points and five rebounds and Felix averaged 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games with the Canton Charge.
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.