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Mike Brown finally settling on starting five, consistent rotation of players

By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer

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It took 18 games and the first full month of the season, but Mike Brown finally appears to be settling on a rotation — and right on time. He said a couple of weeks ago he had hoped to have his rotation set by early December, and as the Cavs prepare to face the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, that’s exactly how long it has taken.

C.J. Miles’ return from a calf injury appears to be the final piece, although Brown’s rotation now looks far different than the one he used for the first six games of the season. That’s the time he grabbed his goggles and lab coat and began tinkering with combinations.

At various points in the past month, Earl Clark went from a starting small forward to a backup power forward, Dion Waiters was pulled from the starting lineup and Andrew Bynum was thrust into it despite a limited minutes ceiling that is slowly increasing.

The Cavs are also quietly transitioning Anthony Bennett from a power forward to a small forward, easily the move with the biggest long-term ramifications on the franchise, but one that is sure to take time.

Anytime the rotation is discussed these days, Brown’s disclaimer begins with him reserving the right to change it at any time because the Cavs’ poor record doesn’t give anyone security. But it’s clear he’s trying to build stability and seems ready to ride Kyrie Irving, Miles, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Bynum as his starters for the foreseeable future.

That leaves Jarrett Jack, Waiters, Clark, Anderson Varejao and Bennett as his reserves. Brown said after Wednesday’s victory against the Denver Nuggets he’d like to cut the rotation down to about 8½ players, meaning more cuts to backups’ minutes could be coming.

“With where we are right now, I’d like to try to give it a few games to see if we can get consistent with what we’re trying to do,” Brown said. “Guys have to be ready because anything can change, but I’d like to be as consistent as possible.”

Proof of Brown’s comfort in the direction the Cavs are headed came Thursday, when Henry Sims and Carrick Felix were assigned to the Development League’s Canton Charge. It wasn’t so long ago when Sims was needed to play spot minutes on nights Brown was tearing apart his bench searching for anyone who would play hard.

But now that Bynum is playing in back-to-back games and his minutes limit is nearing 30 per game, Sims is expendable.

It has only been two games, but the current starting lineup has a plus/minus rating of plus-6.5. That’s the top plus/minus rating of any Cavs five-man lineup this season.

“It’s tough,” Irving said of so many rotation changes. “But you’ve got to go out there and play. … We’ve got to control what we can control and that’s playing hard.”

Jason Lloyd can be reached at Read the Cavs blog at Follow him on Twitter Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at

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