The most effective way to illustrate the Cavaliers’ rebounding problems this preseason is to refer back to the recent preseason game at home against the Washington Wizards.
The Cavs trailed by a point when Wizards guard A.J. Price stepped to the line for a pair of free throws in the game’s final seconds. Price split the pair, but grabbed his own rebound after missing the second shot. He passed out to Bradley Beal, who was immediately fouled.
Beal missed both of his free throws, but again grabbed the rebound following the second miss. He was fouled, went back to the line and made them both to seal the victory.
Of all their problems, the Cavs’ inability to rebound this preseason is most troubling to coach Byron Scott.
“Terrible,” Scott said when asked what he thinks of the Cavs’ rebounding efforts this month. “We haven’t done a good job with that. It’s something we keep emphasizing, something our guys are very aware of. We have to be a very sound defensive team in order to be successful.”
The Cavs have been outrebounded in three of their five preseason games against NBA teams. Against the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers, two expected playoff teams in the East, the Cavs were pounded on the boards by a combined 103-73.
Preseason averages can be deceiving, since no one is playing their typical minutes, but Kyrie Irving, C.J. Miles, Daniel Gibson, Dion Waiters, Omri Casspi and Samardo Samuels are all averaging less than three rebounds per game. The most alarming of those is Samuels, who has only managed to grab five rebounds in 59 minutes.
“We’re forgetting about the fundamentals,” Scott said. “When the shot goes up, you’ve got to find a man and hit him and then go get the ball. We keep watching the birds.”
That “watching the birds” analogy is the same one Scott has used previously, meaning guys are just standing around looking up when shots go up rather than getting in position to grab the rebound.
“We’re going to do a lot of work on it this week,” Scott said. “It’s going to really be emphasized in practice.”
The Cavs ranked in the middle of the pack in rebounding last season, but that number was skewed by the loss of Anderson Varejao. He is back healthy now, but the Cavs also have to replace the 6.3 rebounds Antawn Jamison grabbed every night. That ranked third on the team, behind Varejao (11.5) and Tristan Thompson (6.5).
It’s logical to assume Varejao’s hustle on the glass would be infectious with his teammates, but Scott believes sometimes it might work against the Cavs, too.
“Guys just assume Andy is going to get it,” he said.
Thompson added weight in the offseason, but still has the same athleticism around the basket. Scott believes he just needs to put forth a more consistent effort with rebounding. The same obviously goes for Samuels, who dropped weight over the summer and is much leaner now than when he ended last season.
The addition of rookie Tyler Zeller should eventually help, but Zeller has struggled this preseason and is averaging just 4.3 rebounds per game. It’s realistic to expect him to average nearly twice that when the regular season begins.
“Tristan’s athleticism sometimes gets him in trouble because he thinks he’s just going to out-jump everybody,” Scott said. “That doesn’t happen in this league. He has to do the fundamentals of boxing out. Same goes with Tyler. Because he’s so big, he just thinks, ‘My size will enable me to rebound the ball.’ No, you still have to hit someone and go get it. It’s just a lot of little things to work on, but we have plenty of time to get ready for it.”
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.