INDEPENDENCE: Alonzo Gee’s commitment to defense began during the summer when he finally embraced what the Cavaliers coaching staff had been telling him. Coach Byron Scott and his staff long believed Gee could be an elite defensive player in the NBA if he would commit to it.
So during the summer, he did. Gee watched hours and hours of film on the league’s premier players, studying their tendencies, learning their go-to moves. He set aside the offense to focus on the defense. Now the results are showing.
Scott began promoting Gee as one of the league’s best defensive players early in the season, a credit to the work he has put in on that end. Gee has already defended Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Rudy Gay. He’ll likely draw Josh Smith and Al Horford tonight, when the Cavaliers play the Hawks in Atlanta and soon could see players like Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Carlos Boozer and Kevin Love in his future.
Scott has made it clear he is comfortable using Gee against any player short of a center. Gee continues to respond to the challenges.
“He’s the one guy we know we can throw on some of these perimeter guys, and he’s going to do a heck of a job,” Scott said. “I don’t hesitate with him guarding anyone we put him on.”
Gee said a key to the versatility is all the film work. Those who want to become great jump shooters spend their summer shooting jumpers. Those who want to be good defenders sit in front of a television.
“I watched a lot of film. I watched film of every guard,” Gee said. “You have to watch film to be prepared. You have to know their go-to moves.”
Gee is averaging 11.8 points and 3.7 rebounds. Scott still believes Gee is passing up too many open looks and is encouraging him to shoot more, but Gee is embracing this role of stopper and is more concerned with defense. It has been Scott’s long-standing rule that players s who work hard on defense should be free to shoot more on offense, which is part of the reason he’s constantly harping on Gee and Anderson Varejao to shoot more.
With Varejao, Gee and Daniel Gibson, Scott has found three players committed to playing defense. Now he’s looking for a few more.
“[Gee] accepts the challenge,” Scott said. “Like I say with Andy, when we put Andy on guys, you don’t really worry about that matchup. There are certain guys, obviously, who are going to give Alonzo problems. But for the most part, you don’t worry about it most of the time when he’s guarding someone.”
Scott said Gibson will be a game-time decision tonight against the Hawks. He participated fully in practice Thursday. Now the medical staff will wait to see how the elbow responds today.
“The one thing we don’t want is in and out, where he plays one night and then Saturday he can’t play because it flares up,” Scott said. “We want to figure out a way where we can get this thing taken care of so he’s with us for the long run.”
The Cavaliers signed Kevin Jones and released Luke Harangody on Thursday. In three starts with the Canton Charge of the NBA Development League, Jones averaged 27 points and 13.7 rebounds.
He was signed by the Cavs as an undrafted free agent over the summer, but was one of the final cuts from training camp. The team was able to retain his rights for their D-League affiliate, but had to release Harangody in order to fit him on their 15-man roster.
Scott was asked about Jones after practice on Thursday, but he didn’t sound as if a move was imminent. Less than four hours later, the transaction was complete.
“I’ve got other worries to think about rather than bringing somebody else up,” Scott said. “I’m sure CG [Cavs General Manager Chris Grant] and Griff [assistant GM David Griffin], they’re noticing also what’s going on down there. I just read the clips. He’s playing great.”
Harangody is recovering from knee surgery and is expected to miss about another month.
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