MEMPHIS, TENN.: For all the things Antawn Jamison did well during his time with the Cavaliers, defending wasn’t anywhere near the top of the list. But the way he communicated defensively and alerted his teammates to switches and defensive sets is a trait that hasn’t been replaced yet on this team.
As the Cavs prepare to face the Memphis Grizzlies, owners of the league’s best record, coach Byron Scott is still waiting for players to start talking more on defense. More specifically, the power forwards and centers.
“Our bigs have to be our best communicators,” Scott said. “They see everything in front of them. We’re telling our bigs they have to talk a lot more because they see everything coming. They see all the screens coming, they see [the opponents’] bigs stepping up to set the screens on the guards, so they’ve got to be the best communicators.”
Scott blamed a lack of communication as part of the reason Ray Allen was so open in the fourth quarter of the loss Saturday to the Miami Heat. Allen knocked down 3-of-4 3-pointers and scored 15 points because the Cavaliers continue to make the same errors on defense. Scott says it’s little things, such as guys not talking on switches, then suddenly two guys are chasing one wing and another player is left wide open.
The Cavs’ best talkers on defense are their guards, specifically Jeremy Pargo and Daniel Gibson. Pargo played for the Grizzlies last season and was dealt to the Cavs over the summer.
He has told the Cavs’ coaches he doesn’t think the Memphis staff liked how much he chatters — both on and off the court. It’s welcomed by Scott, but it has to be duplicated by guys like Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller.
“He’s great at communicating, but he’s the point guard,” Scott said. “He doesn’t see what’s going on behind him. You can’t have your point guard being your best communicator. It’s got to be your big guys.”
Thompson has heard all this before from Scott, yet it’s still not natural for him or any of the other post players to talk as much as their coach demands. Thompson said fatigue can sometimes play a factor because guys get tired, then miss an assignment while calling out a defensive set.
Scott has been blaming much of the Cavs’ defensive problems on a lack of communication for three seasons now. The loss of Jamison only amplifies it.
“Antawn was big on communication, but that’s from being in the league for 15 years,” Thompson said. “It’s up to myself, Andy and Tyler to talk. Communication definitely helps, especially when teams are shooting 50 percent against us. Communication plays a big part in that.”
The final numbers don’t show it, but the Cavs have been playing better defensively the past few games. Some lesser teams have faced the Cavs and shot 60 percent against them, but the Heat and Grizzlies have two of the most powerful offenses in the league. The Heat were shooting 46 percent Saturday through three quarters before exploding in the fourth quarter and making 13 of 19 shots. The next test comes in the form of a Grizzlies team ranked sixth in the league in scoring (100.7 points).
“You’re playing arguably the two best teams in the league,” Scott said before Saturday’s game against the Heat. “We’ll get a real good taste of where we are defensively.”
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.