CLEVELAND: Spencer Hawes was playing starter’s minutes anyway, including end-game situations. So Mike Brown made it official on Tuesday — the Cavs have a new starting center, at least until Anderson Varejao returns. And no one is quite sure when that will be.
Hawes was moved into the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, replacing Tyler Zeller. Mike Brown made the move on the night the Cavs again faced Jonas Valanciunas. Zeller struggled holding off Valanciunas in Friday’s loss to the Raptors, particularly in the third quarter.
But starting Hawes also gives better balance to the rotation, since Hawes and Anthony Bennett are both pick-and-pop-type players.
Zeller can certainly pick-and-pop, too, but his pick-and-roll game has improved this season. By inserting Hawes into the starting lineup, it spreads the floor a little better and opens up the lane for guard penetration.
“Adding Hawes gives them an outside shooter so you can’t concentrate too much on Kyrie in their pick-and-roll,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3.”
As for the injured players, the Cavs remain tight-lipped about when they’ll return. Varejao (back) and Dion Waiters (knee) have progressed to doing court work, but C.J. Miles (ankle) has not. All three were expected to skip Tuesday night’s flight to Oklahoma City for Wednesday’s game against the Thunder.
ESPN created a stir Tuesday when it reported the league had considered adding a 4-point line to the court, an idea the league shot down hours later. Still, it created some fun speculation for a while.
Brown dropped his head in disbelief and laughed when asked for his thoughts on a 4-point line.
“It’d be interesting,” Brown finally said.
Jarrett Jack thought the whole idea was funny and said it would change the game schematically since the spacing on offense typically goes off the lines on the court.
“It’d be funny to see how many 4-point shots would be attempted vs. 3-point shots,” Jack said. “That’d be crazy.”
Alas, it’s not happening any time soon. The league shot down the idea Tuesday night and took a shot at ESPN in the process after the sports network cited Rod Thorn, the league’s president of basketball operations, and vice president Kiki Vandeweghe as acknowledging the idea of a 4-point line and expanding the court were both discussed.
“No one at the NBA, nor the competition committee, has had any serious conversations about increasing the size of the floor or adding a 4-point line,” league spokesman Tim Frank said in a statement. “Rod Thorn and Kiki VanDeWeghe were entertaining a line of questioning about out-of-the-box ideas and ESPN.com chose to make a story that doesn’t exist.”
Kyrie Irving entered Tuesday with a career field-goal percentage of .361 against the Raptors – the third-worst mark of his career. He has only shot worse against the Sacramento Kings (.357) and San Antonio Spurs (.338).
But the biggest shot Irving has made against the Raptors was a deep 3-pointer in Toronto last season to win a game at the buzzer.
“He broke our hearts,” Casey said. “He shot that one across half court. I don’t remember all the misses. I remember the one he made.”
Casey had high praise for the Cavs despite their record.
“I like what they’re doing, I like the pieces they’re putting together,” he said. “Very potent offensive team. Once Mike gets his defensive philosophy ingrained, they’ll be a team to reckon with in the East.”
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins could miss up to six weeks with a strained groin, the team announced. The Cavs play at the Thunder on Wednesday. … Former Cavs forward Earl Clark is nearing an agreement with the New York Knicks, according to national reports. Clark was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Hawes last week and subsequently waived.
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