Defense Still Foundation for Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert recently took a moment to talk about what was new within his franchise.
“New carpet by the concourse near the locker rooms, new uniforms, we have a great opening video and we have a new court,” Gilbert rattled off. “But most importantly, some great new young players. We are very excited about them too.”
As Byron Scott enters his third season as the Cavaliers’ head coach, there is no talk about making the playoffs from the team’s ownership or management. However, there is a lot of talk about building the right way for the long-term. Coach Scott is sounding a recurrent theme about what he believes is the way to go.
“Just so there is no confusion and everybody understands what I need from them, [I gave each player a piece of paper] that specifically gave them their roles on this team,” Scott said. “I can tell you the first two things it says. It says defend and rebound the ball. That goes for everybody. It says that for everybody on this team, the first thing is to defend and the second thing is to rebound.”
During the LeBron James era, the Cavaliers were a very good defensive team and Scott is trying to embed a similar defensive mindset into his young team from day one of the current season.
“I think defensively we are going to be okay,” Scott said. “The starting lineup will give us a lot of energy, plus we have a couple of guys who can score. Alonzo [Gee] did a great job in the preseason, especially at the defensive end and we have him and Andy [Varejao] and Tristan [Thompson] as pretty good defensive players in there. I think it makes it a better balance for what we are trying to do.”
On opening night versus the Washington Wizards, everything went according to script as the Cavaliers held the Wizards to 35.6 percent shooting from the floor and out-rebounded their opponent 54-39 in a low-scoring contest that ended in a 94-84 win for the Cavaliers. The veteran Varejao pulled in 23 rebounds and the sophomore Thompson collected 10 boards, while Irving went off for 29 points and Waiters chipped in 17.
“For a home opener first game, I thought our guys played pretty well,” Scott said. “The one thing that we talked about all preseason long was defending and they shot 36 percent for the game, so we did a (heck) of a job defending.”
If this iteration of the Cavaliers seems to be developing along familiar lines, perhaps that’s because they are. Last year’s first overall pick Irving is providing this team’s offensive punch, but Cleveland’s long-term success will hinge once again on their improving defense, this time under the watchful eye of Scott.