Cavs Offbeat: On Byron Scott’s Plans to “Tinker”

Six in one, a half dozen in the other.

Recent changes within the Cavaliers starting lineup have taken two of the team’s leading scorers (Daniel Gibson and Antawn Jamison) off of the bench and placed them in the starting lineup.  Akin to rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic, the struggling JJ Hickson and Joey Graham were relegated to the bench while teammate and opening day starter Jamario Moon hit the inactive list.

But following the Cavaliers 106-77 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, head coach Byron Scott called out his recently depleted reserve unit (“slaughtered” was his exact term) for a 19-1 third-quarter run that would be the proverbial dagger in the evening for the Wine and Gold.  After the starting unit brought the game back to within 10, the second unit could provide little in terms of a roadblock as the Thunder never looked back.

Following the contest, Scott said that more changes could be on the way with the reserve unit, only he used some possibly Freudian words to describe them.

“Our first unit is doing a pretty good job,” said Scott. “I just have to find a combination for that second unit so they can come in and play the right way. We just have to find a combination where they come in and keep the same energy, as well as the same pace.

“I’m going to tinker with the bench. I need to see if I can find a combination that can work with the starters that can keep us out of this hole we keep getting ourselves in. I’m going to look at that first before I look at tinkering with the starting unit.”

The willingness to fix the issue is commendable. The unfortunate part is the definition of the word “tinker.”

tin·ker [ting-ker] –verb

1) to busy oneself with a thing without useful results

2) to work unskillfully or clumsily at anything.

Which ties all the way back into the ever-so cliche opening of this post.  The Cavaliers only have so many weapons on their roster – if Scott feels that these weapons are all best utilized within the starting five, it is going to be a tough endeavor to expect league-leading bench production from a unit that was just depleted of its two leading contributors.

JJ Hickson, unhappy with his demotion to a reserve role almost went unfiltered following the recent loss (in which he was a team-worst -30 in point differential) before catching himself and delivering one of the bigger 180-type quotes of the year.

“Oh, so he’s blaming it on the bench?” Hickson asked in an irritated tone before righting the verbal ship. “[Well,] if he feels that way then, that’s the way he feels. That’s his opinion.

“He’s the head coach.  He gets paid to make decisions to put players in and it’s up to us to bring life to the game when we get in and cut the other team’s lead down even more. We haven’t been doing a good job of getting that done. But it’s a long season. It’s a work in progress.”

A work in progress that could involve even more changes among the team’s rotation.  Rookie guard Manny Harris had been Scott’s sixth man since the initial wave of changes took place last Wednesday.  Though he has shown flashes of potential, he drew the defensive assignment of Oklahoma City’s James Harden, who scored 19 points off of the Thunder Bench.  Despite the team’s continued appreciation of Jawad Williams (and his 13-point night against the Rockets), he managed only one point in an 0-for-5 evening against the Thunder.

The pending moves could ultimately see Jamario Moon back into the rotation as well as a bout of playing time for rookie forward Samardo Samuels.  Despite not making a field goal, guard Ramon Sessions was consistently attacking the rim, getting to the free throw line eight times in 18 minutes of play, something that could subsequently earn him extended time in the near future.

On the outside looking in could be either Williams or Graham as well as second-year Cavalier Leon Powe, who would have to give way to Samuels given the similar skill sets between the two players.  To help the reserve unit out, Scott has hinted that he may mix and match starters with reserves throughout the game, not having full hockey-style line changes.

Whatever the changes may be, Cavalier fans should hope that it is not as much “tinkering” as it is a trial-and-error attempt at rectifying the issues at hand.  If it is in fact a chemistry or synergy issue, it is up to Scott to figure out which group of guys will ultimately yield the best results of a 48-minute stretch.  While there is no doubt that Scott will not work “clumsily” at this endeavor, what the end product is remains to be seen.

(AP Photo/Tom Strickland)

  • AMC

    I know that Byron Scott has a history of his teams tuning him out after a few seasons, and I fear that with many of the players (Hickson being the prime example) that is already occurring. I’m not going to blame Scott here, but I think that it’s further evidence this roster needs to be completely overhauled.

  • Mortimer

    AMC – I fear the same thing, but I’m hoping that it’s all part of the process…I look at the Knicks now, and maybe the D’Antoni model (they were pretty bad last year, but he has a track record) is the one the Cavs will follow, esp. with all the draft picks…

  • mgbode

    @Mortimer – hard to follow the Knicks road-map of signing Amare and getting ‘Melo to demand a trade to them (with plenty of rumors that Chris Paul is on the way in 2012 as well).

    after the Bills game and with Colt still hurt, is our highest hope really the Indians right now?

  • Lyon

    Really, there is nothing to be done about the bench. I think Jawad, moon, & Graham should rotate being inactive. Let Samuels and Harris play, see if they can possibly contribute in the future. I think Powe is a decent bench guy and want him to get some minutes, at least he’ll try.

    But for the bench to be good, Hickson and Sessions need to play well, which is really asking too much of them right now. Especially w/ JJ’s apparent attitude problem.


    This team is a disaster that gets worse with each game. Harris and Samuels need to get more time since they at least have the desire to prove they belong in the league. Hickson is going to be a problem until he gets traded, which is likely right around the corner. Mo, although I like him, is a headcase. It’s not tough to see that most guys have already packed it in and are simply playing hard enough to continue to receive their inflated paychecks.

    The real question is, how many days until Dan Gilbert absolutely explodes and loses it?

  • Cooley Ford

    As much as it pains me, we need to pull the trigger on JJ. He’s an uncoachable headcase. I have no clue as to what is available in the market in the form of relatively young players. Maybe Terrance Williams from NJ?

  • OmegaKing

    I think that too much was made of the word “tinker” for the purpose of this post. I think in common parlance, to tinker means to make some minor adjustments – not to fumble around with it and hope something good happens.

    @AMC – I think it’s a little early to be worrying about Scott being tuned out. I think a lot of the players probably know that they won’t be on the Cavs by the end of the year (or are hoping that), so they’re just not really giving it their all.

    @mgbode – Technically, yes. Since the Browns and Cavs don’t seem likely to make the playoffs, I suppose we’re hitching our wagons to the Indians next. But, in the long run, don’t most people think that the Browns have the most potential for next year?