When Byron Scott arrived in Cleveland last summer, he was very quick to get his fingerprints on his new team. A complex, higher-paced offense, and a man-to-man defense that stresses accountability were just two facets of the game that were installed early on. Unfortunately for Scott and the 2010-11 Cavaliers, the schemes were not picked up as quickly as both parties would have hoped and the coach was forced to scrap his plans and revert back to a culture that was not only less intense, but one which the team had been familiar with through their years under Mike Brown.
This time around, with a team that is even younger than the one he had under his watch last season, Scott is easing his way into the season. Not only has Camp Scott – the notorious vomit-inducing set of conditioning drills set to get his team in top-tier shape – been subdued this time around due to the extended offseason and shortened training camp, but Scott’s “Princeton” offense has yet to see the light of day and there may be some improvising during certain defensive sets.
To date, the Cavaliers have not implemented one Princeton set, opting for a more simplistic start to training camp. In a recent scrimmage, Scott noticed that players would call one play but end up running something completely different, providing little to no fruit. It appears, at present day, that any Princeton sets, focusing more on ball movement and slashing, would be run out of timeouts and inbound plays rather than throughout the flow of the game. Thinking is that with Kyrie Irving in tow, the team can run a more freestyle offense where the talented first-overall pick can improvise and get the ball to open players on his own rather than being forced into a set rotation.
Compounding matters is the lack of perceieved action taking placed in the front office. As the head coach of an NBA franchise, where winning is paramount and the revolving door can speed up at any time, the Cavaliers have been involved in more rumors regarding talent leaving than talent coming in. With the preseason almost a week old, Cavaliers GM Chris Grant has fielded more inquiries surrounding veteran guard (and the expected leading scorer heading in 2011-12) Baron Davis potentially being bought out. On the other side of the ledger, the team has added Anthony Parker via free agency, a player who had already spent the last two seasons with the team.
Thankfully, for both Grant and Scott, the Cavaliers have a front office that is in lockstep with the coaching staff when it comes to what has to be done to achieve the ultimate goal of perennial contention despite the constant barrage of headlines, rumors and speculation surrounding other teams and other players.
“I understand [the lack of free agency moves] as a coach,” a goateed Scott said following Tuesday afternoon’s practice. “As a coach, obviously, your job is to win basketball games – I think we all understand that. But I think, also as a coach, you understand our culture of what we want to do and the way we want to build. We have to be patient. We know there’s a frenzy going on right now, but you don’t want to jump in that fire just to get something you really don’t want just because everyone else is out there doing it.”
With a team retaining Antawn Jamison and re-signing Parker to provide the pillars of veteran support, it may be Scott’s seasoned presence that is the most important. With this being his third run as a head coach as well as his third such rebuilding project, the 2008 Coach of the Year understands what it takes to build a nucleus and overspending on mid-level free agents and subsequently tying up salary cap space is not the way to do it. Where most head coaches are confronted with a serious principle-agent dilemma (ergo playing veterans to marginally increase win totals at the expense of development), all parties within the Wine and Gold continue to keep their eye on the prize, even if another woeful win total is in their near future.
Other News and Notes:
– With four point guards on the current roster, it appears that the recent success of the Dallas Mavericks running Jason Kidd and JJ Barea together could find it’s way up to Cleveland. Byron Scott says that fans can expect plenty of two-point guard rotations. “Guards are guards,” and having two ball-handlers on the floor at the same time is not out of the realm of possibility with Irving, Davis, Daniel Gibson and Ramon Sessions. When questioned about their relative lack of size, Scott smiled and said that there may be a lot of zone defense. That said, it is widely speculated that the team will not play out the entire season with four point guards.
– Last season, a lot of chatter focused around the changes in offensive philosophy, ushering in the relatively stagnant Mike Brown version for the run-and-gun style preferred by Scott. This time around, it’s defense. Weak-side help, man-to-man and ensuring better rebounding totals as the team was obliterated on the glass more often than anyone would prefer. Having Anderson Varejao back will help; adding Tristan Thompson should certainly provide additional athleticism. Scott, however, did say that center Ryan Hollins will be expected to improve his current rebounding rate, a woeful 9.0 percent. For comparison purposes, Alonzo Gee pulled down 9.3 percent of rebounds last season. Manny Harris clocked in at 8.6 percent.
– Speaking of Harris, I mentioned this in passing (twice) yesterday, but the shooting guard has yet to practice with the team following an injury he sustained in the offseason. On Monday, Harris told WFNY about his offseason workout, but also that he sustained a second-degree freezer-type burn on his foot following a fluke accident at a basketball camp this summer. A new-age cryogenic technology allows athletes to lower the temperature of certain body parts to aid in recovery, similar to an ice bath with an Austin Powers twist. Unfortunately, this is a rare side effect that has had a profound impact. Though not as entertaining as Michael Scott’s bacon-in-bed fiasco, trainers have held Harris out of practice thus far as said setting has largely included running, thus pounding on a burnt foot. Admittedly, as one of maybe two people who were near him when this was mentioned, I should have reported this right out of the gate as it is apparently bigger news that I had anticipated. From a judgement call perspective, I felt that the Ben Gordon offseason was more integral. Harris is staring at an unguaranteed contract heading into 2011-12 and faces a fair share of competition with the team boasting a gaggle of guards.