By RICK NOLAND
Assistant Sports Editor
CLEVELAND â€” Thereâ€™s been a changing of the guard for the Cavaliers, and coach Mike Brown hopes the move works out well enough to become permanent.
With his team having lost three straight and six of its last nine heading into a game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena, Brown benched struggling Sasha Pavlovic and put Devin Brown into the starting five.
â€œI feel like I need to go in another direction,â€ Mike Brown said prior to the Sixers game. â€œIâ€™m trying to get some permanency to what we have going on here. Hopefully, this will be it.â€
With Delonte West back starting at point guard after missing one game with an inflamed tendon in his foot, Mike Brown is going to have a hard time getting playing time for all six guards on his roster.
The coach said Daniel Gibson, who played Saturday in Detroit for the first time since spraining his ankle on Feb. 20, will be his first guard off the bench on a consistent basis. That leaves Pavlovic, the equally struggling Wally Szczerbiak and Damon Jones fighting for any leftover minutes.
Devin Brown, who started 13 games when Pavlovic was out with a sprained mid-foot, was fighting for minutes in that mix as well, but his playing time figures to go up a bit now that heâ€™s starting again.
â€œItâ€™s always fun to see your name in lights,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™ve definitely got to get this thing turned around, especially down the stretch. This is a crucial part of the season. We donâ€™t want to go into the playoffs second-guessing anything. Weâ€™ll see how it goes.â€
Mike Brown gave Pavlovic his starting job back after he missed 23 games due to injury, but the 6-foot-7, 239-pounder did nothing to keep it in what has been a disappointing season. Pavlovic is averaging 7.8 points on .362 shooting in 24 minutes a night, while Devin Brown is averaging 7.1 points on .418 shooting in 22 minutes.
â€œI threw Sasha in there to see what we could get,â€ Mike Brown said. â€œHe deserved the opportunity.
â€œDevinâ€™s played well on both ends of the floor. Hopefully, it will give us some consistency.â€
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BIG BEN: Power forward Ben Wallace, who got hit by Antonio McDyess and landed awkwardly Saturday in Detroit, was cleared to play against the Sixers, but Mike Brown decided to hold him out in the hope the veteranâ€™s back spasms will become less of a problem. â€œThis has nothing to do with him,â€ Mike Brown said. â€œHe wants to play. He expects to play. Our training staff said he could play. Iâ€™m telling him heâ€™s not going to play. Iâ€™m doing it just to be conservative.â€ Wallace, who had missed 2Â½ games before coming back against the Pistons, was upbeat prior to the Sixers game. â€œBefore, it used to hurt constantly,â€ he said of his back. â€œRight now, it doesnâ€™t bother me as much.â€ Wallace said doctors will examine him again and heâ€™ll do whatever they recommend. â€œItâ€™s just one of those things,â€ he said. â€œWe want to get it under control before the playoffs start.â€ However, the 12th-year pro doubts heâ€™ll be back to full strength at any point this season. â€œI donâ€™t think it will ever get to 100 percent,â€ Wallace said. â€œIâ€™ll just try to get it close to 100 percent. Iâ€™ll settle for that.â€
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ITâ€™S THE SHOES: Westâ€™s injury had been reported as a sprained ankle, but he said it was actually an inflamed tendon caused by the way his Nike Air tennis shoes were laced up. West said he first experienced problems after a March 16 game against Charlotte, but it took him several weeks to realize his shoes were causing it. â€œNew pair of kicks â€” same brand â€” and Iâ€™m ready to go,â€ West said. â€œIâ€™m not 100 percent, but Iâ€™m in the 90s.â€ Asked if he should be allowed to design his own shoe, West smiled and said, â€œIâ€™ve been telling Nike that for the longest time. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m at that level yet.â€
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BOOBIE PRIZE: Gibson missed his only two shots in 18 minutes of action against Detroit and wasnâ€™t happy with the way he played. â€œI didnâ€™t feel like myself,â€ he said. â€œI like to go 112 (mph) when Iâ€™m out there. My body didnâ€™t let me.â€
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20/20: LeBron Jamesâ€™ streak of games with at least 20 points ended Saturday at 49. It was the longest such streak since Kobe Bryant had 63 in a row from Dec. 9, 2005 through Nov. 3, 2006. â€œWhen I donâ€™t play well, our team struggles,â€ said James, who had 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting in the 85-71 loss to the Pistons. â€œI need to play well to help our team get over the hump.â€
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THINKING SMALL: Instead of using the long-armed Tayshaun Prince against James, the Pistons defended him with shooting guard Richard Hamilton on Saturday, with two or three other players always ready to help. Asked if more teams might start using a smaller, quicker player against him, James said, â€œIf they put a smaller guy on me, Iâ€™ll find a way to make them pay. Itâ€™s not a big deal.â€ Asked the best way to play against him, James said, â€œI donâ€™t know how to defend me.â€
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ROAD WOES: The Cavaliers have lost six straight road games and are now 16-22 away from home on the season. â€œYou wouldnâ€™t think weâ€™d be 0-6 on the road this late in the season,â€ Mike Brown said.
Noland may be reached at email@example.com or 330-721-4061.