June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Scott mulls a change to Cavs’ starting five

INDEPENDENCE — Jamario Moon could be out of the starting lineup tonight against the Indiana Pacers and Joey Graham could be in it.

Cavaliers coach Byron Scott repeatedly declined to go into specifics Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts, but did confirm he’s contem­plating a change somewhere.

“I’ll let you know (today),” Scott said. “I won’t say which (spot). I’m thinking about it.”



There’s a possibility Scott could start Antawn Jamison at power forward in place of the struggling J.J. Hickson, but most signs point to a Graham­for- Moon switch at small for­ward, by far the weakest posi­tion on the team regardless of who is in the lineup.

The mostly stand-in-the­corner Moon has taken five free throws in 309 minutes and is averaging 6.3 points in 12 games as the starter. He’s also taking less than six shots a game, with almost half of them (35 of 71) being 3-point­ers. Worse still, he’s made just nine from beyond the arc (.257).

“I don’t take guys out for taking shots,” Scott said. “I take guys out for not taking a shot and I take guys out for not playing hard at the defensive end.”

Long-limbed and fairly quick, Moon has the reputation of being solid at the defensive end, but at 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds, he’s not very physical.

Listed at 6-7, 230, Graham is somewhat limited offensively, but he’s surprisingly quick, can bang a bit defensively and has shown the ability to penetrate, something Moon almost never does.

For all those reasons, it wouldn’t be shocking if Graham (6.7 points on 16-of-32 shooting) got the call tonight in Indiana against Danny Granger, who lit up the Cavs for 34 points in a 99-85 Pacers victory at Quicken Loans Arena on Nov. 13.

Moon took a similar approach to the possibility of coming off the bench.

“If I don’t, it’s not the first time I haven’t started,” he said. “We’ve still got to play basketball. We’ve still got to win games. If he needs to go with a different lineup to give us a better chance to win, it is what it is.”

Moon also defended his offensive aggressiveness, or lack thereof, saying, “I did all I could do with the amount of opportunities. It doesn’t boil down to offense or one individual. We’ve got to come together as a team.”

Scott in no way blamed Moon for the Cavs’ 5-7 record or the fact they’ve lost four of their last five games. In fact, he never even mentioned Moon by name while talking to the media.

He did say the Cavs spent most of Monday addressing their lack of communication and effort at the defensive end. The coach praised his players for a spirited effort in practice, but then asked them, “Why don’t we do this in games?”

“They don’t have an answer,” Scott said. “Most of the time they’re wondering the same thing. Why don’t we talk more in the game? Why don’t we play with the same type of intensity and effort?

“When they do start getting upset about guys not doing what they’re supposed to do and start holding each other accountable, then we’ll start growing as a basketball team.”

Scott mentioned Jamison, who has averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds in six games since missing three with a sore left knee, as the one guy who has tried to be a leader in that area, but made it clear the team needed more players with that approach.

“If we played the way we played in practice today, teams would probably average 90-92 points against us instead of 100,” Scott said. “It’s not that big of a deal. Communication and effort are not that big of a deal.

“But it doesn’t matter how well we do it out here. It matters when we do it at 7 o’clock when the lights are on.”

Graham, who played for the defensive-minded Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State, seems eager for the chance to do that against Granger, saying he would try to “lock him up.”

“I’m going to crowd him,” Graham said of the 21.3-point scorer. “I’m going to make sure he’s very uncomfortable when he shoots his shots and make sure he shoots a lot of tough shots.

“I’ve always taken pride in playing defense,” he added. “I’ve always gotten enjoyment out of shutting somebody down.”

Not an enforcer

Scott laughed when asked if center Ryan Hollins, who picked up flagrant fouls in back-to-back games over the weekend, was the team’s enforcer. He mentioned oldschool players like Maurice Lucas, Lonnie Shelton and Buck Williams, then added, “When they hit you, they didn’t apologize for it. They just hit you and left your butt down there on the floor.”

Hollins got his first flagrant Friday when he hit New Orleans power forward David West above the shoulders while trying to prevent a layup. He got another — and was ejected — Saturday when he took a big swing and ended up hitting San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter in the face.

Hollins, who said he tried to keep West from falling and caught Splitter “in an awkward situation,” was not suspended by the league Monday, meaning further disciplinary action is highly unlikely. “I’m not a dirty player at all,” he said. “I understand guys have careers. There’s a lot at stake besides basketball.”

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.