October 23, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
49°F

Cavs: Small guards playing big for Brown

CLEVELAND — Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has always been a fan of big guards, but he’s turning over a new leaf this season.

In recent games, Brown has put 6-foot-3 Kyrie Irving, 6-3 Jarrett Jack and 6-4 Dion Waiters on the floor together for extended periods of time, and the results have been mostly positive.

“I’ve never been a fan of being small, whether it’s with my bigs or with my smalls,” Brown said Tuesday prior to a game against the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena. “I’ve never done this. I am a little surprised at how much I’ve used it and, at times, how effective it’s been.”

When the three guards have been on the floor together, Irving has usually defended the opposing point guard, with Jack taking the shooting guard and Waiters defending the small forward.

Waiters has sometimes struggled defensively against taller players, notably vs. Chicago’s long-limbed Luol Deng, but the Cavs have been able to exploit mismatches at the offensive end of the floor.

“It’s almost like playing three point guards or lead guards on the floor,” Brown said. “They can all play pick-and-roll and they all can shoot and get out and create for their teammates.”

“We’re tough to guard on the offensive end,” Irving added. “Our defensive rotations can be that much quicker. We give up a little size, but we can make up for it with quickness.”

In his previous stint with the Cavs, Brown frequently started 6-6 Larry Hughes and 6-7 Sasha Pavlovic in the backcourt, though 6-8 LeBron James usually functioned as the point guard.

With the Lakers, Brown had the 6-6 Kobe Bryant playing with a number of different point guards, so the results of the Irving-Jack-Waiters experiment have been a pleasant surprise to him.

“They all can push the ball in transition,” Brown said. “It just gives you a versatility offensively that a lot of teams don’t have.”

Same lineup

Though C.J. Miles had scored just 30 points and shot 10-for-41 from the field in his first seven starts, Brown stuck with the same starting lineup and basic rotation against the Knicks.

“I’m going to keep rolling with it to see if we can last with it,” the coach said. “I’m still not sure, but I like what I’ve seen.”

Miles had scored 14 points in his last five games prior to Tuesday — he was 4-for-25 from the field in that span — so there may come a time when Brown changes his lineup again.

But with the Cavs having won three of their last four games prior to Tuesday — that improvement coincided with the four games Irving, Miles, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Bynum had started together — Brown has no immediate plans to switch things up.

Of course, that could change if the Cavs start to struggle again.

“If we were 13-2, then you stick with it through rocky times,” Brown said. “Our record bodes for me to continue to search. I’m not going to (search) right now because this lineup has had some success. I’m not going to do it just to do it.”

Home sweet home

The Cavs, who are 1-10 on the road, began the night with a 6-3 record at The Q, where they had won three straight.

“We’ve got to take care of home court,” Irving said. “It’s a simple message.”

Curious response

When asked what the toughest part to adjusting to Brown as head coach had been, Irving smiled and said, “I don’t know where to start. I’m just glad we’re getting this thing rolling.”

Tip-ins

The minor who walked onto the court Saturday and approached Irving during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers was charged with criminal trespassing and released into the custody of his parents.

• With a fan also having walked onto the court last season when LeBron James and the Miami Heat visited The Q, the Cavs have once again addressed their in-game security measures.

• Cavs guard Dion Waiters turned 22 Tuesday.

• The Knicks were without center Tyson Chandler (broken leg) and power forward Kenyon Martin (sore ankle). Martin could play tonight when New York hosts Chicago.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.