Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Bill Livingston wants the Cavs to run more and use their athletes:

In Brown's defense, his roster is a box of mismatched parts. Part of the team is plodders (Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jones, Eric Snow, David Wesley) and part flyers (James, Larry Hughes, Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, Drew Gooden).

A defense-oriented coach in football usually runs a button-down offense to reduce turnovers and keep his defenders from having to play on a short field. Tom Landry was the great exception.

Brown was hired to create a Pistons-like defensive mind-set. Turnovers in basketball happen when you run, although so do easy baskets. But turnovers put Brown's beloved defense at risk.

Alas, Brown hasn't locked down the other team as much as he has put his own biggest asset, James, in chains. He has to let him run.

The Cavs rebound well, a requirement to run.

And it is no hindrance to have Z on the floor in the fast break. The center makes outlet passes, then saunters downcourt if a quick basket doesn't result. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sometimes didn't even move to halfcourt. Neither did Wes Unseld.

I've said this before (and I'm sure I'll say it again) but centers don't finish fast breaks, they start them. Livingston is correct in saying that Z shouldn't be whats holding the Cavaliers fast break back.

Also, having the guards rebound the ball could help:
Numbers like 14.4 points and 3.1 assists seem passable until you realize that Hughes is playing close to 36 minutes a night, and his ability to clean the glass seems to have diminished. Hughes averaged 6.3 rebounds in 38 minutes two years ago, but that mark is down to 3.5 this season. Guards who rebound can't help but start fast breaks, but Hughes' recent decline heads that idea off at the pass.

And I hate that cliché.

Having Hughes (and James) crash the boards would do wonders for the Cavs running attack. I know the players want to run, and playing Gibson and Pavlovic will help, but there still will be problems. Gibson is nice and all, but they need a real point guard (from Windhorst's blog):

1. You can't run an up-tempo offense without a good offensive point guard. At least not well. The Cavs don't have one right now. Maybe it'll work for a night or a week, but I not for long periods of time or, um, hello, the playoffs. End of discussion. It may be fun to talk about Sasha Pavlovic at the 3, Andy Varejao at the 5, and LeBron James at the 4. Hey, there's probably valid points and great ideas in there. But the most important piece is missing right now. This is not a slap of Daniel Gibson, I think he's got a great future. Key word there, though, is future.

Windhorst has some more great points:

2. Over the last 29 games, the Cavs have scored 19 fastbreak points or more just twice. The two games LeBron didn't play. I'll bet he doesn't know that.

3. I understand why Larry Hughes is not thrilled with his role and he'd love to have more freedom both offensively and defensively. But I'd have a little more sympathy if he didn't just chuck away from the outside and not pass or rebound much anymore. He's playing mad and it isn't helping. I mean, I know he wants to run, but when he does run he pulls up from 18 feet on a 3-on-2 break. I was defending Hughes earlier this season when fans were getting on him when he was playing through an injury. Well, he tells me he's fine now, so I say where's the real Larry Hughes?

A lot of the Cavaliers' problems are philosophical. Do they have the perfect roster? No. Are the pieces a good fit for LeBron? No, not everyone. But they do need to change the way they think.

Jack McCallum has talked about Mike D'Antoni's philosophy with the Suns and how he had to train them to think to run every time. They were used to pushing the ball off of long misses and turnovers, but not after short rebounds or makes. He had to drill into his guys to push no matter what.

Do the Cavs need to do this? Well... kinda. They don't have the players (point guard/shooters) to play like the Suns. But they do need to change the way that they outlet after rebounds. Often you'll see a big man grab the board, hold the ball and wait for a guard to hand the ball off to. This leads to less turnovers (good thing) but allows the defense to set up and doesn't take advantage of the Cavaliers' athletes (bad thing). Plus, it usually leads to the 'stand and watch James' offense (very bad thing).

I posted a video after the Warriors win that showed Zydrunas throwing a quick outlet pass to Pavlovic after a Golden State miss (third video). Pavlovic didn't score (he was fouled) and it wasn't exactly a flashy play, but that's the kind of thing the Cavs need to drill into their players. Push the ball by passing ahead, grab the rebound and get out running; don't wait for James or Hughes to come back to the ball, throw it up to them. They aren't used to thinking this way and Brown needs to force them (and himself) to push the ball when they can.

The Cavs obviously need to change up their offense; they need more easy baskets for James, be it by fast breaks, running more post plays or simply having James move without the ball. The question is, who knows if Brown can make these changes on the fly?


Erik said...

What I want to know is how did it get like this, with disgruntled star players and and a playing style (at both ends of the floor) that does not fit the roster.

Is it a matter of Brown feeling the need to have the team guard every possession with its life? Is it LeBron and Larry sulking? Is it Brown not knowing any other way to coach except grind-it-out possession basketball?

And why did this all come on this year? Last year, the offense wasn't really the problem. They ran and played the open floor just fine.

Is LeBron's fatigue really hurting the team this much? Is it the presence of an unhappy Hughes? Is it the disintegrating game of Marshall, who downed a lot of key buckets last year?

Maybe I'm making this out to be more complex than it actually is, but I'm kind of at a loss right now.

Ben said...

The offense went through some slumps last year too. It was more consistent, but they had lapses that cost them games versus Dallas and Miami (and I think New Jersey). They also laid an egg in game 7 against Detroit.

Part of me feels like everyone gave Brown a pass on offense last year because they needed so much work on defense (and they did). But last offseason was supposed to be 'Brown installs the offense' and it looked like it hasn't happened.

Personally, I think that LeBron's minutes are finally coming back to bite them. All the coaches he's had in Cleveland have played him 40+. This shouldn't happen. Combined with a first time playoff appearance and Team USA, LeBron has played as much as he ever has.

As for Marshall and Hughes, Marshall wasn't that great last year. His shot wasn't falling as it had previous years and this year it looks like he can't rebound as well (he never dunks anymore).

As for Hughes... some of the decisions he makes with the ball are maddening. He's not rebounding or passing well and his defense has been so-so (all things that make a good player). I'm kinda pissed that Hughes is sulking, cause his performance hasn't exactly been whats expected of him and it's not like Brown is taking him out when he does something stupid (he's getting playing time).

I'm really interested to see what happens in the next couple weeks with this team.