CLEVELAND — LeBron James didn’t hesitate when asked to name two things that would help the struggling Cavaliers get things turned around.
“Defensively, we can get better. And defensively, we can get better. That’s it,” the small forward said prior to Monday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. “If we can get better defensively, we can be a pretty good team. Offensively, we’re better than we were last year. Defensively, we were 10 times better (last year).”
The Cavaliers, who entered the game having lost eight of their last nine, are ranked 20th in the league in points allowed (101.0). Their opponents’ .463 field-goal percentage ranked them 26th.
That is why James said the Cavs were “not a very good team right now” following a home loss to Philadelphia on Saturday, which Mike Brown backed up in his pregame meeting with the media.
“We’re 1-8 in the last nine,” he said. “That does not equate to a good team. Can we be a better team? Yes. Are we a better team than we’re showing? Yes.”
Most troubling is the Cavaliers have not always given their best effort.
“We have to play with a sense of urgency in order to get it headed in the right direction,” he said. “I’m not always about wins and losses (but) there are times when we’re not even playing the right way.”
To James, that starts with defense. He plans on leading the way, as he did against the 76ers on Saturday when he held Andre Miller, who had exploded for 16 points in the first half, to four in the second.
“I take the role of guarding whatever guy is playing pretty well at the time,” James said. “Andre was killing us in the first half. I felt putting a bigger body on him would help.”
James is becoming more like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, a player capable of being a lock-down defender on the opponent’s best player.
“You have to believe you can defend a guy and you have to work at it,” he said. “I’ve come a long way from my first few years in the league.”
Mike Brown didn’t have a problem with Drew Gooden getting a technical Saturday for coming off the bench and stepping on the floor to celebrate Shannon’s Brown’s dunk.
“You see it quite a bit, especially when a young player or guy who doesn’t play that much does something,” he said. “When they do something, it’s nice to see guys get excited. It definitely had nothing to do with us winning or losing the game.”
Mike Brown didn’t question the T, but pointed out others have celebrated in like fashion and not been whistled.
Gooden, who played an excellent game (21 points, 10 rebounds), also nullified a James free throw by stepping into the lane too soon.
With Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic back in the fold and Shannon Brown getting minutes, swingman Devin Brown has not played the last three games.
“You can only play so many,” Mike Brown said. “If Devin Brown has to play, somebody else has to sit.”
With Daniel Gibson back in the starting lineup after missing two out of the last three contests due to a pulled wisdom tooth, Mike Brown also had to manage minutes for him, Damon Jones, Eric Snow and Ira Newble.
“My job is to continue to search,” Mike Brown said. “I need to get a feel for this guy and that guy until I find the right combination to help us get some wins.”
Mike Brown watched the Buffalo Bills-Browns game at home, but he experienced December football in Northeast Ohio back in the mid-1990s when he went to Cleveland Stadium to watch his brother, Anthony, play offensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I couldn’t move,” he said. “I stayed bundled up the whole game. If I could have moved, I would have left.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.