CLEVELAND — It gave moronic sportswriters who appear on television talk shows something to blabber about for a few minutes, but Cavaliers coach Mike Brown and superstar LeBron James insist their bump Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden was totally accidental.
That didn’t prevent the incident, which occurred as James was walking to the bench for a timeout and Brown was coming onto the court during a blowout loss to the New York Knicks, from getting national attention on network television.
With the Cavaliers about to lose for the ninth time in 11 games, according to the likes of Skip Bayless and others, the brush between coach and player was a sure sign of ill will and mounting frustration.
“I didn’t know anything about it until somebody just told me,” James said Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena prior to a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. “It’s no issue.”
Brown, who said he has “a great relationship” with his star player, also downplayed the incident, which happened in the fourth quarter of an ugly 108-90 defeat.
“When somebody told me about it, it was kind of shocking,” the coach said. “It was two guys bumping into one another with one looking one way and the other looking the other way.
“If LeBron has a message he wants to tell me, he’ll come tell me. Same with me (to him).”
Despite his team’s struggles, Brown made no changes in the starting lineup.
“You’ve got to always think about it,” he said. “In the same breath, I have to give guys an opportunity. I have to make sure I don’t hastily make a decision off a game or two.”
Shooting guard Sasha Pavlovic is the player most likely to go to the bench if Brown does make a move. He is shooting .348 from the field and averaging 8.0 points on the season. Over the last four games prior to Thursday, he was averaging 4.5 points on .250 shooting (6-of-24). Problem is, Larry Hughes, his natural replacement, has been just as bad. Hughes entered Thursday 11-of-45 over his last four games and was at .343 for the season.
“I can’t change guys just to keep changing guys,” Brown said. “I have to give a group of guys an opportunity to play to see if it will work.”
For the season, nine different Cleveland players have started a game, with only Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden having been on the floor for the opening tip in every one.
“If you go down the roster, I think we’ve started everybody in that locker room,” Brown said.
No. 8 is great
It’s no secret James is a big fan of Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, who began the night averaging 26.8 points, second in the league to James’ 29.6.
“Kobe Bryant is definitely the most explosive offensive player we have in this league,” James said. “There’s no one like him.”
The 22-year-old, however, downplayed their individual matchup.
“For me, it’s never about playing against another person,” he said. “It’s all about the team. He knows that as well. We both have different games. At the same time, we have something in common, and that’s wanting to win.”
Quote of the day
“Who cares what we did last year? It’s over and done with.” — James on the Cavaliers going from Eastern Conference champions to a sub-.500 team.
Contact Rick Noland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-721-4061.