October 25, 2014

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Cavaliers: Bench bunch playing pivotal role

INDEPENDENCE – At least Jamario Moon didn’t break out a “Mork & Mindy” analogy.

The fun-loving Cavaliers reserve was talking about the team’s bench players Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts when he referenced “Flubber,” the 1997 Disney movie starring Robin Williams.

“It’s all about jelling,” Moon said. “I guess you could call us one big Flubber. It’s one big blob. We’re all stuck together.”

If that is true, then coach Mike Brown is “The Absent-Minded Professor,” the 1961 movie that spawned a remake in “Flubber,” which combines “flying” and “rubber” to describe a Williams invention in the new film.

Brown hasn’t always pushed the correct buttons immediately, especially when big changes have hit the Cavaliers, but the team’s

NBA-best 52-15 record is pretty strong evidence he’s doing something right.

“It’s been great to see different guys at different times step up for us and impact a basketball game by not trying to do too much, but just by doing what they do in order to help us get a win,” Brown said, uttering a sentence nearly as long as his extremely deep bench.

“We’ve gotten that all year. It’s great to continue to see that.”

As they have been for most of the season, the Cavaliers’ top reserves right now are big man Anderson Varejao, who has 11 double-doubles in points and rebounds, and combo guard Delonte West, who has played very well in recent weeks.

After that, Brown has been going with Moon and sometimes Leon Powe. That leaves Jawad Williams and Daniel Gibson as the odd men out at the moment, but Cleveland’s reserves know something could change at any moment.

“It doesn’t matter,” Moon said when asked about certain players not seeing action from time to time. “Whenever we get on the court, we say, ‘Let’s just do our thing.’ That’s what we always tell each other. We root each other on.”

Cleveland’s bench will get even deeper when Zydrunas Ilgauskas re-signs with the team next week.

It will eventually get deeper still when Shaquille O’Neal returns from a thumb injury and goes back in the starting lineup, which means current starter J.J. Hickson will also be available in reserve.

The Cavaliers, however, are not concerned that having so many good players could “Flub” things up.

“We need everybody to get where we want to be,” Moon said. “Everybody understands their role. Everybody has different assignments, whether it’s coming in and being aggressive on defense or coming in and creating scoring. It’s making it easy for us to go out and get the job done.”

Shaq sighting

O’Neal, who has been staying in Orlando, Fla., while recovering from an injury to his right thumb that will keep him out of action until the playoffs, visited the team at its practice facility, but did not talk to the media.

Brown said general manager Danny Ferry and O’Neal have worked out a timetable for when the center will permanently return to the team, but did not say when that would be.

“I’m completely on board with whatever they worked out,” Brown said.

Brown said he did not expect O’Neal to accompany the team to tonight’s game in Detroit. The coach also said he has no problem with letting a player return to his offseason home when that player is going to be out a significant amount of time.

“I like the atmosphere and the culture we have here,” Brown said.

Duck, duck, goose

When Cleveland players press their thumb and index finger together while raising their other three fingers after a successful 3-point attempt, they are mimicking an extended follow-through on a shot, which they think resembles the profile of a goose’s neck and eye.

“Since way back in the day, they say when you shoot it, you’ve got to leave the goose neck up, I guess because when you shoot, it actually looks like a goose neck,” Moon said. “Then one day when we shot, it looked like a goose eye. We said, ‘From now on, every time somebody shoots the trey ball, we’re going to give it the goose eye.’”

That changed, however, when Mo Williams made a bomb from midcourt in Oklahoma City.

“We had to give him the double goose,” Moon said as he made the gesture with both hands at the same time.

Still out

Detroit point guard Rodney Stuckey, who collapsed on the bench and left on a stretcher during a March 5 game at Quicken Loans Arena, was listed as “out” for the Pistons game in Boston on Monday. Stuckey was released from the Cleveland Clinic the day after the game in Cleveland, but hasn’t played since the incident.

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