CANTON — Henry Sims started at center for veteran Anderson Varejao, who got the night off, and helped himself in the battle for the last spot on the roster.
Alonzo Gee played only the first nine minutes in his preseason debut and did nothing, which was pretty much matched by Earl Clark, his main competition for the starting small forward job.
And despite all of coach Mike Brown’s defensive principles, concepts and preaching, the Cavaliers remain a work in progress at that end of the floor.
That’s the Cliff’s Notes version of Cleveland’s 92-74 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats in exhibition play Tuesday night at the Memorial Civic Center.
“What I was most disappointed in was the third quarter,” said Brown, whose team lost the period 32-17 with mostly starters on the floor. “When our first unit was on the floor, offensively and defensively we took too many shortcuts.”
Sims, a training camp invitee from Georgetown who appeared in two games for New Orleans last season, hit a couple early mid-range jumpers while putting up eight points on 4-for-6 shooting and nine rebounds in 27 minutes.
The 6-foot-10, 248-pounder isn’t as explosive or as athletic as 6-10, 246-pound rookie Kenny Kadj, his main competition for the final roster spot, but he plays much bigger than Kadj and has been better at defending the pick and roll.
“Henry was pretty good,” Brown said. “He was one of those guys that took a few shortcuts defensively. Not because he didn’t want to do it. It was more that he thought he was doing the right thing when he wasn’t.”
With Andrew Bynum still recovering from knee surgery and Tyler Zeller out after undergoing an appendectomy, Sims probably has an edge over Kadj because he’s closer to being a legitimate NBA center, which would give the Cavs an insurance policy in the middle
“No pressure,” Sims said. “It’s basketball. I just go out there and do what I know I can do.”
Not a whole lot was cleared up at small forward, other than it remains far and away Cleveland’s weakest position.
Gee, who Brown only planned on playing 10 minutes to begin with, didn’t see action after the first quarter and did nothing while he was in the game, finishing 0-for-1 from the field.
Clark once again hoisted some ill-advised jumpers while scoring six points on 3-for-9 shooting. The free-agent signee, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, is 5-for-21 from the floor in three preseason games.
“Earl’s pressing a little bit,” Brown said. “Part of him pressing is he’s still in learn mode on a lot of stuff on both ends of the floor.”
The only good small forward was once again C.J. Miles, who had 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field and 6-for-6 at the line. Miles, however, is not considered a good defender, and that’s what Brown wants most at that position.
On the subject of defense, the Cavs had some breakdowns, especially guards Dion Waiters and Matthew Dellavedova, who is probably going to make the team. Brown repeatedly called Waiters over to give him pointers, but not much helped.
“It was that type of night for me,” said the shooting guard, who had five points and five fouls in 23 minutes. “It was tough. Coach was trying to make it better. I can’t argue with him. I’ve just got to listen.”
Waiters was victimized in the post several times, while Dellavedova repeatedly failed to stop dribble penetration, the result being either easy layups, kick-outs for open 3-pointers or, most often, Cleveland fouls.
The Bobcats (2-2) attempted 39 free throws to 18 for the Cavs (2-1), who were outscored 55-32 over the middle two quarters and 75-47 over the final three.
Offensively, the Cavs shot just .355 from the field (27-for-76), with Kyrie Irving (15 points) going 5-for-13, Waiters going 2-for-7, Dellavedova 3-for-9 and Anthony Bennett 2-for-6.
In addition to Bynum and Zeller, the Cavs were also without Jarrett Jack (inflamed knee), Sergey Karasev (visa) and Carrick Felix (hernia), while the Bobcats were minus Brendan Haywood (stress fracture in foot) and Al Jefferson (sprained anke).
** Brown said second-round pick Felix is the “low man on the totem pole” and “Canton fans might see him a few times.” Cleveland’s NBA Development League affiliate is the Canton Charge.
** Brown said Jack, who is expected to miss 10 days, could have played had the Bobcats game been a playoff contest. He also said if Jack missed time in the regular season, he still wouldn’t use Waiters at point guard. Whoever makes the team between Dellavedova, the favorite because he has some guaranteed money, and Elliot Williams would fill that role.
** Kemba Walker had 14 points and five assists for the Bobcats, while Gerald Henderson had 13 points. Cody Zeller, a rookie first-round pick and younger brother of Tyler, had seven points and nine boards in 26 minutes, while veteran guard Ben Gordon got ejected in the fourth quarter.