INDEPENDENCE — Mike Brown is already paying dividends for the Cavaliers in his second stint as their coach.
Point guard Jarrett Jack and power forward Earl Clark cited Brown’s presence — and his sterling reputation — as their primary reason for signing with Cleveland as free agents. The players were formally introduced Friday at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
“Knowing Coach Mike Brown was driving the process was the only vote of confidence that I needed to come here,” said Jack, a member of his sixth NBA team who is entering his ninth pro season. “I have so much respect for him, and I’m just excited about what we’re building here.”
Clark echoed the sentiment: “Even though we didn’t spend that much time together in Los Angeles, I saw how hard he worked and how much he loves the game. I have a lot of respect for him, and I’m glad to be reunited in Cleveland.”
Jack inked a four-year, $26 million contract to leave the Golden State Warriors, while Clark accepted a two-year, $9 million contract to flee the Los Angeles Lakers. The final seasons of both deals are team options.
General manager Chris Grant said he expects Jack to form a three-man rotation with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and shooting guard Dion Waiters. Though Jack only stands 6-foot-3, he has proved capable of playing both backcourt spots.
“I’m looking forward to them learning from me, and me learning from them, as well,” said Jack, who averaged 12.9 points and 5.5 assists in 79 games with the Warriors.
“Kyrie is a tremendous talent who has taken the league by storm, really, so I’m anxious to play with him. The same goes for Dion, Tristan (Thompson), Tyler (Zeller) and all the other guys that I’ll get to know a lot better.”
While the 29-year-old Jack owns an .852 career free throw percentage and shot .404 on 3-pointers last season, his most important asset is leadership.
During their dismal 24-58 season last winter, Cleveland’s players seldom held themselves accountable and faced few consequences for it from former coach Byron Scott.
“Jarrett is one of the highest regarded leaders in the game, which just about anyone around the NBA will tell you,” Grant said. “Our goal this offseason was to add leadership, toughness and playoff experience. With Jarrett and Earl, we feel we’ve done that, and added guys who complement the culture and foundation we’re building here.”
Clark, who is entering his fifth NBA season, has also suited up with Phoenix and Orlando. Brown began 2012-13 as the Lakers’ coach before being fired, but saw enough of the 6-10, 225-pounder to recommend him to Grant.
Though the 25-year-old Clark has long been groomed to play power forward, the Cavaliers envision him one spot lower in the lineup and using his long frame to protect the rim.
“I liked to play small forward, but honestly, I think small forward is the position for me,” said Clark, who averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 boards in 59 games with the Lakers. “It means a lot that Coach Brown thinks I can play there because I like the challenge of guarding the best player on the court.
“I’m excited to go out and play defense for the Cavaliers.”
Grant smiled and added: “Good answer. Since he’s not here today, we’ll tell Mike you said that.”
The GM added that Clark will be given an opportunity to win the starting small forward job, but also could see minutes at his former spot.
Once the signing of free agent center Andrew Bynum becomes official, Cleveland’s frontcourt will be overloaded. Centers Anderson Varejao and Zeller and power forwards Thompson and Anthony Bennett are already on the roster.
Trading one of the aforementioned players appears inevitable, provided Bynum’s knees are sound enough to play a full season.
“This team is very fluid and constantly changing,” Grant said. “We’re still having ongoing conversations with free agents and ongoing conversations about possible trades. We also potentially have a $2.65 million midlevel (salary cap) exception to negotiate with.
“We’re excited about what we’ve done so far, but this process is not complete. Not even close.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.