INDEPENDENCE — Earl Clark played for Mike Brown with the Los Angeles Lakers, so the 25-year-old knew what was coming Tuesday on the first day of Cavaliers training camp.
Lots and lots of work on defense.
“Mike Brown wants it done right,” said the 6-foot-10, 225-pounder who might end up as Cleveland’s starting small forward. “We’ve got a young team, so it’s the first time they may have a coach like that. He’s never going to change. That’s the way he coaches. He’s doing a great job.”
The first day involved a ton of teaching, which meant the players spent large periods of time standing in a stationary position while listening to Brown’s many principles.
“They probably could have watched a nice feature-length movie,” Brown joked. “There was a lot of information thrown at them. They had to stay locked in as best they could. They probably don’t remember half the stuff we threw at them, because we threw a lot at them.
“It’s like when you’re in the classroom and you’re hearing a lecture. Whether you’re tired or not, you’ll eventually fall asleep because you’re sitting down. The tough part about it was, they had no chairs, so they had to somehow, someway attempt to stay upright.”
A coach who preaches defense first, second and third, Brown is inheriting a team that ranked dead last in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed last season under Byron Scott.
Right now, Brown is concentrating on positioning, pick-and-rolls and how to defend as a unit. Clark, who is entering his fifth NBA season, characterized his coach’s philosophy as “five players on a string, communicating and just playing hard.”
The effort part will take on added importance once the Cavs start playing exhibition games — they have an intra-squad scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Baldwin Wallace University and their first exhibition game Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena against Milwaukee — but right now Brown is focusing mostly on the mental part.
“He’s more detailed now,” Clark said. “He’s not letting anything go by without getting it done right.
“In L.A., I was on a veteran team with a lot of great players. We’ve got a lot of young players (in Cleveland), superstars that are coming into their game. It was a little different. I think he was more strict.”
Clark, who averaged 7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds last season while shooting .440 from the field, .333 on 3-pointers and .697 at the line, takes great pride in his defense.
The Louisville product has played both forward spots in his career, but with Tristan Thompson and No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett at the power forward position, his best opportunity to play for the Cavs is at small forward, where Alonzo Gee struggled as the starter last season.
“It’s unique,” Clark said of his eagerness to defend. “I don’t think a lot of guys take pride in it in the NBA. A lot of coaches and players let guys slack at the defensive end at the NBA level. I take pride in it. It’s hard to do.”
Gee is also a solid and willing defender, but if Clark can guard small forwards and prove he can provide some offense, his size and length could lead to him being in the starting lineup.
“I’ve got to earn it,” he said. “I’ve had to earn everything in my career so far. It’s nothing new to me. Whatever Coach tells me to do, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”