Cavaliers trying to fit Danny Green into bench rotation before playoffs begin | Jeff Schudel
Mar. 18—Nine games remain in the regular season for the Cavaliers, and, though Coach J.B. Bickerstaff says it is too soon to start preparing for the playoffs with the postseason still four weeks away, the Cavs know their season will not end when the regular season closes April 9.
The Cavs have played 73 games and at 45-28 have already won more games (44-38) than last season. After six months of playing together since training camp opened, most of the learning is behind them, Bickerstaff said.
Unlike last season when tumbling in the Eastern Conference standings forced them to be part of the play-in tournament, in which they were eliminated, they sit fourth in the East, six games ahead of seventh-place Miami. The Cavs would host the fifth-place Knicks if the playoffs started today. They would have fall out of the top six to not clinch a playoff spot.
"I don't think it's as much learning as it is just being consistent and stabilizing what we're trying to get done," Bickerstaff said when asked about how he is approaching the final weeks of the season. "Honing in on all the small things, all the details, the things that make us successful, and just trying to pay attention to those things and then figure out a way to hide the weaknesses and continue to play to our strengths."
Bickerstaff still is trying to figure out the best way to get more from his bench players. The bench is typically shortened when the playoffs roll around, but he doesn't want his reserves getting rusty.
And then there is the Danny Green riddle.
The Cavaliers signed Green, a 15-year veteran who played on championship teams in three different cities, soon after losing Kevin Love in a contract buyout. Green historically provides instant offense as a 3-point shooter, but he hasn't found his niche with the Cavaliers.
Green missed most of this season recovering from knee surgery. He played three games with Memphis, was sent to Houston at the Feb. 9 trade deadline and then agreed to a buyout with the Rockets on Feb. 12. The Cavs signed him as soon as he cleared waivers Feb. 15.
"Someone who is about the team and who just wants to fit in and be a part of the group," is how Bickerstaff described Green a day before the signing became official. "Someone who has been to the mountaintop and won championships and played in those types of games. But then, you obviously have the ability to put that guy on the floor, who's still capable of making shots and guarding his position, which, we know, in the playoffs is a premium."
Green has been with the Cavaliers for 13 games and played in only six of them while averaging 3.0 points in seven minutes a game. He played the final four minutes and scored two points March 17 when the Cavs beat the Wizards, 117-94, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Prior to that he played in only one of the previous six games, and in that one played four minutes without taking a shot when the Cavs beat the Hornets, 120-104, on Mach 14 in Charlotte.
Bickerstaff wants to get Green more involved in practice before using him consistently off the bench in games.
"I still think there are guys who need reps," Bickerstaff said. "Talking to Danny, trying to get him an opportunity to get more practice time, more five-on-five in practice, and then kind of integrating him into the lineup to see where he fits.
"So there are some things that we're continuing to work on, but as for coaches, we love the time and the more time we can get in the gym and just buckle down on details, details, details, that's going to help us in the long run."
There are no more back-to-back games on the Cavs' schedule. The Cavs don't play again until March 21 when they face the Nets in Brooklyn. The two teams meet again in Brooklyn on March 23.
—There isn't anything the Cavaliers and Jarrett Allen can do but wait for Allen's injured right eye to heal. It isn't like he can rehab like he would from a muscle pull. Allen was injured March 10 in Miami when Heat center Bam Adebayo accidentally scraped Allen's eye while the two were fighting for a rebound.
"He's progressing well," Bickerstaff said March 17. "He's seen a couple of specialists now, and structurally everything is OK to this point. You know, just deal with the things that happen when you get hit in the eye and the swelling around the eye. But he's making progress, he's doing more on the court and it's just a matter of when he can safely return.
"When you take that shot, everybody's eye's going to heal at its own pace, so we'll just take our time with him and never put him in a position where he's compromised."
Allen is keeping up with his conditioning, Bickerstaff said. The Cavaliers are 3-2 in the games Allen has missed with his eye injury.
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