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Art Garcia

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Coach Mike Brown (right) is still determining what to do with starters like Mo Williams down the stretch.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Cavs' coach weighs pros, cons of rest down the stretch


Posted Mar 31 2010 11:34AM

When it comes to balancing rest vs. rust, coaches routinely discuss the topic within the ranks. They also watch how others handle it. As with most longstanding debates, there lies no consensus.

So in the case of Mike Brown, when it comes to the delicate act of doling out minutes for the final two weeks of the regular season, Cleveland's skipper is trusting the part of his anatomy that seldom lets his down.

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Gut, it's on you.

"There's probably something scientific out there that you can follow or some data that you can look at, but it'll come from in here," Brown said, gesturing to the road to every man's heart. "I've thought a little bit about it, but I haven't thought much about it. It's a feeling out process."

The Cavaliers are in the enviable position of having essentially locked up the top seed in the Eastern Conference. While it's mathematically possible for Orlando to catch Cleveland, a six-game lead with eight games left is as sure as a LeBron James breakaway. The Cavs won't get caught.

So as they wait on the first-round matchup with the eighth seed -- it'll likely be Charlotte, Toronto or Chicago -- one of the questions becomes how to wait. Is the best course to give the heavy lifters a night off here and there? Surely there's no harm in giving the likes of LeBron, Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams a break at some point.

But would a staycation disrupt momentum and cohesion going into the only part of the season that matters for Cleveland?

So far, Brown hasn't shown any signs of cutting minutes. His eight-man rotation has remained intact in Cleveland's last three games.

Jamison said the team is prepared to do whatever the coaching staff thinks will deliver a championship.

"This group of guys is hungry," Jamison said. "LeBron wants one. [Shaquille O'Neal] wants another one because he doesn't know if he's ever going to get that opportunity again. I want one. Guys are just to the point where whatever is asked of us to do, we're going to do it.

"The thing for us for these last few games, we really want to stay sharp. It's the stretch run for us and if we don't want to go into the playoffs going downhill. If we're playing our style of basketball, it's going to be very hard to beat us. We don't want to go in relaxed and act like everything is wrapped up and just coast into the playoffs."

The dial-it down strategy has its recent critics. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pointed to the heat Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell took for resting his starters before the playoffs.

"Some people thought [Caldwell] was crazy and some people thought he was a genius, and back and forth," Popovich said. "That argument will go on forever. It's a fine line that you walk because you want both. You want to stay sharp and want to have rest. You can argue on both sides of it and write a term paper, and it's all [bunk]."

Popovich has made it a practice of resting his older star players -- namely Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili -- late in the season in recent years even with playoff implications at stake. Ginobili, in fact, sat out Tuesday's potentially devastating loss at New Jersey.

Brown, a former Popovich assistant, still has a team working out some kinks. Shaq hasn't returned from thumb surgery and Zydrunas Ilgauskas recently rejoined the team after a month in free-agency limbo.

"We're far from being comfortable or a done deal," Jamison said. "That's the reason why we're staying focused. It's the reason why we know there is a tough road ahead of us and we still have to iron some things out. There are still a lot of questions up in the air. We're going to need these next couple of weeks to get things going in the right direction."

Whatever Brown decides, someone will be ready to pounce.

"If you win, then you're a genius," he said. "If you don't, then you didn't know what you're talking about. I'm OK with that."

Durant all about OKC

Kevin Durant notices it. How could he not? From outposts across the country, No. 35 jerseys are sprinkled among the crowd. KD saw his fair share of fans paying their tributes Tuesday night in Philadelphia as the Thunder rolled to another win.

"It's cool that they have Oklahoma City on their chest," Durant said. "That's one thing I'm big on is letting everybody know who we are as a team. It's cool to go to other cities and you see Oklahoma City gear. That makes me so happy inside as a player and a person, so I care less if they have my jersey on just as long as they have Oklahoma City on their body."

Thunder coach Scott Brooks has enjoyed a pretty good seat during the Durant Breakout Tour of 2009-10. He's watched a promising young player become a superstar without sacrificing the team's core values.

"I do see that," Brooks said. "I acknowledge that going from city to city. People get excited at what he does. He does some great things at both ends of the floor."

Speaking of gear, adidas and the NBA have launched a soccer-inspired line of track jackets and shirts available at the NBA Store. Asked why the fútbol motif, a league executive quipped: "Lots of NBA guys like soccer." Steve Nash, order up.

Something's Brewing

It's campaign season around the league and the Timberwolves have jumped into the fray by unveiling "Something's Brewing." The hook for the Most Improved Player of the Year push for Corey Brewer is your morning cup of joe.

Brewer's likeness is adorning his own brand of coffee, Brewer's Blend. The coffee gift box is being sent to more than 120 media members who vote on the MIP Award and includes a training video for any fledging coffee shop barista. Brewer, of course, stars along with cameos from coach Kurt Rambis and teammate Wayne Ellington.

Also inside the gift box is an actual bag of Brewer's Blend coffee, a branded coffee mug and a beverage menu detailing Brewers' MIP stats. Sugar and cream sold separately.

And of course there's a website: brewersblend.com. Drink responsibly.

Quotable

"At the end of the day, everyone plays the same amount of games over the same amount of time."
-- Spurs forward Richard Jefferson on schedule complaints.

Starting 5

1. Wonder how many Stephen Curry would score against his Warriors? Fellow rooks Young Buck and Roddy Buckets have gone off for 55 and 40.

2. Why is it hard to take the Suns' eight-game winning streak seriously? Hornets, Wolves, Warriors, Knicks, Wolves, Bulls.

3. What if OKC had drafted Tyreke Evans? James Harden is a great fit, but Reke and Durantula would be Jordan and Pippen II.

4. Manu Ginobili is playing for a contract without playing for a contract. That's how it should be done.

5. Who's going to remember the 2009-10 Nets now?

Give-n-Go: Nate Robinson

AG: What are you thinking about before you check into a game?

NR: You watch the game and take the good, and try to learn as much as you can from your teammates. I try to get a feel for when I'm going in and what you're going up against in the other team.

AG: Has the bench bonded?

NR: We've got to be ourselves and have everybody contribute. We're going to support our team no matter what.

AG: Everyone says you're brought energy to the Boston locker room.

NR: That's me. I'm a fun, happy spirit. I just love to play and have a good time. I'm always smiling.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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