Posted Jul 14 2011 7:07PM
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The best thing to happen to the Cavaliers last season, not that there were many high-on-life moments to choose from, was a single day of a schedule break. Jan. 12, before returning to practice on Jan. 13 and playing again on the 14th. It saved everyone a lot of trouble. Police reports. Cleaning up all the chalk outlines. A jury acquitting Byron Scott on the basis of temporary insanity and the defensive strategy of "Hey, can you blame him?"
Jan. 11 in downtown Los Angeles was Scott's 2010-11 low, a limbo under even the night the Heat went to Cleveland for the first time. Jan. 11 was Lakers 112, Cavaliers 57 in the submissive moment of the season for any team, in Scott's hometown no less, against his former team. If the Cavs had practice the next day, he would have worked them into a bloody mess in a way that would have channeled the old days of the Pat Riley workouts.
"Oh, yeah," Scott says. "Probably worse."
He does not coddle. He does not soothe bruises. He does not pacify.
All these months later, emphatic as ever at the Cavaliers' suburban practice facility, Scott makes it clear he did not look at last season as a healing period in a locker room that had been whiplashed from championship hopeful to lottery certainty. Those left behind to fend for themselves could recover on someone else's time.
So it is, Scott said not unexpectedly, that his approach the second season in Cleveland will be the same as the first, even if the feeling will be much different when the roster reconvenes. He did not step lightly before to bolster spirits in a time of constant losing and questions about The Decision/The Fallout, and he will not turn up the flame now that there is renewed optimism for the future with the arrivals of two of the first four picks in the draft.
"I go in with a different perspective as far as there are certain things that we are going to try to do better, there are certain things that I think we need to continue to work on," Scott said. "But as far as my approach, it's the same. I'm going to still be very demanding. I'm going to be hard in training camp. I expect these guys to come in shape and be ready to play. They have to understand the defensive end is where we have to get it done, which we didn't do a real good job of last season, so that'll be more of an emphasis than anything. But my approach to the game is always going to be the same."
"That's just me," he said. "And I didn't really change that much from that last year because of all the things that happened. I really kind of let that go because of the fact that I wasn't emotionally involved or attached as well as physically. It was kind of easy for me to kind of detach myself from that situation."
The 2011-12 push, labor peace willing, will be focused on stops after the Cavaliers finished 27th in shooting defense, 23rd in scoring defense and 18th in defensive-rebounding percentage. Scott wants them to be tougher, mentally as well as physically.
It cannot be as bad in the standings as last season. It just can't. Cleveland turned all the way into a punching bag, complete with a league-record 26-game losing streak, the specific embarrassments against the Lakers and Heat, and in one stretch dropped 36 of 38. December: one win. January: no wins.
They did mount a 7-10 finishing kick, though, mostly capitalizing against lottery mates. That got the Cavaliers to 19-63 and, thanks to Minnesota at 17-65, saved Cleveland the additional indignity of the worst mark in the NBA.
"But all teams change year to year so you do take on a different persona and personality in terms of the roster," general manager Chris Grant said. "He's done a great job in the past. Even last year, through all that we went through, I thought he just maintained great leadership and was unwavering in the face of adversity. Because of that, we got through a very tough year and ended on a high note, which is amazing, pretty amazing in itself."
Now comes the new mood, rejuvenation after the draft with the possibility of additional moves depending on the rules of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Now comes the same old Scott.
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