RAISING THE CADAVALIER - many, many thoughts on the Cleveland Cavaliers by ROBERT ATTENWEILER

NBA Basketball

2013/01/30

It’s Oscar Season: a kinda, sorta, almost defense of Byron Scott

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I started my defense of Byron Scott a couple weeks ago. It was not a defense, really, as much as it was me typing “you try to coach this roster” over and over again. Of course, now times have changed now with Speights and Ellington turning the Cavs back into the (cough…cough) fringe playoff team we all believed they’d be at the start of the season. But Bryon Scott’s (in)ability continues to be the post-Varejao-injury hot topic, so I’ll throw in, hat to ring:

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My argument for Coach Oscar (named for the awards statue that seems just as animated during a Cavaliers game as our coach – though I should point out that I do differentiate between “talking Byron Scott” who is generally funny and intelligent in interviews and post-games with Coach Oscar who, perhaps unfortunately, is the one who actually gets to coach our professional basketball games) mostly rides on the idea that there are different kinds of coaches, as well as different kinds of good coaching. While I think it’s safe to say that we’d all feel a little bit better if Coach Oscar kicked and screamed and yanked Dion Waiters after yet another continental drift away from his man on defense, I think it’s also safe to say that Coach Oscar doesn’t particularly care about what would make fans feel better (at least not per se), just as I think it’s safe to make the statement that Phil Jackson’s impact as a head coach has always been less attributed to Xs and Os strategy and more about figuring out how to make his pieces mesh, improve and (cough…cough) ride the coat tails of whatever Hall of Fame player(s) he’s coaching at the time.

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Am I saying that Coach Oscar is a great coach. Ummm… I am saying that he has had some success as an NBA head coach (which is usually not a complete coincidence) and that he has either had or developed two of the best leaders in the NBA in Jason Kidd and Chris Paul (both of who may also have been great at leading to Oscar’s ouster, but then who’s counting…). I am saying that his coaching philosophy seems to be more in the “build players up” mode (unless you’re Omri Casspi) and that he is the steady hand – and has to be – of a roster that would be a train wreck (okay … let’s just say train wreckier) if, say, a young PJ Carlesimo tried to steer us toward defensive respectability and a couple extra wins. The players all seem to respect Coach Oscar (unless you’re Omri Casspi) and his NBA/championship pedigree and, based largely on Tristan Thompson Year 2 and the snail’s-pace-though-noticeable improvement in Kyrie’s defense (he’s trying, people … sometimes), this seems like a young team that is given plenty of room by their coach to mess up and grow and learn which is what, by in large, the players seem to be doing (unless, of course, you’re Omri Casspi).

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If what I’m suggesting is true and Coach Oscar is, in fact, the steady, fatherly hand guiding a very young team (3rd youngest in the NBA in 2012-13) toward steady growth and eventual maturity (even if much of that growth is only noticed between seasons, not within them), then some of the credit has to be given to Chris Grant. What did Chris Grant do? He gave Coach Oscar a roster too lousy for him to have any other choice but to play the young guys. Are you really going to bench Kryie Irving for some porous defense? And replace him with who? Shaun Livingston?? (note: we all love Shaun Livingston, just as we’re starting to love Luke Walton and Marresse Speights … because these are veterans who are better able to win some games, but are not the solution to when, if ever, the Cavs become consistent winners. They will do that if/when the young players learn the game the way that Livingston, Walton and Speights have learned it and become more talented versions of our new bench mob). That’s not a solution. Are you really benching Dion Waiters for Wayne Ellington? What happens when Ellington gets lit up?

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No one knows if this rebuild will be as much of a success as we dream it might be. But, for better or worse, Coach Oscar’s alter ego, talking Byron Scott, keeps reminding the players what they’ve done to get here: mainly shoot 42.3% from the floor while giving up 47.3%. And little by little they, at least, seem to be listening (I’m looking at you, Dion) if not always successful (I’m … cough, cough… looking at you, Dion).

I don’t know if Coach Oscar or talking Byron Scott will be with us at the completion of this journey, but if he’s really as terrible as some have suggested … well … you try to coach this roster.

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