Monday, April 15, 2013

Cavs must bring Byron back for one more go

"You be quiet now, boy. I'm trying to watch 'Quincy.'"
When Byron Scott stands glowering on the Cavaliers' sideline, he looks like that strict uncle you were always a little bit afraid of. The kind of old-school disciplinarian not shy about pulling out his belt to deliver a whoopin' on whoever was fixin' for one, dagnabbit.

Scott needs to take the belt out more on these Cavs, a collection of raw talent that treats defense like a sullen teenager considering a messy room. Overall, the team simply plays too many stretches of lackluster basketball, evidenced again yesterday in a 91-77 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Cavs' fourth straight defeat and 14 of 16 overall, for the seven people out there who still give a damn about the 2012-2013 squad's fortunes.

Scott seems like the whip-cracking type, so it's frustrating for fans when the energy and effort are not apparent. Then there are the moments when this roster just chokes under the pressure, i.e. four blown leads of 20 or more points where you could practically hear the Cavs gagging on their own intestines once those big leads slipped away. 

Coach Scott is an easy target of fan discontent. He's got that taciturn demeanor on the sideline where people want fire and brimstone and chair tossing, and then there's the in-game decisions that sometimes lead to those disappointing losses. As much as it seemed Scott would get at least one more year to nurture this roster, the poor and undisciplined play of late has some fans calling for the third-year coach's ouster.

While it would be tempting to scotch the Byron experiment, now is not the time to do so. It's not Scott's fault that his best defender went down with injury early on.  Kyrie Irving has also missed significant stretches, with second banana Dion Waiters spending more time as of late in a fancy suit than on the floor. Tyler Zeller has had an up-and-down rookie season, and the injuries have cooled off a bench that was on fire after the trade that brought Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington to town.

Right now, the Cavs have more of a talent problem than a coaching problem. The small forward position is anchored by role player Alonzo Gee. That is not the formula you need for consistent winning in a star-driven league.

Firing Scott at the end of the season would be short-sighted. For one, who would replace him? One of the Van Gundys? Some retread like Nate McMillan? There's expected to be five to 10 coaching vacancies this off-season. The Cavs are not going to get anyone better than what they have right now.

As depressing as it is to watch the Cavs these days, they are on the cusp of, well, at least competing for a low-seed playoff spot. A healthy roster very well could have made the post-season this year. This franchise cannot live on "what ifs," but it does have a million draft picks, a Scrooge McDuck vault of cap space, an improved Tristan Thompson, and a legitimate superstar, all which can be components of a potential playoff chase in 2013-14.

It remains to be seen if Scott can be the coalescing force that jells this roster, but a half-season next year surely will tell the tale. If the Cavs are still miserable on defense, still blowing leads, and have fallen out of contention by January, by all means, jettison Scott into early retirement. Firing the grim-faced sideline general now would be a mistake, and worthy of a whipping that would make your belt-brandishing tyrant of an uncle proud.