INDEPENDENCE (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Cavaliers were all smiles Monday during the team’s media day as the questions were fired off and light bulbs flashed.
Tuesday, the work begins.
Last season the Cavaliers finished 24-58. They fired head coach Byron Scott and re-hired Mike Brown before overhauling the roster.
Brown coached one of the most successful eras in franchise history from 2005-2010 and compiled a 272-138 record including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2007 and being named the NBA Coach of the Year award in 2009.
As he scanned the gym full of reporters and cameramen, Brown said that he expects to pick up right where he left off when he was fired in 2010.
“With the work that (general manager) Chris Grant did over the summer assembling this talent, and looking at the individual talent on this team, it’s built to be a winner,” Brown said. “There are people out there who are going to say, ‘Well, they’re just coming together’ or ‘The team is too young,’ but I don’t look at those as excuses.
“We have to figure out a way to get the job done.”
He doesn’t plan to change his style the second time around in Cleveland either – at least on one end of the floor.
“Defensively my philosophy has not changed,” Brown said. “The offense will be different than what you saw before and what was done in LA.”
Brown also believes that All Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who has missed 38 games to injury in his first 2 seasons, needs to grow defensively and become more consistent. He did credit the former No. 1 overall pick and NBA Rookie of the Year with developing his game over the summer.
“I want to be the best player in this league,” Irving said. “In order to do that, I know we have to win a lot of games. But I’m the leader of this team, and I’m ready to take responsibility for it by helping us make the playoffs. This is the best I’ve ever felt coming into a season.”
It will not be easy with the new faces on the team.
The Cavaliers added Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bynum this offseason. The No. 1 pick in the draft – Anthony Bennett out of UNLV – and fellow first rounder Sergey Karasev out of Russia, taken 19th overall, complete the offseason makeover.
Bynum signed a 2-year, $24 million contract that only includes $6 million in guaranteed money. He did not play a single game as a 76er last year and has yet to be medically cleared Tuesday when Cleveland opens training camp.
The former All-Star said he “definitely” will play this season.
“I’m not completely there yet, but I’ve dropped 18 pounds and am right at 290, and I feel great,” Bynum said. “Honestly, once I’m back on the court, I’m going to be productive, so I don’t see why I can’t be an All-Star again.
“This is definitely a playoff team if we’re healthy.”
They’ll not need just Bynum and Irving to be healthy but Anderson Varejao as well.
Varejao, who is the lone Cavaliers still on the team from Brown’s first tenure, was leading the league in rebounding last winter before he sustained a season-ending knee injury that led to him to developing blood clots in his lungs.
“We have the chance to be a really respected team,” Varejao said. “It’s been a little rough the last few years, but we want to win a championship. This is our mentality.”
Cleveland opens the preseason Oct. 8 vs. Milwaukee and then on October 30th they tip it off for real at Quicken Loans Arena against the the Brooklyn Nets.
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