By T.J. ZUPPE, 92.3 The FanBy T.J. Zuppe | 92.3 The Fan

CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Mike Brown says he was not trying to send a message.

I am not sure I believe him.

But are we beyond the point where a message can even have an impact?

That is certainly a question worth asking following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ sixth straight loss, the latest of which to a depleted Los Angeles Lakers squad at Quicken Loans Arena, 119-108.

A game that presented no excuse for the Cavs not to emerge victorious, battling a banged up Lakers squad with only eight healthy bodies, Cleveland was thoroughly outplayed and outhustled on Wednesday night.

As a result, Cavs coach Mike Brown decided to go in a different direction nearly halfway through the third quarter.

At that point, he went away from his star point guard Kyrie Irving. His third-year guard did not leave the bench again.

In fact, outside of center Anderson Varejao, Brown kept his starting unit off the floor in favor playing a group that included rookie Anthony Bennett, guards Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles and Matthew Dellavedova.

His decision nearly paid off as those five players made things interesting in the 4th quarter and cut the Lakers’ lead to single digits before Los Angeles closed out the win.

So, was Brown delivering a message or not?

“The players on the floor, they were playing hard, they were playing the right way,” Brown said. “If anybody takes a message out of it, then so be it.”

Then, if a message wasn’t the motivating factor, what went into his decision to switch things up in the third?

“When we cut it back, we had discussions about putting our guys back in. But it wouldn’t have been right because the group that was out there, they fought their tails off to get us back,” Brown said. “They deserved to have a chance to try to finish it.

“I kept searching until I felt good with a combination that was out on the floor. Those guys fought and gave us a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

So, if Brown says he was not sending a message, why is it hard to believe? Well, consider his response when asked if he wants it his squad to take a message from it:

“You hope so,” Brown said. “You hope in this situation, knowing we could have played better than what we did, yea.”

Unfortunately, words have not worked for Brown. He has called his players out for lack of hustle or heart. He has said the team’s competitive spirit was “non-existent.”

Yet, the same problems continue to plague the 16-33 Cavs.

When words don’t work, playing time becomes the last resort to catch someone’s attention. And it might be ammunition Brown should start using far more often.

Meanwhile, Irving finished with 11 points on 5-14 shooting but spent the majority of the second half with nothing more than a front row seat.

He didn’t disagree with Brown’s decision.

“If I were the coach as well, I would have played the second group as long as he did,” Irving said. “They deserved to be in. They were fighting until the end. They deserve to be in at that particular moment in the game.”

Sure, it should be noted that Irving gave credit to his teammates for their attempted comeback. And quite frankly, he is correct.

However, why was the fight in the second unit not present in the starting unit, outside of Varejao? Why should there ever be a situation in which a second unit deserves to be on the floor more than the starters?

Did it sting the the soon to be starting Eastern Conference point guard in the NBA All-Star Game to be riding the pine while his mates made it a game in the fourth?

It should have.

Fair or not, Irving should be held to the highest of standards in comparison to his teammates. He is the team’s best player, and whether he will admit it or not, he is the leader that sets the tone. Sure, Jarrett Jack, Tristan Thompson and Luol Deng, the Cavs’ other starters, were also benched in the final period.

But none carry the star power and responsibility that Irving does.

And when he is sitting the bench in the fourth quarter, consider that a message.

Was it received? Is it too late? Those are questions only Irving and his teammates can answer.

But it is a message Brown should consider delivering a bit more often.

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