We're not trying to pick on Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, who is in the middle of one of the tougher years we've ever seen an NBA head coach endure. Scott has had to navigate the LeBron James(notes)-less Cavs through all sorts of flotsam and jetsam this season, his team has lost 20 of 21 games, and you might want to go ahead and chalk up another ‘L' to their 8-29 record, as they're in Los Angeles to play the Lakers Tuesday night.
It's time to have a go at Scott, though. Not because of that record, but because he's the latest to jump on the "our offense is fine, it's the defense that needs work" bandwagon. You've seen it before, most notably from Scott Skiles and Larry Brown. A terrible offensive team that milks the clock and barely scores 90 a game most nights out will see its coach gloss over the terrible offense post or between games in order to pull the tough guy routine that the media just laps up -- the idea that defense is of paramount concern.
From Scott's interview with the Mason and Ireland Show, as transcribed by Sports Radio Interviews:
"Our issues are mainly on the defensive side of the ball. We're doing a pretty good job offensively and guys are starting to understand what we're trying to run on a night to night basis, guys are starting to get a pretty good feel for that, but the defensive end of the floor is a big mystery to me. Every time I think we're taking a step forward, we're taking two steps backwards. There are nights where it looks like we're really in tune and focused in on what we talked about doing then there's other nights where it looks like we haven't practiced one defensive drill all night long. My defensive philosophy is to keep banging it in their heads until they understand that this is how we gotta play. We've gotta be very competitive on this end of the floor if we want to give ourselves a chance to win."
All of this sounds nice, but the Cavaliers are the second-worst offensive team in the NBA, and they were the worst for a good chunk of the season until a recent swoon by the Milwaukee Bucks (led by, uh, Scott Skiles) put the Deer at 30th overall.
Cleveland's defense stinks too, it's 27th, but just once I'd like to see a coach come out of an interview with SRI transcribing something like this:
"We just scored 105, 98, and 100 points against three of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. The Warriors, Suns, and Raptors couldn't guard Bernie Lomax, and yet we barely made it to the century mark against them. And it's the best we've played in weeks. We shot thirty-six point eight freakin' percent against the Suns, and that's what people average on half-court shots against them. I never knew it was technically out of bounds to hit the bottom of the shot clock with a lay-up, mainly because I'd never seen it before this year, and I've watched J.J. Hickson(notes) manage it three times since Christmas. Last week I asked the rookies to play a quick game to 21 to see who would have to go get that day's doughnuts and coffee, and Christian Eyenga(notes) and Manny Harris(notes) are still in the gym. In Oakland. I think Manny has 14 points and a three-point lead. Also, our defense is terrible."
Something like that.