Coach Mike Brown was rewarded with a new contract partly for helping guide the Cleveland Cavaliers through a stretch when LeBron James was injured. Now, Brown is saddled with an off-the-court incident involving his star.
With James’ speeding offense having come to light, Brown and the Cavaliers begin a three-game road trip Tuesday night when as they face the lowly Memphis Grizzlies.
Brown received a two-year contract extension Monday as a reward for leading Cleveland (19-18) to its first Eastern Conference title last season and helping the Cavaliers bounce back from a 0-6 stretch without James (finger) earlier this season.
With James continuing his outstanding play, Cleveland has settled down to win eight of its last 11. On Sunday, though, it was reported that James was ticketed by the State Highway Patrol for speeding on Interstate 71 in suburban Medina at 2:43 a.m. on Dec. 30 - his 23rd birthday.
Cleveland attorney Colin Jennings filed a not guilty plea for James in Medina Municipal Court, and a hearing is scheduled for Feb. 11. James said he was heading home after the team arrived in Cleveland from New Orleans, where it had lost to the Hornets just a few hours earlier.
“I was doing 101 (mph),” James said Monday after practice. “That’s it. I was speeding. I’ve just got to abide by the law. I got caught. It happens.”
On Friday night, meanwhile, James again came through for the Cavaliers, scoring eight of his 31 points in the second overtime and finishing with a career-high 19 rebounds in a 113-106 win over Charlotte.
James is averaging 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists in his last six games, with the Cavs winning five of those contests. Cleveland also continues to get strong games from supporting players like Damon Jones.
Jones helped seal Friday’s win by making a 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 109-102 lead with 1:27 left. The veteran guard is shooting 58.3 percent (7-for-12) from beyond the arc in his last four games, and has made 40.4 percent of his 3-point attempts on the season.
“Anytime you get open looks and you call yourself a shooter, you have to be confident in your ability to make the shot,” said James, who has worked his way into the Cavs’ rotation to help give them a productive second unit.
Memphis’ bench, meanwhile, finished with 22 points on 30.4 percent (7-for-23) shooting in a 100-99 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. It was the second close loss in three games for the Grizzlies, who were defeated 116-113 by Sacramento on Thursday night despite leading for most of the second half.
“One thing I have to admit I really like about this team is that they fight back all the time, no matter what happens,” said Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni, whose team has lost four straight and 10 of 12. “Under their control or not under their control, they’ve proven to be real fighters.”
Mike Miller scored 27 points and Pau Gasol had 21 points and season highs of 18 rebounds and eight assists for the Grizzlies on Sunday. Miller struggled in two games against Cleveland in 2006-07, averaging 11.0 points while shooting 34.6 percent from the field as the Cavs won both contests.