PHOENIX — For the majority of training camp and throughout the preseason, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott was proud of his depth. He repeated over and over again how he had more options this season than he did in either of his first two years here, how if one player isn't getting it done, he can look down the bench and find someone else who will.
Two weeks into the season, that depth - or at least the confidence in it - is gone. Scott has shortened his rotation to essentially two bench players. Daniel Gibson and Tyler Zeller, when healthy, are the only reserves assured of big minutes at this point. C.J. Miles played less than five minutes of the second half in Friday's crushing collapse at Phoenix, and now Scott is searching for answers as the Cavaliers prepare to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.
Asked what happened to all that depth he referred to for so long, Scott said: “I don't know. I'm trying to figure that out, too. I look down there and I'm not feeling that same way I talked about, to tell you the truth. I don't know where it went, but we better find it, that's for sure.”
Scott is leaving the starting lineup alone, but he's considering making changes to the second unit. The biggest target is Miles, who is shooting just 23 percent and has been stuck in a rut since the start of the season.
Miles went scoreless Friday for the second time on this trip, helpless to stop the Suns from roaring back from a 26-point deficit to beat the Cavs after they held leads of 18-2 and 42-16.
Miles' first three shots Friday were all 3-pointers, but he also missed two layups. He admitted his struggles are mental at this point, although it's not the worst slump he's ever endured. He was a slow starter a number of years with the Utah Jazz as well, but being the new guy on a new team is perhaps exacerbating those struggles this time.
Miles agreed a guy in a slump as deep as this probably shouldn't be coming off the bench firing 3-pointers, but he was so wide open on a couple of the attempts Friday, he felt like he had no other choice.
“The ball gets swung around and you're standing over there by yourself, you've got to let it go,” Miles said. “I can't not let it go. There's no one to pass it to because I'm wide open. It's tough trying to find a rhythm, but at the same time, those are shots I make every day with my eyes closed.”
Scott understands why Miles was taking those open 3-pointers on Friday, but he'd be more comfortable if Miles took a dribble and tried to get into a rhythm before releasing. Just because he's open on the 3-point line, Scott said, doesn't mean Miles has to keep hoisting 3-pointers. He is 5-of-23 on 3-pointers through six games.
“You can catch, take one dribble and step into it. That sometimes gets your rhythm,” Scott said. “You're still wide open. It has to be a rhythm shot. That's the biggest thing. He has to find a rhythm right now and he doesn't have any.”
Miles appeared to be breaking out of his funk Monday night against the Clippers, when scored 10 points, made two 3-pointers and shot 4-of-7 from the field. Then he was struck down by the flu, lost all his stamina and any momentum from the good performance. Now he's starting over again, searching for anything to go right.
“I've tried every approach to it,” Miles said. “I've pressed, I've tried not pressing, then I get a halfway decent game under my belt and I'm strapped to the toilet for two days. I feel like I can't catch a break, but I'm going to be all right. I can guarantee that.”
Omri Casspi is the most obvious candidate to replace Miles should Scott make a change. Casspi had his own misery last season. The rookies have transitioned well under Scott, but veterans like Casspi and Miles, who joined the Cavs from other teams, have struggled miserably. It begs the question whether it's just a coincidence that Miles and Casspi both underperformed, or whether it is Scott's system they are struggling to adapt to after already spending a couple of years in the NBA.
“It's probably a combination of both,” Scott said. “C.J. has been in one system for seven years, so it takes a little while to get used to a new system and to find your way in that system.”
While he struggles on offense, Scott keeps harping on Miles to stay focused and give maximum effort on the defensive end. The results there have been mixed, too.
“It's all in his head right now,” Scott said. “You've got to think about the other end. If that's going to define you, then it's also going to ruin you.”
Scott said he isn't expecting Tyler Zeller to be available until next week when the Cavaliers return home from this road trip. Then if Zeller rejoins the team on this trip, all the better.
“If he is back sooner than that, then that's a pleasant surprise,” Scott said. “But I'm kind of figuring he's not going to be with us for the next couple of games.”
Zeller's left eye was blackened and there was significant swelling around the cheekbone when he left the team. All of that swelling must subside in order for the mask to fit, plus he must be cleared from the concussion program before he can return. That has not happened yet.
Distributed by MCT Information Services