Small Lineup Changes Could Start with Graham at Forward

By: T.J. Zuppe

When Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott spoke about possible lineup changes on the way at practice on Monday, instantly speculation began as to who could be shuffled in and out of the starting-five.

Coach Scott would not comment as to which areas he was looking to shake up and added he would not make a final decision until game time on Tuesday, in Indiana.

However, the forward position seems to be a good place to start, with Jamario Moon and J.J. Hickson the current starters.

Cavs Forward Joey Graham

With Hickson struggling of late and Moon out of sync offensively, it could be Antawn Jamison and Joey Graham being the beneficiaries of more minutes, if not straight-up starting.

Graham commented on the topic at practice and noted he would not be surprised if he got the call to start at small forward.

“We’ve had a set lineup going in these 10 or 11 games,” Graham said. “If I do or I don’t (start), I’m not worried about it. All I can control are the things when I get in the game, going in and playing hard and controlling the things that I can do.”

Graham has been a pleasant surprise at times for the Cavs coming off the bench, providing a spark in certain situations. Currently, he is averaging 6.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 16 minutes per contest.

He was also held out of six games earlier in the season, as Scott tried different formulas to make the rotation work. Coach made it clear that Graham is now in the rotation and now could be an even bigger part of the team’s plans.

Yet for Graham, he is not concerned about his approach regardless, because he has been in this situation before and he knows how to handle it.

“In the six years that I have been (in the league), it’s been like that,” Graham said. “It’s nothing new. It’s just being ready when your name is called and going out there and producing.

“It’s a different mindset coming off the bench. You want to bring intensity while you’re in there the whole time, but starting the game off you want to be on point.”

The biggest reason for the lineup changes that could be on the horizon is due to that intensity that Graham spoke of. At points this season, it has been non-existent and Scott wants the same focus to carry over from practice, into game situations.

Known for his defense and toughness, Graham could be the perfect remedy to those struggles in the starting unit. Bottom line, he loves embracing the defensive end of the court, something Scott has been preaching since day one.

“I’ve always taken pride in playing defense,” Graham said. “I’ve always got enjoyment in shutting someone down. Scoring is one thing, but how many people you know that can come in and lock somebody up. You’ve got to take pride in that.”

If he were to get the call on Tuesday night, he would draw the task of squaring off with Pacers forward Danny Granger, who lit the Cavs up for 34 point in an earlier meeting this year. The mere thought of which drew a smile from Graham’s face.

Cavs Forward Joey Graham

“I’m going to lock (Granger) up,” Graham said emphatically and without hesitation. “I’m going to crowd him and make sure he is very uncomfortable shooting shots. I’m going to make him take tough shots.”

He also added that he wants to make Granger work just as much on the defensive end and hope that makes his own job easier, when matching up on the Pacers’ forward.

One thing Graham said that has to make you smile is his eagerness to play the best, defensively.

“Any time I get to play against a guy like Kobe (Bryant), Granger, Lebron (James), Dwyane Wade, I don’t sleep the night before,” Graham said. “I get excited for it.”

Come Tuesday, there is still no guarantee that Graham gets the starting nod. However, if he continues to say the right things, embrace Scott’s mentality and perform out on the court, he will continue to grow into a bigger role in the Cavalier plans.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe


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