INDEPENDENCE — Alonzo Gee will get his first real chance to show he deserves to be the Cavaliers’ starting small forward when Cleveland hosts the Charlotte Bobcats in preseason action tonight at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
Gee missed exhibition wins over Milwaukee and Orlando due to right hamstring soreness, but will likely start tonight vs. the Bobcats, coach Mike Brown said Monday following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Incumbent Gee hasn’t lost much — if any — ground in the battle for the one open spot in the Cavs’ starting lineup, as Brown said no one has seized control of the position.
That’s largely because free-agent acquisition Earl Clark, who started the first two preseason games, didn’t do much — at least offensively. Clark went 1-for-5 from the field and fouled out in 16 minutes against the Bucks, then went 1-for-7 in Orlando.
The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Clark did play solid defense and is four inches taller and has much longer arms than the 219-pound Gee, but the latter is also known for his ability on that end of the court.
“I’m doing what I do,” Gee said.” I play defense and play hard. Whatever happens, happens. We’ve got some great threes this year. … Everybody wants to start.”
C.J. Miles is also in the mix, but he’s not a good defender and seems more suited for the role of providing instant offense off the bench, while rookie Sergey Karasev, who doesn’t turn 20 until Oct. 26, does not appear ready to play significant minutes in the regular season.
That leaves Gee and Clark as the candidates. If Gee doesn’t win the job, he vows it won’t be due to a lack of effort at the defensive end, which is the area of the game Brown emphasizes most.
“He’s holding everybody accountable,” Gee said. “If somebody messes up something, he stops everything and tells us what we should be doing.
“He preaches defense every day,” he added. “I don’t think nobody preaches defense like him. He could be talking to the big and I do something wrong in the corner and he’ll come back at me, ‘Zo, you didn’t cut back door.’ How do you see that? He sees everything.”
What former coach Byron Scott did not see a lot of from Gee last season was offense.
Now in his fifth NBA season, the Alabama product got a little better at putting the ball on the floor, but his primary role in 2012-13 seemed to be standing in the corner and taking a few 3-pointers, plus providing an occasional dunk in transition.
Gee started all 82 games and averaged 10.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He shot .410 from the field, including .315 on 3-pointers (69-for-219), and .795 at the line, but averaged just 2.5 free throws per game.
Brown, however, isn’t worried by those numbers — or Clark’s offensive struggles. He’s more concerned about limiting the numbers of opposing small forwards like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
“You want to hope you have a guy who can defend that position without needing a double team,” Brown said. “When you think about the small forwards on your team, they’ve got to be tough.
“Alonzo, C.J., Earl, they’ve got to be tough and use their length and their athleticism. They’ve got to bring a physicality to the table that is probably higher than most of the other positions because of the length of opposing small forwards who can score the ball very well.”
Cavs guard Jarrett Jack has inflammation on the underside of his left knee and is expected to miss about 10 days.
* Rookie swingman Carrick Felix has a mild sports hernia. There is no timetable for his return.
* Second-year center Tyler Zeller won’t play tonight after undergoing an appendectomy Friday in Orlando. There is also no timetable for his return.
*Karasev was excused from the team following practice in order to travel to obtain his work visa. He is expected to be back before the Cavs’ exhibition game Thursday against Detroit at Quicken Loans Arena.