Lacking creativity, and also time between work and family, today I offer a few simple bullets on the early season.
1. C.J. Miles for Sixth Man of the Year? Let me take a 5-game sample and dream for a bit.
The Sacreattle Superkings were the subject of a protracted and fairly nasty relocation struggle last year, a struggle which highlighted how highly sought after NBA franchises are since the one in the tussle was a fairly terrible one. The Kings, now of Sacramento for the foreseeable future, have been trudging through 6 seasons of awful basketball. Unlike their elite early-2000’s contemporaries, Sacramento flamed out pretty bad after their highest point, even less gracefully than the Suns. However, their ownership group appears to be of a more (read: not actively trying to sabotage their team’s on court fortunes) supportive kind.
Yesterday, Robert looked the Pacers up-and-down and concluded they were still top dogs. Today, I’ll be peering west on I-90 and checking out how the Bulls and the Cavs match up with one another.
The Cavs augmented what was already a fun, somewhat strange team with some fun and definitely strange players. All of which theoretically play basketball with each other and then hopefully win games together. Keep in mind there is an opponent involved (this tends to slip through the cracks every offseason, as everyone tends to be overtly optimistic about team prospects), more often than not from the Central Division. Perhaps the most intriguing of this crop is the Chicago Bulls, a team whose ’13-’14 prospects are a genuine mystery.
Wowza, what a Monday! Free Agency is in full “contracts can’t be officially signed for another week” swing and CtB hits you with Kevin’s epic lead-out to the draft and lead-in to free agency, Mallory’s podcast with the always spectacular Scott Raab and now … a couple of Instagrammed snapshots and personal anecdotes.
Aim to please, folks. Aim to please.
But seeing the draft in person is a weird jag. After last year’s draft, Scott Henkle and I talked at length about the unique experience of attending the draft as a fan/spectator in a piece for The Classical. This year, the experience was equally unique, just replace “drinking overpriced beers” with “the nagging feeling that you should always be tracking down ‘the scoop’ and then realizing that the NBA will bend over backwards to make sure the scoop they want you to get finds you— and not one bit more.” Access to the recently drafted players — especially the top picks — is very controlled and has everything to do with getting these players on as much television as possible.
Anthony Bennett’s name was called. Then he was ushered to his on-air interview with Dennis Scott of NBA TV. Then onto his press conference, which ran a scant five minutes, before he was ushered to the “Live Shot” area (the Nets’ practice court converted into about a dozen booths, a veritable gamut of TV interviews) where we were told he would be for over an hour. Not only was other press not allowed to hear the “Live Shot” interviews, but we weren’t allowed to wait (okay, fine, creepily linger) outside the area.
As a sports fan, it’s often a challenge to remain reasonable. At this time of year, at draft time, it’s a real challenge not only to manage our expectations, but to not get swept away. It’s difficult not to fall in love with some player’s unique skill set or measurements. That’s because the draft is all about imagination — and, more often than not, players who can be termed “very good basketball players” do not excite the sports fan’s imagination. There’s something else there that makes us dream big about certain guys.
Every year, very good basketball players tumble down the board on draft day and go on, in many cases, to have fulfilling pro careers and (one might imagine) lives. What really makes a sports fan see red at this time of year are the players who may not be the very best basketball players, but who have some wrinkle to their make-up that convinces us that Player X has it. This is why we go nuts over guys with wingspans never before measured or verticals never before reached or athleticism never before embodied. These are the things that whisper, “This guy is different. Okay, well, how different? How about future all-star different? How about future defensive anchor of a NBA championship defense different? How about solid rotation player different?”
But, hey, that last guy was a pick toward the back of the second round. So … you know, that’s really good!
Fans even know that, no matter how much a singularly exciting skill or statistic is, likely, their fascination is getting sold a bill of goods. We have numbers to help protect us from our sports imaginations, but even those numbers are being used to suggest a hypothetical projection of some future time; that’s using numbers to fuel imagination. And imagination, at the end of the day, is what makes this all so much (kinda) fun anyway.
No, Rudy Gobert is not likely to be the type of shot obliterating big man in the pros that he was at the combine. We know that. But … maybe. No, the fact that Giannis Adetokunbo has looked (occasionally) amazing against pretty low level competition does not mean he’ll look even remotely like that going against NBA players. But, man, have you seen those hands?! Do you realize he grew three inches this past year and is now a hyper-athletic 6’9” small forward prospect? Maybe, maybe… Yeah, sure, Alex Len’s a good player. He’s got good size and decently developed skills for this point in his career. But, wow, Nerlens Noel just looks better doing it. Those hands. That hair. Maybe, maybe, maybe…
(Side note: Yes, it’s official. This is the first year I have become irrationally attached to a player’s pro potential based, largely if not in full, on his hair style. It’s a piece of the package)
Every year, there’s a player who should be a full-on imagination all-star, but who gets caught up in someone (or many people’s) insistence that we have moved beyond imagination, that we are reasonable people now.
Kenneth Faried should have gotten everyone’s imaginations excited. He sure did mine. His rebounding was that bizarre wrinkle in his make-up that (along with his hair – See! It’s a real thing) should have had people dreaming up scenarios where Faried played … well, about as good as he has in his first couple of years. But he was too short. Conventional wisdom suggested that he might not be able to achieve in the pros what he did in college. It happens. And so GMs talked themselves down, away from the rebounding (and the hair!) and decided to let conventional wisdom rob them of a very exciting young player. It happens.
So, who will it be this year? Who will be the player whose singular skill, combination of intangibles or collection of measurements will be looked past because we’re being smart? And who will teams reach for because, for an instant, they blinked and let imagination get the better of them? Here’s to this draft’s imagination all-stars: you may not end up being great players but, just for a moment, you showed something that made the less rational fan part of my brain go, “Right now, I can see him being awesome. It may not happen, but I can just see it!”
The Cavaliers organization took a lot of flack for the speed at which they hired Mike Brown. After firing Byron Scott, the team wasted no time (okay, they wasted 10 days) in bringing Brown back into the fold. At the time, many criticized the unsexiness of the move, even suggesting that it reeked of panic.
If Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant are fools for rushing in, however, the same cannot be said for Brown who has been methodically assembling his staff of assistant coaches since re-boarding the Cavalier boat.
The names we all expected to see – mainly former Pistons head coach, John Kuester, an assistant under Mike Brown in both Cleveland and Los Angeles – despite being heavily rumored, never surfaced. Instead, Brown trended “developmental” by retaining Tristan Thompson god-maker, Jamahl Mosely, from Byron Scott’s staff, adding former Lakers player development coach, Phil Handy, and, most recently, adding former-Cavs Vitaly Potapenko in a player development role.
Lost among all this development, might be the most significant one: Brown’s hiring of long-time Phoenix Suns assistant coach, Igor Kokoskov. Kokoskov has been an NBA assistant for 13 years, working for Alvin Gentry (Clippers and Suns), Larry Brown (Pistons – including their 2004 championship season), and briefly both Terry Porter and Lindsey Hunter (Suns). For Hunter’s brief stint with the Suns last season, Kokoskov was considered the team’s offensive coordinator, while Hunter ran the defense, a situation that is likely to repeat itself with the Cavs.
Most of the information we’ve been given about Kokoskov is exceedingly positive. Gentry has called him “one of the brightest minds as there is in the game” and former player, Earl Boykins gushed about Kokoskov’s point guard-focused offense.
But none of that has given Cavs fans any real sense of what a Kokoskov-run offense will look like. So, I talked to someone who has actually watched a little Kokoskov-run offense: Ryan Weisert* from Valley of the Suns.
Holy calamity, what a way to kick off the off-season! Who could’ve possibly seen this coming? I have a sneaking suspicion this is just the beginning of what should be a very, very exciting off-season.
With such huge news breaking everyone at C:tB had a lot to say on the subject of the new/old Cavs coach. Colin, Tom, Nate, and I hopped on the line and discussed the Cavs’ decision to rehire Mike Brown and what that means for the Cavaliers. As you’d expect, opinions were all over the place on this one.
As always, we’re on SoundCloud at: https://soundcloud.com/cavstheblog/0030-welcome-back
And on iTunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cavs-the-podcast/id528149843?mt=2
First, a quick note regarding the coaching search. While Mike Brown is a fine coach, I hope the climax of this endeavor is not him returning. I have crossed-my-fingers hoping for a top-name in assistant coaching; once upon a time, Greg Popovich and Phil Jackson received their big break, right? We recently witnessed a Byron Scott-coached team repeat a miniature cycle similar to his prior two stints: All-Star point guard; quick rise to prominence; equally rapid plummet accompanied by whispers of locker-room dissent. Well Mike Brown, while also a former coach-of-the-year and NBA Finalist, lists on his resume two experiences of being run-out-of-town to appease a superstar. If hiring Brown, do we witness history repeat itself five years from now, with the Cavs panic-hiring an ex-Laker B.S. (Brian Shaw) in order to placate a potentially evasive superstar? A lot of hypothetical there, but I don’t care to explore that parallel universe. I’ve seen the prequel. So, hire Mike Malone, Brian Shaw, etc; I have cast my vote.
(Edit: According to ESPN, the Sunday night dinner meeting between Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown and Chris Grant “went well…(Brown) is the only coach they are currently pursuing.” So, that’s interesting.
The other big storyline of the spring is the upcoming draft. Cleveland looks towards June 27th with the third-best lottery odds, as well as the 19th, 31st and 33rd picks. As an intro to the upcoming ten weeks, a perusal of their options is in order. Starting with the lottery pick…
Cleveland’s odds stack-up to a 96% chance of picking in the top-five, 47% likelihood of selecting top-three, with 16% of choosing at the top. There are basically only two options here, right?
For the other first-rounder, options appear to be:
Finally, the second rounders. Obviously combining picks and trading up, or Euro-stashing remain options, but my early preference with those picks is take two players, and let them hover between the D-League and end-of-the-bench (depending on injuries) for 2013 – 2014. Even while trading second rounders in 2011 and 2012, the team brought in a bevy of undrafted rookies. As of today, my preference is draft the lottery pick, trade #19, sign four reliable, veteran free-agents to fill roster spots one through twelve, and go into next season with the 13th, 14th, and 15th men as Kevin Jones, and the thirty-first and thirty-third picks. Of name’s currently slotted towards the early part of draftexpress’s mock second-round, I am interested in Erick Green, B.J. Young, Mike Muscala, Nate Wolters or Adreian Payne.
Well, there is some kick-off to the draft coverage. Last year, I was writing heavily about prospects throughout the season; right now, I am late to that game. Rectifying that serves as a high priority over the next two months, so check back often for in-depth coverage leading to draft day.