Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Who Should Run the Cavs? Part I

Thursday, February 6th, 2014


Who’s in charge of the Spurs?

Who’s in charge of the Heat?

Who runs the Celtics?

Who runs the Pacers?

Who saved the Corleone family?

If you’re any kind of NBA fan, you answered Greg Popovich, Pat Riley, Danny Ainge, Larry Bird, and Michael (far left) all within milliseconds of reading the questions. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind who’s in charge of those organizations.  Heck, I bet there’s only one owner you can name out of those four teams.  If I asked you two days ago, “Who’s in charge of the Cavs?” who would you have said? Chances are you would have thought about it for a minute, and said, Chris Grant, Mike Brown, or Dan Gilbert.  And therein lies the problem.


The Trickle Down Effect of Reaching in the NBA Draft

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Anthony Bennett, Chris Grant

Over the weekend, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer discussed the sense of entitlement that often comes with just being drafted in the NBA. Pluto wrote:

“With young men drafted high in the NBA lottery, they are made to feel as if they have ‘already made it’ in the NBA before taking a dribble as a pro. Even more disturbing is how the league fuels that entitlement.

The NBA draft is a huge television show. Then comes the All-Star weekend, where there is a game between rookies and second-year pros. Nearly all of those young players have done nothing to merit being on the same stage as the real All-Stars.”

He goes on to say that by the time most high draft picks enter the league, they’ve played for so many coaches over the last handful of years and no coach for very long. This leads to high draft picks who have no idea how hard it is to win consistently at the NBA level and don’t have a history of coaching continuity that can instill a base of basketball knowledge to help them when they try.

So much for building through the draft…

I made a similar argument to a friend last week, but came at it from a different angle. We were asking a common question this year: How did we just lose to that Phoenix Suns roster?! The answer to that question involves some inevitable head scratching about how a roster full of mid-t0-late first round picks (aside from the little used Alex Len) could so thoroughly dismantle a team featuring four top-four picks (and five top-seven, if you include Deng … though I generally still remove him from the discussion when thinking about this team’s problems).


Disappointing Easy Feeling

Thursday, January 30th, 2014


Every year there are teams that disappoint.

Sometimes it’s because of injuries. Last year’s Philadelphia 76ers organization thought they’d built themselves something (marginally to very) competitive, until Andrew Bynum’s knees said otherwise. This year, injuries to Derrick Rose and, to a lesser extent, Russell Westbrook have altered what NBA fans thought they were in for when they re-upped for the 2013-14 season.

Sometimes it’s because of off the court issues. In 2010, Gilbert Arenas, fresh off a season lost to injury and only a year removed from signing a massive $111 million six-year contract with the Wizards, was suspended, along with Javaris Crittenton, for the remainder of the season for bringing handguns into the team’s locker room. The suspensions caused the Wizards to officially write off the rest of what had already been a disappointing season. It was already disappointing because the team had just traded the sixth pick in the 2009 draft for Mike Miller and Randy Foye (rather than have a chance to select Steph Curry … which, don’t worry, the T-Wolves didn’t take advantage of either) to make a (final?) run at playoff success with their Arenas / Antawn Jamison core. Arenas still scored (over 22 points a game) that year, but his efficiency had been eviscerated. In 2010, Wizards fans saw a team who no longer could function on a winning level, then they saw the suspensions, then they saw the team trade Jamison to the Cavs for Zydrunas Ilgauskas (only to, then, see the Cavs get Ilgauskus back … and watch Jamison get torched by Kevin Garnett … and – well, you know the story) and they finished in full-blown tear down mode and a 26-56 record.

Sometimes it’s because of on court issues. In 2004-05, the Indiana Pacers rode the “Malice at the Palace” from a legitimate shot at the championship to 128 total games suspended for Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal. That team was still able to ride Reggie Miller’s final league go-around to 44 wins and a playoff spot, but was never again (until now, anyway) the threat to win it all that it was when 04-05 tipped off.

And sometimes teams just aren’t as good as NBA fans and pundits alike thought (or hoped) they would be. This year’s Pistons, for example, have yet to figure out how their collection of disparate pieces can work. Right now (surprise!) they don’t. And, of course, this year’s Cavaliers, for many of the same reasons.


The Nudge

Friday, January 24th, 2014


It’s fair to say that this Cavaliers season is not going the way anyone planned or hoped it would. Even the Master of Measured Expectations, Mike Brown, who warned everyone that things might get shakier before they started to get better, couldn’t have planned for the overall lack of mental and physical toughness displayed by his young team time and time again this year.

“You’d have thought we were down 20 points by our body language,” Kyrie Irving said following the team’s latest deflation at the hands of the Chicago Bulls. “We were only down six points.”

It’s somewhat encouraging to hear Irving, at least, admit to his team’s lack of cohesion and belief in each other. It shows that he’s watching the same games as the rest of us. Still, after the fact, it’s very easy to cop to what went wrong out on the court. What would be really encouraging is if Irving and some other Cavs were able to translate an understanding of why they’re failing into correction of said behavior. Until then it’s just more losing.

And losing is like a ticking clock on this team. Losing is the reason that Chris Grant traded for Luol Deng, not because he was “panicked,” as those who disagreed with the trade as potentially only a half-season rental argued, but because losing, we all know, begets a losing culture and makes additional losing easier to swallow for young players who come into the league used to losing, at the most, rarely.

But is that really the case? (more…)

Chris Grant’s Report Card

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The Cavs’ record is 15-26. They’re half way to 30 wins for the season. For most of us, they are falling short of pre-season expectations.

The optimists among us see the “glass” as half full: the Cavs are still an up and coming, extremely young team that has developing talent and a slew of draft picks coming over the next three years. They have a strong organization and they are stocked with high character people from the top of the roster to the front office to the owner.

The pessimists among us see the glass as half empty: the Cavs seem to have a coaching staff that is still unable to master offensive execution. They allowing their young players to develop habits that are anathemas to winning. And they’ve a front office that consistently fails to make good talent evaluation decisions. The Cavs just selected the least productive NBA number one draft pick since 1955′s Dick Ricketts.  They spent nearly $11 million dollars worth of cap room last summer on two free agents that are playing terribly.


Why All the Super Small Lineups?

Monday, December 30th, 2013


On Saturday, I posted a brief article opining on the team’s severing of ties to Bynum as a potential first step towards turning the season around, saying “the pieces are there”.  Today brings a qualifier.


That New Mike Brown Smell

Thursday, December 19th, 2013


When Mike Brown was named head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers this past summer, the fan base was underwhelmed to say the least. From a PR standpoint, the real danger for the organization in Tenure 2.0 is that, regardless of how much Dan Gilbert or Chris Grant told us things would be different (but also the same), Mike Brown had already lost the ability to play to the imaginations of Cavs fans. Anyone who paid attention to the Cavaliers anywhere from 2005 to 2010 had seen it all before. We saw the warts, much more than the otherwise long stretches of unblemished skin. We knew what a Mike Brown Cavs team would look like. He could no longer surprise.

But, in the immortal words of a fictional boxer from Philadelphia, ”If I can change… and you can change… everybody can change!”

Okay, sure, there’s still plenty of that old Mike Brown smell to remind us that this season is not entirely fresh off the lot. There have been issues with team’s offensive execution(slash “game plan,” slash “pulse,” slash “awareness that the other end of the court exists”). There have been some puzzling rotations and many nights where Brown goes 11-deep on a team whose 18th ranked pace isn’t exactly burning through many pairs of legs. There has been a sense of searching from Brown that, for lack of a better word, he describes as “process,” but that leaves others questioning the immediacy with which he leads this Cavaliers team.

But stop and take a breath. Take a really deep breath and you might notice something different. Is that hints of azaleas? Notes of coffee and barnyard? Nope. That’s just new Mike Brown smell you’re smelling.


Personality Crisis

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

In almost any explanation of an NBA team’s relative success or failure, a disproportionately large amount of credit is given to one thing: culture. When a team wins, it has a culture that holds players accountable, that allows the young guys to grow and contribute to the team the right way, that demands that the game (and the game’s in-time proxy, the head coach) are respected. Long time guys stay because the culture is so good. New guys transition in well, often showing improvement or an unselfishness that was less evident in their previous stop, because the culture allows — and often demands — that they be a different player, a better player. The Spurs, the Bulls, the Heat and, until this season, the Celtics are all teams that don’t just beat you with the final score, they beat you in every aspect of their organizations … or so it is spun, anyway.

Likewise, when a team is down, the reasons it often stays down for a long time are not just talent and ability. Again, it’s about the culture. The culture of losing. Once-successful teams fear the deterioration of their culture into one driven by selfishness that operates at even half speed only half the time. Teams whose recent track record already has a giant, red L stamped on its culture card turn to changes in ownership, coaching, bringing in veterans who are viewed as “winners,” anything to break-up the losing mentality that has, the thinking goes, sunk itself so deeply into the organization that, as with a zombie-bitten hand, whole arms must be chopped off to keep the infection from spreading.

There is a truth to culture, but not a whole truth.


What Would a Dion Waiters Trade Look Like?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013


First off, I am firmly in the camp that believes the Cavaliers should not trade Waiters. This year’s Cavs offense has been 10 points per possession better with Waiters on the court, and he is part of the most efficient Cavs lineup. Since ESPN reported that he was being hawked on the open market, his play has been stellar. Scoring has ticked up, but what’s been most impressive is how he’s improving his shot selection towards the mostly-layups-and-threes prescription and reducing his tendency to fire away from midrange.

You could examine this cynically and come to the conclusion that he is seizing the opportunity to audition for the rest of the league. There are some rumors (which feel pretty true given the soap opera of the past two weeks) about the iciness of his relationship with Kyrie Irving. Signs may point to his desire to get out of Dodge, but punting the most dynamic player of a frustrating Cavs team would be a mistake. He gets a lot of flak, mostly based on his propensity to shoot everything all the time and who the Cavs passed on to take him, but he has shown noticeable improvement. Waiters’ ability to slash through multiple layers of defense provides precious movement for a stagnant offense. There aren’t any other players on the team besides Kyrie who can impose their will to the degree Waiters can, regardless of his deficiencies. He likely has a way to go as a player, and it feels as if he is on the path to realizing this potential, be it as a sixth man (my money is on this) or as a starter.


Age and Expectations

Friday, November 29th, 2013


“Expectations are premeditated resentments” –The Alcoholics Anonymous “big book.”

Many of the Cavs’ problems, and our problems as fans, stem from expectations we formed before this season started. Entering the fourth year of rebuilding since the LeBrocalypse, many of us thought the Cavs were poised to become a playoff team or even a winning team (which aren’t the same things in the Eastern Conference).  The source of those expectations came from Kyrie Irving’s preternatural development as a young point guard.  Buoying that hope: a handful of top 4 picks, two more top 20 picks, and the accumulation of solid veterans. At last June’s draft lottery, Dan Gilbert expressed the expectation of “not being back,” to the lottery after the 2013-2014 season.

But so far, the Cavaliers have failed to live up to most expectations. It’s not just the losing.  It’s how they’re losing: blowout losses, mounds of turnovers,  horrible shot selection, and half-assed effort and execution on both ends of the floor. What’s causing this? Could it be that that these guys just can’t play together? Is Mike Brown a lousy coach? Do they just stink? Could it be that many of the problems with effort, consistency, and chemistry have stemmed from players failing to live up to their own expectations and those of Cavaliers management and ownership? Too many Uncle Drew commercials? Space aliens? The answer is more likely that we all had really ridiculous expectations, and our resentments are causing us to miss the reasons the Cavs are bad — because we really should have seen this coming.