Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

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.


3:48 Remaining in the 1st quarter

Monday, November 25th, 2013


It is possible that Saturday night’s effort by the Cavaliers makes this whole article a waste of my effort, basically only serving as a means to process my own fears & anxieties about the Cavs.  If the performance against the Spurs didn’t reinforce this enough though, make no mistake, the early parts of this season are horrible for the Cleveland Cavaliers mission to build a contender.  This early stretch of games has seen a regression during key developmental years for all of the Cavs’ core youngsters.  Obviously that doesn’t help the on-court product, but it also hinders the franchise’s ability to find a way out, destroying trade values and disintegrating hope of a reasonable 2014 free agent haul.  A vast deterioration of player development and player compatibility, on and off the court, is at hand.  Things need to get better.  Fast.


A Bunch of Random Observations, One Liners, and Parenthetical References

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Matthew Dellavedova has stolen our hearts. Maybe he should have been the No. 1 pick.

Could the Cavs just save themselves a lot of money and heartache by using the DraftExpress top 100 prospects list to run their draft every year?

Kyrie Irving has to be embarrassed that Matthew Dellavedova has played better defense in two games than Irving has in any game in two seasons, right?

Matty D should get a start tonight. Though, I’m not sure our perception of his defense against Washington wasn’t amplified by the fact that he was the only one playing it. Also, Randy Whitman helped more than a little.

Watching a Brown/Whitman coaching duel is like watching kindergarteners play Stratego.

Subway’s sponsorship of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire makes me more than a little queasy. <Insert Sriracha joke here>



Friday, November 15th, 2013


The Cleveland Cavaliers are 9/82nds through the season and signs thus far are at best “mixed” and at worst “why did this team pass on a lot of talented guys who fit a series of team needs for a dude who has more combined fouls and turnovers than points?” There is the undefeated home record, but also the 0-and-6 mark on the road. Mike Brown’s initiatives to shore up the defense have produced impressive results, as the currently average defense represents a massive turnaround, but the offense feels like it has all the sophistication of a symphony played on kazoos. There are good spots and bad spots, as there will be with any team in any year, but the frustration stings a bit more. Basically, things were supposed to make more sense by now.