David Griffin is still just the acting General Manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get to do all the fun stuff that real, fully named GMs get to do. One such perk of wearing the GM’s hat— right up there with thanklessly working one’s self into the ground— is the annual gala known as the end-of-season press conference. Griffin took a seat in front of the Cleveland press today. He was short on definitives (still no word on his long-term job status with the Cavaliers… same for the status of head coach, Mike Brown) but was long on just about everything else you’d want to hear from the man tasked with putting together the players on a professional basketball team. Griffin showed passion and smarts. He tipped his hat to the work of the previous regime (of which, admittedly, he was a part) while staking claim to a very different vision for the ball club going forward. All told, it was the kind of end-of-season presser that could make one hope that this wasn’t Griffin’s last.
This week, we’re looking back on this bizarre Cavs season, and looking forward to the future. Five of our writers sat down for some serious pondering on five critical questions.
1. In a word, what’s your attitude regarding the Cavs now that this season’s over?
David Wood: Ambiguous. Some nights the ball is flying around, Dion and Kyrie are trying to include each other, and players are running around without the ball. Other nights, there are four guys watching Kyrie or Dion, and Matty D runs more than the whole team combined in just a few plays. Who are the Cavs?
Momentum: the greased-up pig of professional sports. It’s the one thing losing teams can look to for signs that next year might turn out better. It’s the one thing the Cavaliers have had to play for since being eliminated from the playoff race last week. And it’s the one thing that has, with every swipe, slipped through the Cavs fingers.
Looking past overall team success, though (and, really, why would that matter in a team sport), there are some bright spots – bright, forward-moving, momentum-fueled spots on this roster that should give the team and its fans some crumbles of hope heading into a fourth straight off-season of lose … lottery… repeat.
So, who in this organization is good at putting one foot firmly in front of the other and who is standing in place?
Podcast time! After this blowout, Tom and I hopped in the podcast booth to see what this game means (if anything), and what stories it told about the season and the future of this team and its players. Listen at Mixcloud, http://www.mixcloud.com/oldseaminer/ctbpodcastepisode46/.
Cleveland won handily against a Brooklyn team that was, frankly, trying to lose. Brooklyn was angling to play Toronto in the first round of the playoffs instead of Chicago, and the loss ensured the Nets a sixth seed instead of a seventh. The final appearance for the 2013-2014 incarnation of the Cavs looked good against the collection of backups that the Nets trotted out. Tyler Zeller was sharp with 22 points and 11 rebounds on 9-11 shooting, and Dion Waiters added 19. Kyrie Irving finished with 15 points and five assists. Tristan chipped in a double double with 11 and 10, and no one played more than 27 minutes for Cleveland. For the men in black, Marcus Thornton and Andre Blatche threw up a combined 37 shoots, including 16 threes, to notch 40 points between them. Coming off the bench, Anthony Bennett and Carrick Felix made their first appearances in months for Cleveland, and both had thunderous dunks and decent showings: Felix had 10 points and three dimes in 12 minutes, and Bennett got seven points and seven boards in 15.
This was the last time we’ll see some of these players in a Cavs uniform, and to that, I say: thanks for the memories, and via con Dios.
The value of individual basketball players is coming into focus, and while individual player metrics are the holy grail of baseball, there needs to be a somewhat more holistic approach to team building in the NBA than the “moneyball” approach of maximizing the value of contracts by more rigorously modeling that which leads to winning. I’m not sure how much GMs worry about chemistry in major league baseball. Does it really matter if your center fielder and left-handed relief pitcher (that throws two pitches) get along? There is very little on-field chemistry in baseball. Obviously, the chemistry between pitchers and catchers is supremely important, but after that, your middle infielders should probably practice together? (Right?)
Basketball is different, because players aren’t confined to specific roles in space and time. In baseball, team-building from a positional standpoint and managing player roles is fairly obvious. (I’m not implying that team-building or managing is simple – I’m saying that it’s easy to fill a hole at catcher. You sign the best catcher you can afford and position him behind the plate. You don’t really have to take the other guys on the field into consideration.) Even if that lefty with two pitches is absolutely dominant, most managers know not to immediately promote him to starter and no GM is going to give him a 10 year 300 million dollar deal, even if he has a mind blowing BABIP. He’ll probably mostly face lefties and bottom of the lineup righties. Teams have figured this stuff out.
Basketball, in some cases, is losing the structure of traditional position roles. Rule changes have morphed the game from an inside-outside attack to hyper-athletic guards initiating offense with dribble penetration and kicking out to spot-up shooters. Stretch 4s and 5s are more common than back to the basket big men. The most successful franchise of the past 15 years, the Spurs, more closely resembles a shape-shifting amoeba than a traditional box-and-1, house-shaped offense. These changes necessitate a better understanding of chemistry and fit. Assembling the greatest collection of individual talent does not guarantee greatness in the NBA, the 2012-2013 Lakers being the most recent example of this.
No great and groundbreaking work from the C:tB staff this morning, though Tom Pestak might have something a little later today. Instead, we thought we’d give you an open forum. This season, more than any since the LeBrocalypse, has been frustrating. So what are you frustrated about? Kyrie Irving’s ability to put the brakes on competitiveness at a moment’s notice? The media? Mike Brown’s defensive schemes, and lack of — you know — plays? Andy’s Mustache? Spencer Hawes’ facial hair homage to Hugh Jackman? Our lack of Charge coverage? The 99.9% Sergey free 2014? Tristan’s stunted development? The haphazard way this team completely changed four times in a season?
Let it all out. We all need catharsis, and we want to know. We’d change the font to Comic Sans if we could. Conversely, if you’re one of those annoying, “positive,” glass-half-full people who doesn’t enjoy a good b***h fest, tell us what you’re looking forward to in the off-season, the summer, and next fall, so we can laugh at you. (I kid. We probably won’t laugh — just snarl begrudgingly — jealous of your ability to keep perspective.)
Just like the actual Cavaliers, the Cavs:the Bloggers have checked out for the regular season; working on our spring / summer plans, like mowing our lawns, cleaning up the grill, etc.
The actual Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the 25-win Boston Celtics last night. Even worse, they trailed by 31 after three quarters in Cleveland to the 25-win Boston Celtics. It’s a really convenient excuse to say, “these games don’t matter”. But they really have no implications for the Bucks or Celtics either. Those teams & players decided to compete for one reason or another. Pride or competitive drive or the desire to do well at their jobs…something. The previous thirty games had been relatively encouraging, but apparently this team has no interest in sending the franchise / fan base into the summer with any warm & fuzzy feelings. Instead, the team heads into another pivotal summer, again in the lottery, and again potentially suffering from a spectacular array of end of season not-giving-a-crap.
There is one more game. In Cleveland. Against a Brooklyn team that may be resting everyone, trotting out their 9th through 15th men. Hopefully the Cavs show up and play with some pride and beat the Nets’ scrubs. I know the outcome doesn’t matter, but to me, winning seems a lot better than the alternative.
Well, that was ugly. The Cavs and Bucks played one of the most aesthetically unpleasing games of season: a game marked by YMCA style defense, strange bounces of the ball, steals, run-outs, phrenetically incompetent play, and lots of barely contested dunks. The Cavs were without Luol Deng who sat out with a bad back, and they missed him badly. Alonzo Gee started in his stead and played 23 minutes, finishing with 9 points and four rebounds and was -17 for the game. The other 25 minutes, Cleveland played three guard lineups and fared better, but had no answers for a team with two real small forwards. 6-foot, 8-inch Khris Middleton and his backup, 6-foot, 9-inch Chris Wright, combined to score 31 points on 14-20 shooting for the worst team in the league. Read the rest of this entry »