Archive for February, 2009

Recap: 23 Straight At Home. LeBron wears 23. Something Witty.

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

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Overview:

Short-handed again with Sasha Pavlovic out with the flu, the Cavs were nevertheless able to get out to a commanding early lead against the Raptors, only to let them back in the game in the second half and eventually put the team away. LeBron went for 33 and got 9 threes from the combination of Wally, Mo, and Boobie.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Okay, who else got caught thinking 62 when LeBron started out with 16 points on 6 shots (two threes and two and-1s-that would be a TS% of 150%.) against a seemingly ridiculously porous Toronto defense? Spot-up threes, a mid-post turnaround, moving without the ball for layups, it all looked pretty nice in that early going. Then he went the second half without getting a field goal, although he was able to get himself to the line (and make all of them!) in the fourth quarter.

I’m torn by what this means. LBJ spent much of the third allowing the ball to be forced out of his hands and setting up his teammates for what were ultimately misses, while Kobe kept his hot hand going by continuing to break out his go-to moves for basket after basket. LeBron can’t hit you for 60 by just popping up from 20 over and over again, which is both a good and a bad thing-he can be taken out of the game to a degree, but he always plays more fundamental basketball by searching for lanes instead of spots for himself. It’s just a different scoring philosiphy. I shall ponder this and hope for 62 tomorrow night.

Wally to the rescue! 15/4/3 on only 10 shots and being active to get himself open looks? That looks like a real NBA shooting guard out there! He freed himself for more open looks in the opening minutes than I’ve seen him do at any stretch in a Cavs uni.

Boobie!!! Hit those threes! Although if we’re 4-5 from deep, and 2-6 from 2, should we maybe not put the ball on the floor as much?

Mo’s playmaking, especially in the early going, made up for his only so-so outside shooting tonight.

Really an off-night for the whole frontcourt, with JJ Hickson’s 8 on 4-5 shooting making him the leading scorer. I hope Z’s 100% after going on that ankle.

44 minutes for Wally. I am serious. 14 for Andy because of foul trouble.

Bullets of Randomness:

Great job by the Cavs on Jose Calderon tonight. Holding the league’s most efficient scorer at point guard (TS 62% on the year) to 1-9 from the field. By the way, if LBJ shot free throws like Calderon, he’d average 2 more points a game. Okay, you can do that for a lot of players.

CB4′s midrange J is pretty money, isn’t it? I’m not sure if I’m sold on him as a superstar yet-3 rebounds was not good, and he doesn’t like to operate down low all that much. If you think there’s a chance we get him before this deadline, you have lost your mind.

The strategy was to let JON and Bosh have their points and close out on the shooters, and it worked.

Play of the Game:

LeBron’s block of Bosh’s dunk. That was ridiculous.

Thing of the Game:


Off-Day Seminar Of Some Importance: In Which We Redouble Our Efforts, Manifesto-Wise

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

When I started this site way back in early 2009, I had an unwritten rule that LeBron’s 2010 destination was not going to be a topic of discussion on this site. At all. It’s just an overplayed story, and besides it’s not the favorite subject of Cavs fans. And there’s way too many important things that are going to happen with this team in the next two years to waste time speculating something two years down the road thatNOBODY HAS ANY IDEA ABOUT.

But LeBron goes to New York this Wednesday, and Henry asked me to respond to his angry-making horn pointed in the general direction of Cleveland, and of course I’m thrilled to help him out.

1. Why Is This Such A Story?

This is the first thing that’s important to understand. Calling whatever sportswriter or writer who says LeBron is leaving misinformed or worse isn’t going to make LeBron any more likely to stay. This is something that could happen. Even if he ends up staying, this is something that could happen. If you claim to know different, you are lying, arrogant, or LeBron James, and I’m not sure the latter category knows. There is a very real possibility.

And wasting internet space on the “hey, this 2010 stuff is useless, I can’t believe everyone is going so crazy over it,” is not only more tedious to read than a 2010 article, but is also completely wrong, because this is a story. (To be clear: the opening paragraph only exists because this post exists, if that makes sense. It’s 5 in the morning. I think it’s a story, just not my story.)

So why is this such a story? Understand this about sportswriters: they love a narrative. They go gaga over a good narrative. Cause and Effect makes their day. You report on games. You write a narrative. Sports love to piss sportswriters off by unfolding in such a way that defies narratives. In the Super Bowl, the heroic underdog led by an age-defying quarterback trying to redeem himself from one huge mistake took the lead with the breakout star of the playoffs breaking off a huge catch as his sportswriter father watched for a game-breaking score to cap the biggest comeback in Super Bowl History. Then a quarterback two years removed from a ring who rides motorcycles with his helmet off hit a speedy little-known receiver for a huge game, and he promptly began celebrating the catch with the clock running so that the Steelers needed to burn their last time-out before making another amazing catch to win the Steelers the game. Sports care not for your narratives.

We love Kobe’s rise, fall, and redemption until his team wets the bed against a team of mercenaries in their first year together wearing hallowed laundry.

Well, what you have with LeBron James is a narrative. Whether it’s a positive narrative (young uber-talent gets close to breaking through in small Cleveland, comes to New York, saves the sorry state of basketball in the game’s Mecca and beating heart and wins multiple championships, jumps from greatness to true immortality) or the negative narrative (home and team that does all for him mean nothing to cold-hearted young capitalist, leaves all behind for bright lights and is crushed under weight of own hubris), what we have here is a bona fide narrative. And you don’t even have to rely on the outcome of those pesky games to get a narrative! It’s going to be right there in a press conference!

This is a sexy story. There’s maybe the biggest star in sports, and certainly the biggest with any mystery as to his destiny yet. There’s New York and his hometown. There’s lots of money. There’s a shocking athlete. There’s Nike. There’s Jay-Z, for the love of God. (By the way, these stories have died now that Brooklyn fell through, but there was nothing a little racist about assuming LBJ was going to Brookly regardless of his family, the money, or the basketball, because of how deeply he revered the opinion of his one good friend who’s also a famous rapper? Really?)

There’s a lot of juice in this story and will continue to be, so long as you don’t print the truth, which is “I’m a writer and do not know LeBron James in any significant manner and have nothing resembling a clue what he will do in 2010.” That’s not such a fun story.

And remember, LeBron loves this stuff. He’s narrative-conscious. It’s part of what makes him good. Just like he feels it when the pressure’s on and he needs to do something spectacular to get the Cavaliers to victory and never shys away from bringing out his best in the biggest games and thrives despite being the most hyped player of all time, not to mention 18-year old, that’s the LeBron that loves seeing the New York Times going wild over a Yankee Logo Henna Tatooed on his cheek. Part of what we love about LeBron is what’s going to help us go crazy over this. (Actually, the tatoo thing would probably be the single best prank ever.)

2. Let’s Do Our Best To Figure It Out

To Start: I’m a writer and have had exactly one exchange with LeBron in my life during a pre-game Q+A session. One Q, one A. That’s my contact with LeBron. I have no idea what he will do and why. None. He’s his own man, and a pretty smart one. But here are the factors you’d assume he’d consider, in decending order of importance:

1. Team Success, 2010 Season

They win a championship next year, I don’t see how he possibly leaves. Same with getting just so close to the championship. But if they somehow don’t look like they have enough to win it all in that 2010 playoff run, or even look like they’re mostly having LeBron pull their way through like they did the finals year, I think he gives out-of-town a pretty strong look.

2. Team Success, 2009 Season

Again, a championship is a huge chip in the direction of staying, although even that might not be a huge factor if they can’t keep the momentum in 2010. Would Dwayne Wade have been crazy to leave Miami after the season after they won the championship?

3. What the Knicks or Other Suitors Look Like

If they’re rolling with another bona fide all star-caliber guy, some young guys who are a part of the core, solid role players and shooters, LeBron’s going to be more likely to step in there. If they’re hoping to set LeBron up with Wilson Chandler and Chris Duhon and change and make a run, I don’t think so.

4. What The Front-Court Looks Like

Z, the one guy on the team you feel LeBron truly respects and the team’s second-best player, could show up done in the next two years, and that presents a problem. Ben Wallace was supposed to be done this year. Both have contracts that expire in the summer of 2010. Will the Cavs be able to keep them at a reasonable fee? Will they be worth keeping at a reasonable fee? This will be important.

5. The Development of the Young Guys

Will Boobie, formerly LeBron’s on-court little brother and go-to shooter, still be an indispensible sniper or even a Ben-Gordon model bench scorer? Will Delonte still be a legitimate starting-quality shooting guard? Will JJ Hickson be Baby Amare or Ty Thomas Mk. II?

6. Landing Another Star

Wally Z’s expiring contract is a chance to snag another all-star to pair up with LeBron, as is the 2010 super-plan of snagging not only LeBron but Chris Bosh(who the Cavs almost would not be able to trade for pre-2010) or Amare Stoudamire or any of the other marquee free agents and unleashing SuperTeam upon an unsuspecting league. If this happens, it would be good.

7. Coach/System Player

(I cannot believe I’m saying this)

Mike Brown is a better coach for LeBron than Mike D’Antoni.

(I can’t believe I said that.)

Jordan’s Bulls won championships with a perimeter player as their go-to guy because they were a defensive team that kept the score low until their guy could take over. MB knows that score. MB’s teams have always out-performed themselves in the playoffs. D’Antoni’s haven’t. This season, MB’s shown himself to have prowess with a half-court offense if he has the tools. MB knows LeBron and they have a good relationship, and understands how to get LeBron going on defense and how to work within an offense. Mike Brown is the right coach for LeBron. Mike D’Antoni is not.

?  Family

LeBron is a devoted partner and father. What does his family want? What does his mother want? I have no idea, but I know they’re important to LeBron.

? Hometown Pride vs. City Glamour

LeBron’s proud to be from Cleveland and loves his hometown and being a local boy made Very Good. Or would he rather be king of broadway? I think ALL THINGS being equal he’d probably rather be the latter, but that’s more of a guess that some people seem to think.

? The Legacy Factor

Here’s what nobody has talked about: In 20 years, nobody’s going to care where LeBron played. The people who truly love basketball don’t care about his market reach. If he jumps to a worse team and doesn’t win a championship or even worse, he will have his legacy tarnished beyond what would even be remotely possibly in Cleveland. Alex Rodriguez would look like Guliani in New York. Forget about Cleveland. He stays in Cleveland, he MIGHT not become immortal, but his greatness and personal fidelity would never come into question. We don’t remember Gretzky as a Los Angeles King.

Am I going to count up factors now? No. That’s just what I have on the table. I don’t know where it goes from here. I’m just going to watch LeBron James play basketball.

The Era Of Trey Johnson Is Set To Begin In Cleveland

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Trey Johnson, surprised to see a backboard troll. Photo courtesy of NBA.com

The Cavs have made a move, but not the Wally Z’s expiring blockbuster many Cavs fans are hoping for. With Jawad Williams’ second 10-day contract up, the Cavs have passed on giving him a full-year contract and instead signed swingman Trey Johnson. (Hat-Tip to Windhorst at the CPD.)

This move was made to shore up the bench with old CTB favorite Delonte West still out until around the All-Star break and new CTB favorite Tarence Kinsey likely out for longer with a high ankle sprain.

(Sidebar: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOT TARENCE! Just when you’re ready to feel something again…this is my fault. Not only did I admit a man-crush, I actually called him “the player we were expecting Larry Hughes to be.” It would’ve been better on my part to just run him over. I have failed you all.)

I don’t know much (read: anything) about this guy, but his numbers in the D-League are stellar, with 20 ppg and 5 apg on 45% from the field and a great 46% from the three-point line. His DraftExpress profile compared him to Brandon Roy and Chauncey Billups, which I’m sure isn’t getting over-excited at all.

I like this move-you can never have too many shooters, especially without LeBron, I don’t want any more bigs clogging up JJ’s development into a meast, and this kid looks like a pretty good decision-maker to boot. Now that Gerald Green is actually signed with someone, I will not make my once-obligatory WHY DIDN’T WE JUST GIVE GERALD GREEN A CHANCE TO RUN AND HIT OPEN THREES WITH LEBRON? Statement. Instead, I leave you with a video of James White, who also does not have an NBA home.

Recap: Go Watch The Super Bowl

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

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Overview: In a game that absolutely nobody is paying attention to, the Cavs dealt with a Pistons team that hung tough for three quarters but were ultimately done away with by a 15-2 LeBron-less run to begin the fourth quarter and some nice plays to close out the game by LeBron, Zydrunas, and Mo. The Pistons enjoy their first four-game home losing streak in eight years.  Cavs-Related Bullets: Full disclosure: I slept through the first quarter because I was up all night watching Federer-Nadal.  Here’s a fun fact: the Cavs won this one despite having a -8 with LeBron on the floor. LBJ played a pretty nice game himself, not showing any hesitation to go to his jumper and having some success with it (3-6 on threes that weren’t buzzer-beaters, and a nice 45% eFG on jumpers for the night), and occasionally taking the lane for a couple nice finishes, although his free-throw stroke didn’t come with him tonight. Z came back and had a law of averages experience, going 1-8 on jumpers in the first half, but LeBron continued to have confidence and set him up for jumpers in the second half, and he went 3-6, including two threes and two clutch fouth-quarter jumpers.

Mo was another great midrange shooter who kept his confidence though a 2-8 jump shooting performance in the first half to pull the Cavs to victory by going 5-6 in the fourth.

NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS WHEN SASHA PAVLOVIC DRIBBLES. EVER. It’s comical at this point. Pavs’ ball-stopping replacing Delonte’s ball-happiness was a major reason the offense looked so stagnant for much of tonight’s game.

JVG: more insights like how Andy’s screening was freeing things up in the fourth quarter by varying which side he was putting it on, less schtick about not being invited to movies.

Bullets of Randomness:

I think AI really is hurting the chemistry of this team, but it is a joy to watch him play. He’s not lightning-quick anymore, but he’s relentless and has that great COD and he’s looking to score every time.

Rip should’ve played more minutes.

Rodney Stuckey: bottled up by LBJ for a 2-9 night.

Maxiell’s a 5-minute a night guy now? When did that happen?

Thing of the Game:

Wow, what a sports weekend. You had GSP-Penn last night (bought it with friends, bored but really impressed with GSP), Federer-Nadal in the early hours of this  morning (Holy Living Breathing Jesus), and LBJ-Pistons this morning. I’ve spent more hours watching sports this weekend than any I can remember in recent memory, and there’s still a Super Bowl to watch. Enjoy French Rap. My apologies if any of this language is improper. I do not understand it.

ONLINE CASINOS: IF YOU CONTINUE SPAMMING MY COMMENT SECTIONS YOU WILL FEEL MY WRAITH.