Archive for February, 2010

Preview: Cavaliers at Bobcats, February 19th

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Relevant Statistics:

Pace: Cavs 93.2 (25th) vs. Bobcats 93.1 (26th)

Offensive Efficiency: Cavs 109.0 (2nd) vs. Bobcats 100.9 (24th)

Defensive Efficiency: Cavs 100.7 (6th) vs. Bobcats 100.6 (5th)

Notes:

Before we start, Sebastian Pruiti has a nice breakdown of the Cavs’ final play last night. Check it out.

This is a tough game. The Cavs are on their first back-to-back in a good while, and the Bobcats are a tough home team. Cavs have to be encouraged by the tough loss last night rather than discouraged.

Cracking the Bobcats’ defense will be the key. If this is Jamison’s first game as a Cav, these are the type of defenses he was brought in to play against.

The Bobcats are coming off a home loss to the Nets. We’ll see what that does to their psyche coming into this one.

Recommended Reading:

Queen City Hoops

Recap: Nuggets 118, Cavs 116 (Or, Losing! I Remember That!)

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

epic fail pictures

Overview: The Nuggets snapped the Cavs’ 13-game winning streak, beating them on a Carmelo Anthony jumper with 1.8 seconds left in overtime. LeBron and Carmelo had one of the best duels of the regular season, combining for 83 points between them.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-Well, the streak had to end sometime. And if it was going to end, this was a pretty spectacular way for it to happen. Regardless of the final outcome, this one was a pleasure to watch.

To have a 13-game winning streak, some breaks have to go your way. The Cavs won against Oklahoma City, Miami, and the Lakers during the streak, and all three games could’ve easily gone the other ways. Tonight, Denver made the shots when they needed to. Something that happens over the course of a season.

-No Z tonight, and no Antawn Jamison either. That left the Cavs thin in the froncourt, and it hurt them. Normally, the Cavs dominate during Z’s first stretch of the game, which comes in the second half of the first quarter. The Cavs’ regular starting five has a negative +/-, but the Cavs have the best scoring margin in the league in the first quarter. What that means is that the second lineup of the first quarter generally has a hammer party.

Z hasn’t looked very good when the game gets tough this season. But during that first quarter, when the ball is moving, everyone’s loose, and the game is prettier, Z has been very effective.

-Tonight, the Cavs had problems in the first quarter after Shaq went out. They tried a small-ball lineup. It did not work. When Shaq went to the bench, the score was 14-13 in favor of Denver. At the end of the quarter, the score was 31-21. 10 of the 17 points the Cavs gave up were on free throws or shots at the basket during that stretch. Things will greatly improve when Jamison joins the roster on this front, but it was a problem in this game.

Speaking of Shaq, he was a beast. He got the team back into the game in the second quarter. He was aggressive every time he got the ball in the first half. He missed some bunnies at the beginning of the game, but didn’t let that tweak his confidence. The free throws were bad, but that’s Shaq. The last two weren’t even close.

-This one came down to the little things. Too many missed free throws, and too many offensive rebounds for the Nuggets. Those extra possessions killed the Cavs in overtime. Denver shot the ball 100 times, 14 more times than the Cavs. When you factor in that the Cavs shot more free throws, the Nuggets still got 7 more attempts. Uncharacteristic for the Cavs, and a killer in a close game.

Microcosm of the issue: early in the fourth, the Cavs were up seven. They sent Chris Anderson to the line. Anderson split the pair, and Denver grabbed the offensive board. LeBron blocked the birdman, then turned it over in the backcourt. ‘Melo hit a three on the ensuing possession. The Cavs were about to start running away with the game, but they let the Nuggets back into it by not securing the ball. I had a bad feeling around then.

-One of the worst things about blogging the Cavs is when LeBron plays a phenomenal game and the Cavs lose. You’re supposed to act like it doesn’t count, but LeBron was incredible tonight. He only shot 3-15 from outside of 10 feet, but he was getting to the rim at will and his passing was spot-on.Nobody does that skip pass better than LeBron, and he was finding cutters all night long. He showed some post moves and some nice shots cutting through the lane. And he did make tie the game with the Cavs down by three with 48 seconds left in regulation and 23 seconds left in overtime. Of course, he missed an off-balance 28-footer as time expired. What a choker. By the way, 43/15/13 with two steals and four blocks has never been done before.

-Daniel Gibson’s defense has been one of the best surprises of this streak. He was in Chauncey’s kitchen all night long, and Billups finished 7-20 from the floor. Gibson has become very effective as a defender, and that will be what keeps him in the rotation.

-On the final possessions: the threes by LeBron didn’t go. They were the right play to make, though. The chances are never good when a team is down by three points with less than a minute to play. Best to go for it all. With 1.8 seconds on the clock, there aren’t great looks available. LeBron slipped, and didn’t make the crazy shot.

Denver took the shots Cleveland wanted them to take in overtime. Carmelo got three contested mid-range jumpers, and the degree of difficulty on Chauncey’s three was very high. They’re great shooters, and they made very tough shots. Tip your hat to them.

On whether or not the Cavs should’ve given their foul on Anthony: Anthony had LeBron faced up. He’s a very smart player. He had LeBron faced up. If LeBron tried to give the foul, he could have easily gone into his shooting motion. LeBron got him to take a contested 21-footer, one of the worst shots in basketball. Carmelo’s a great player, so he drained it. Carmelo shoots 37% from the 16-23 foot range. He was 3-3 from that range in overtime. Again, tip your cap.

-Delonte made some good hustle plays in that second quarter, and had a nice post-up on Ty Lawson. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much after that, and finished with only 3 points in 28 minutes.

-Mo returned! He didn’t look confident creating his own shot, but stuck two nice threes. Also, he was second on the team in assists, getting three of them in 18 minutes. Yes, LeBron had more than half of the team’s total assists again.

-AP looked really comfortable out there the entire game, and was making some really good cuts to the basket instead of only setting up for corner threes. He got the short end of the stick on the Cavs’ last possession of regulation, but a very nice game for him overall.

-Yes, Carmelo walked on Denver’s last basket of regulation. Not something to file a protest over. (Cue Wizards fans yelling about LeBron’s footwork.) It’s hard to tell how many steps guys taking going to the basket, especially on that spin move. It’s a great move if they don’t call it, and they didn’t.

-For all the flak Mike Brown gets for not being creative late in games, three Denver possessions ended with Kenyon Martin taking jump shots. Say what you will about LeISO, but it’s better than a Kenyon Martin jumper.

-Hickson showed why the Cavs didn’t want to trade him. He looked positively Amare-like with those finishes over Nene early, and he added a dunk from an odd under-the-basket angle later on. The biggest thing Hickson should be working on is finishing effectively from odd angles right now, so that was a great sign. Hickson did get quieter as the game went on. That’s the product of a lack of experience. Jamison won’t have that problem.

-66 points in the paint for the Cavs, but only 2 off Denver turnovers.

Alright, that’s all for tonight. Until tomorrow, everyone.

Preview: Nuggets at Cavaliers, February 18th

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Relevant Statistics:

Pace: Denver 97.8 (5th) vs. Cleveland 93.2 (25th)

Offensive Efficiency: Denver 108.8 (3rd) vs. Cleveland 109.0 (2nd)

Defensive Efficiency: Denver 104.1 (16th) vs. Cleveland 100.3 (5th)

Notes:

Carmelo Anthony is good. Really good. LeBron probably guards him down the stretch, but he’ll do damage, especially if he can catch the ball close to the basket.

Chauncey Billups is a feast-or-famine guy. When he’s hitting pull-up threes, he’s hard to stop, but sometimes he can cause bad possessions. You know he remembers Cleveland, though.

The Denver bigs like to go at the rim over and over again. You must play them physically while trying to stay out of foul trouble.

Ty Lawson is a dynamo coming off the bench, but J.R. Smith is still waiting for his shot to return. Hopefully he waits at least one more night.

Cavs might be distracted by the trade deadline. They can’t be. This is a tough team, and the Cavs are about to have some tough road games.

Jamison is not expected to play tonight. Should still be fun, though. I’m excited to get back to basketball.

The Giving Z

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

566238-zydrunas_ilgauskas_large

For analysis of the Jamison trade, scroll down or click here.

Once there was a Z….

And he was drafted by a crappy team.

And every day the team would come

and he would score them baskets in the post

and find his teammates with sharp passes

and they would run the offense through him

and ask him to win games

and even after his feet were hurt

he came back

and he made the All-Star game.

And the team loved the Z

very much.

And the Z was happy.

But time went by.

And the team grew stronger.

And the Z was often not featured in its offensive game-plan.

Then one day the team came to the Z

and the Z said, “Come, team, feed me in the post and let me drain turnarounds and hook shots and benefit from my passing and rebounding and be happy.”

“We are too good to feed you in the post” said the team.

“We have a new player.

We need you to run the pick-and-roll and the fast-break and hit threes.

We want to build our offense around him and win games.”

“I’m sorry,” said the Z, “but I cannot explode to the basket or hit threes.

Take my 18-foot jumper, my passing out of the high post, and my rebounding.

Use me to defend the rim.

Then you will have a good team and be happy.”

And so the team put Z off the ball

and became an Eastern Conference contender

and won 66 games

and even went to the Finals once.

And the Z was happy.

Big Z hug

But time went by.

And the team grew stronger.

And the Z was often outmatched when trying to defend Dwight Howard.

Then one day the team came to the Z

and the Z shook with joy

and he said, “Come, team, feed me in the post and set me up with mid-range jumpers and be happy.”

“We are too talented to feed you in the post and set you up with mid-range jumpers,” said the team.

“We have a new center,” they said.

“He is one of the best of all time,

and so we need a backup center.

Can you be a backup center?”

“I am not a backup center,” said the Z.

“I have started my whole career,

but you can take my minutes

and use my shooting next to Anderson Varejao

to create an effective forward tandem off the bench

and use my size against the Lakers and then you will be happy.”

And so the team used the Z off the bench

and saw his field goal percentage fall

but have the league’s best record at the All-Star break.

And the Z was happy.

But the team did not need him for a long time

and when they came back

the Z was so happy he could hardly speak.

“Come, team,” he whispered,

“use me to space the floor offensively.”

“We are too talented and deep to use you to space the floor,” said the team.

“We want a stretch four that could give our team its first championship. Can you be that stretch four?”

“Use my large expiring contract and trade for Antawn Jamison,” said the Z.

“Then you can have an effective frontcourt partner for Shaq…and be happy.”

Jamison

And so the team used the Z’s expiring contract as a trade chip and added Antawn Jamison and made a run at the NBA Championship.

And the Z was happy…

But not really.

And after a league-mandated 30-day waiting period,

the team came back again.

“I am sorry, team,”

said the Z, “but I have little left to give you.”

“I have little lateral movement left, and have had trouble finding the net on my jump shots.”

“I wish that I could give you something…

but I have little left.

I am just an old 7-3 center capable of drawing opposing bigs outside the paint.

I am sorry…”

“We don’t need very much now,” said the team.

“Just a veteran to help team chemistry, help match up against bigger teams, and stretch the floor when Varejao or Jamison plays.

We are very talented.”

“Well,” said the Z, straightening himself up as much as he could, “an old center who is universally beloved is good for keeping the team happy and helping them match up against some tough playoff teams.

Come, team, sign me and sit me down on the bench and use me when you need me.”

And the team did.

And the Z was happy.

P.S. #1: Some basketball analysis has been tweaked to fit the poem.

P.S. #2: I really hope that last part comes true. In the grand scheme of things, I realize there are people more deserving of sympathy than a professional athlete making millions of dollars and possibly about to be bought out and receive another contract.

But Big Z’s devotion to this franchise and all he’s done for the team is one of the reasons we watch sports. In the silly world of sports that we spend so much of our time worrying about, Big Z not returning to the team he’s done so much for as they try to win their first championship would be a true tragedy. I know basketball’s a business, but that first banner wouldn’t feel quite right without Z. I’m not usually one for sentiment, but I’ll miss big Z, even if it’s just for 30 days.

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The Jamison Trade: Pros and Cons

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Let’s put this at the top of the post: Amar’e was not available. The Cavs offered their best package, waited on the Suns, and ultimately got turned down. The Cavs would not have done this deal if they had a realistic shot at Amar’e. Jamison-Amar’e comparisons may as well be Jamison-Howard comparisons.

So it happened. For the second time in three years, the Cavs have made a major trade at the deadline. While they went for Amar’e hard late, Jamison was the target the Cavs had their eye on almost all season long, and they bagged him. Let’s break it down, pros and cons style:

Pros:

1. The Cavs fixed their biggest weakness.

JJ Hickson has come on strong these last few weeks. He couldn’t have done much more for his value at trade time. He’s got tons of talent, and could be a very good forward in this league for many years to come.

Overall, though, JJ was somewhat of a weak link. It would be nice to think that JJ can keep up his current level of play for the rest of the year. However, JJ’s strong games were preceded by some weak months.

JJ’s been playing significant minutes. During those minutes, he has been perhaps the team’s worst rotation player. The Cavs’ starting lineup has been one of the team’s least effective 5-man units. JJ was the reason why. As of February 15th, the Cavs have been +0.8 points per 100 possessions when Hickson is on the floor. The next-lowest mark among Cavs rotation players belongs to Shaq. The Cavs are a full 4.6 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents when Shaq’s in the game. In addition to that, Shaq’s vastly improved play in the last month or so is a return to what he’s been doing for over a decade. JJ’s improvement could well be a flash in the pan.

I will always remember the days of Hicksomania fondly. That being said, getting a reliable veteran to replace most of JJ’s minutes was the right move to make.

2. The Cavs got to keep Hickson.

I don’t love the prospect of Hickson playing major minutes this season. However, his value as a piece down the road is considerable. JJ is 21, he’s tall, he’s athletic, he’s played major minutes for the team with the best record in the league, and he’s shown flashes of skill in almost every area. He’s far from a finished product, and has held the starting lineup back at times, but keeping him was the right move for the future.

3. Jamison helps keep the chemistry.

Amar’e may have been too big for this team. He’s been the high scorer on the Suns for most of his career. He would’ve demanded to start. He would’ve demanded major minutes. You’ve got to build an offense with him in mind. And so on down the line. I think Amar’e would have been worth that risk, but he wasn’t available.

The good news is that Jamison doesn’t have Stoudemire’s alpha dog ego. Jamison’s been a third option in Washington before, and thrived in the role. He’s toiled in Golden State and on some bad Wizards teams. He doesn’t need to be the focus of an offense. He’s always willing to adapt his game. He’s never been a prima donna. Jamison’s upside isn’t sky-high, but he’s an extremely low-risk upgrade for the rest of the year.

4. He should fit next to Shaq and Varejao.

Jamison can shoot. He has to be guarded beyond the three-point line, and is comfortable catching and shooting. Even if he’s not on fire, he’ll provide Shaq with space in the post and Andy space to cut. He’s also crafty off the ball, and should be able to find cuts and angles to receive an interior pass from Shaq or Andy when Antawn dives to the rim. When he gets it near the hoop, he has great patience and can finish from a variety of angles. Jamison’s been in the league for a long time. He knows how to score from everywhere on the court. He’ll be able to make it work on offense in ways that pairings of Shaq/Hickson, Shaq/Andy, or Andy/Hickson weren’t able to.

5. Jamison can create his own shot.

The Cavs have been offensive juggernauts early in the game. However, they’re prone to going through some stagnant stretches in the second half. The third quarter has been a serious problem, even though they start it with the same players that start the game. It’s odd. The team stops moving, and looks at LeBron or Shaq to bail them out. It gets frustrating to watch. As good as the Cavs have become offensively, they still don’t have many guys who can create their own shot. Jamison can, and is capable of creating his own offense with a dribble-drive or a quick, unorthodox shot from the post. Jamison will help the Cavs give teams more to deal with offensively, particularly later on in games.

6. Jamison can be trusted with the ball late.

Jamison knows how to score, he makes good decisions, and he almost never turns the ball over. Who would you rather have with the ball late — Jamison or Hickson?

Cons:

1. Jamison’s reputation as a shooter is ahead of his accuracy.

Yes, Jamison can make threes. However, his 34.5% mark from beyond the arc isn’t setting the world on fire. The theory is that he’ll get better looks next to LeBron James, but all of his threes are already assisted. He’s also a fairly poor shooter from midrange. He’s only making 35% of his jumpers from the 10-15 foot range, and 48% from the 16-23 foot range. Over 80% of those jumpers have also come off of assists. His percentage from 10-15 feet is right in line with his marks over the past few years, and his 38% mark from 16-23 is actually the best one since HoopData started charting those shots. Teams will have to guard Jamison on the perimeter, but it’s not the worst strategy to dare Jamison to beat you from the outside.

2. Jamison’s defense is a question mark.

Jamison could be an effective defender in the Cavs’ system. Shaq shuts down the paint, and Varejao is an effective interior defender. This should leave Jamison free to show and recover on the perimeter, which he has the quickness to do well. Additionally, LeBron could spend some time guarding fours, leaving Jamison to guard threes.

The issue is that I have trouble signing off on Jamison as a defensive player when he’s been on some horrible defensive teams. Over the last few years, the Wizards give up around 112 points per 100 possessions when Jamison is on the floor. That’s really bad. I was concerned about Stoudemire’s defense, and the Suns have historically given up around 108 points per 100 possessions with Amar’e on the floor. A big reason for getting Jamison was because of how bad Hickson has been defensively, and the Cavs give up around 109 points per 100 when Hickson plays.

The Wizards have never had a decent defensive system, but neither have the Suns. Jamison seems to always show effort defensively and could benefit tremendously from being part of a team that focuses on defense. However, his defensive history is a red flag, especially considering that the Wizards have never been better on defense when Antawn plays.

3. Jamison may be given to forcing shots.

Jamison takes 17 shots a game. Not all of them are good, and his TS% is only 53%. The Cavs don’t have a lot of players who can create their own shots, but they’ve been one of the league’s most efficient offensive teams because the shots the role players do create are good ones. Jamison’s ability to create shots will help this team when they go stagnant. The other side of that coin is that Jamison taking bad shots could hamper the Cavs’ offense when they get on a roll.

4. Jamison presents some risks long-term.

Jamison is 33, and he’s owed major money through the 2011-12 season. If Jamison flops this year, he could become an albatross.

Ultimately, this move presents an upgrade. It was the best move the Cavs had available to them. If Z gets back with the team, the Cavs won’t have given up any on-court assets to get it done. It’s not a complete slam dunk, but it was the move that gave the best chance at getting that elusive championship.

Cavs Get Jamison and Telfair

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Jamison

Windhorst has the report, initially from the Washington Post. Apparently it’s a three-team deal. The Cavs are getting Jamison, the Wizards get Z’s expiring contract and a first-rounder from the Cavs. The Clippers are the third team involved, and will be sending Sebastian Telfair over to the Cavs as a part of the deal.

Much more analysis on this deal is coming. Obviously, Jamison is somewhat of a consolation prize compared to Stoudemire in the eyes of some. Steve Kerr and Danny Ferry are close. I assume that if Ferry gave up, the Suns had made it fairly clear that they weren’t going to deal. Waiting on some information regarding that, however. The Cavs didn’t give up Hickson, and if they do get Z back they gave up almost nothing of significant value. In both front-office and basketball terms, this was a lower-risk move for the Cavs, albeit one with a lower ceiling.

This move puts a ton of additional pressure on this postseason. The Cavs got the upgrade they were looking for without touching any of their major assets. Now all they have to do is win.

Trade Talks reaching “climax”

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

According to Windhorst, it may be decision time for the Suns very shortly. Amare’s agent believes that tonight’s game in Dallas will be Stoudemire’s last with the team. Generally, it’s rare for a trade that seems imminent for this long to actually happen. Phoenix is waiting on an 11th-hour savior to come in and offer them some cap relief plus talent somewhat on Stoudemire’s level. As of yet, they haven’t gotten that. And time is running out.

The Suns are the ones controlling the trade deadline right now. When they say no, it looks like the Cavs move on Jamison. The Suns could put the Cavs in a bind by waiting right up until the deadline to say no, but this is where Steve Kerr’s friendship with Danny Ferry could come into play. Less than 24 hours until the deadline, folks. Get ready.

I’m going to be on the radio in Hawaii at 3:15 EST

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

(Sometimes, in the middle of the trade deadline, it’s good to look at pictures of adorable dogs. This picture via Deadspin.)

Just a programming heads-up: I’ll be on Josh Pacheco’s afternoon sports talk show on KLHO/KKON, two ESPN affiliates in Hawaii. I’ll be talking trade rumors, and probably underslept and semi-insane. I recommend tuning in. The time will be 3:15 EST, and here’s the website if you’re not currently in Hawaii. Stop by, it should be fun.

Today’s Stoudemire update

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

-First off: OVERWHELMING response from people interested in helping out with the links. I love the enthusiasm. I’ll get back to all of you guys, but maybe not until after the deadline, because I am insanely busy right now.

-Here’s the latest on trades:

Right now, the picture I’m getting is that the Cavs have the Amar’e offer on the table, the Suns want a better one from another team, and the Cavs are waiting on the Suns to crack. They’re fairly confident, as they’re the only team that can get Phoenix under the luxury tax.

There were reports that the Cavs were interested in dealing Shaq for Jamison and Mike Miller. There were later reports that the initial reports were crap.

Apparently, the Cavs do have some interest in Corey Maggette, although Windhorst says he’s “down the list.

Wojnarowski says that the most recent Jamison rumor has the Cavs sending Jamario Moon, Z’s contract, and a #1 pick for Jamison and Mike James. It’s unclear if the Cavs would prefer an Amar’e deal or a deal for Jamison.

Alright, that’s all I have for now. Life may return to normal in a couple of days, but right now everything’s changing by the minute.

As the Amare turns and other thoughts

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

First off: I am officially overworked, and an afternoon post is going to be an issue. It’s time to open things up a bit. Links To The Present is what I want to keep; if you have a big-league Google Reader, some free time during the middle of the day, and don’t mind doing the dirty work, I’d like to get to know you. The email is johnkrolik@gmail.com. Experience a plus, whether it’s writing, commenting, or regular posts on a message board.

Your Amar’e updates for the day:

-Windhorst dispels some rumors in his post. First off, the Cavs have not confirmed that they are willing to move Ilgauskas and Hickson for Murphy if they can’t get an Amar’e deal done. Also, they haven’t made an offer for Jamison, and are waiting to see how things turn out with Amar’e. Also, Amar’e is more than open to the idea of playing in Cleveland, and tweeted that he thinks he plays better with Shaq.

-Terry Pluto wonders if Stoudemire is worth the risk.

-Bill Livingston says that Stoudemire is indeed worth the risk.

-Your tweet of the day comes from Nate Jones: “Report: clippers have traded clipper Darrell for Benny the Bull. Dunleavy was impressed by Benny’s toughness in front of Jay-z this sat.” I would be devastated if the Clippers ever let go of Clipper Darrell.

-Windhorst also reports that LeBron is eager for a “big role” in the upcoming labor talks. Given that one of the biggest bummers of a lockout would be canceling out one of LeBron’s prime years, I hope he’s doing everything he can to prevent a lockout.

-J.A. Adande shows some numbers supporting Stoudemire’s claim that he plays better with Shaq.

Alright, that’s all for tonight. Who else can’t wait for this trade deadline to pass?