Archive for July, 2010

Recap: Heat 73, Cavs 69 (Or, The time everyone stopped caring)

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

We’re nearing the end of Vegas Summer League — I’m a bit burned out, and the Cavs looked like they were as well. Here are some quick notes:

Eyenga had one of his worst box scores of summer league, but he showed some of his best flashes. There was one sequence where Pooh Jeter tilted the floor on the pick-and-roll, found Eyenga on the weak side with a skip pass, and Eyenga slashed to the rim to get an easy layup against a scrambling defense. Basically, it was the exact kind of play Cavs point guards and LeBron James should have been making for the last seven years. Seeing Pooh Jeter and Christian Eyenga execute it was a strange experience.

Eyenga also showed some acumen in the post, draining a smooth lefty hook and showing good mechanics on a righty hook that came up short. Again, the type of stuff I always wanted to see from LeBron. Of course, Eyenga didn’t have a strong game, and he’s still a year away. Strange stuff to see in person. I should probably sleep.

Hickson didn’t give it his 100%, and that’s alright. He’s put in a good summer league, the team is going to need him next year, and he’s reached the point where he can put in a bad summer league performance.

Danny Green found his game today. He was all over the floor, he made shots, he did all the little things. Great game for him to build on going into the end of VSL and Summer League.

Bit of a step back for Pooh Jeter, but I’m still a fan. Hope to see him at training camp.

That’s about all I have for right now. Tomorrow’s my last day down in Vegas — it’s been crazy and fun. Until tomorrow, campers.

Taking some time with Danny Green and J.J. Hickson

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

I had a chance to spend some time with Danny Green and J.J. Hickson the other day, and had a very good time talking to both of them. I think they’ll both see their roles on the team expanded this season, and they both gave me great insight into the changes Byron Scott has been implementing. Without further ado:
Krolik: How’s your summer league going so far, and what are you looking to do in your third game here tonight?

Green: “Pretty decent so far. You know, I’m trying to get better each day. Each game. Started out okay, a little shaky, second game did a little better job controlling the ball but could still improve. Today, you know, I’m going to keep getting better. Try to improve. Get some more wins.”

Krolik: One of the biggest stories of summer league here has been how the team is trying to implement Byron Scott’s new system. How would you describe that transition?

Green: “I like it. It’s more of a run-and-gun system. He has us running, he has us in pretty good shape, we do a lot of flex offense so it’s different from Mike Brown’s system. You know, I’m all for the running and gunning. You know, Mike Brown’s more of an iso situation, this is more of a team type of thing. So it’s a little different.”

Krolik: Do you think the team will keep any of the things it did last year? The team would do things like use a lot of back-screening, particularly for Mo — do you think the team will continue to do the things it did last season?

Green: “It definitely could. It can happen. I’m sure he hasn’t put everything in that he has. He’s put some things in — we do a lot of back-screens, backdoors, things like that. Use a lot of screens, get a lot of people open — movement. I think it’ll make us more effective.

Krolik: How long do you think it will take this team to transition — be as comfortable in this system as they were in the old one?

Green: “It might take a little while. But we have a lot of good players. Guys that are smart, and do homework, and can adjust to a lot of things. We should be good either way. It might take a little while, a month, a couple weeks, I think we’ll adjust and just play basketball, really. I mean, that’s all it is. Basketball’s still basketball.”

Krolik: 61-win team, you were more of a situational player. Can you tell us what you learned from that experience of being on the bench?

Green: “I learned a lot last year. Actually, I was a sponge. Playing with those guys in practice every day — I learned a lot from them. Watching every game — you know, I had front-row seats. You know, the best way to learn is to watch. So you know, I was watching every game, watching every practice. Taking a look at specific things from each player and trying to add it to my game.

Krolik: Last year — two years ago, when you weren’t on the team yet, the team had the reputation for being one of the loosest teams in basketball. One of the loosest locker rooms. Last year, there were a lot of things like that as well, with LeBron and Shaq…

Green: “It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun. It was real loose, it might be a little different this year, Coach Scott is old-school, we had a lot of fun and I’m sure we’re going to continue to have a lot of fun, because this is a life that’s not guaranteed. We’re very thankful for it, you know what I’m saying? We’re playing basketball, to do as our job. Not many people are capable, are able to do what we do. You know, we know that and we try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

Krolik: On the court, we all know things will be different without LeBron James. What will the locker room be like without him?

Green: “I’m sure it won’t be as funny. We’ll see. We still have a lot of characters on this team. It’ll definitely be more serious, he liked to clown around a lot, but I’m pretty sure we’ll still be the same team with guys being themselves and we still have a lot of characters.”

Krolik: There was actually an article that came out earlier today that said LeBron almost wasn’t put on the 2008 Olympic team because of concerns about his attitude. Did you ever have a problem with his attitude?

Green: “Aw, no! I never had a problem with his attitude. I thought he was a great guy — very down-to-earth, humble, and everything. You know, I think he could adjust in any system to any coach, and I don’t know why — honestly, I don’t know why some people…I don’t know. I don’t know what happened with the situation.”

Krolik: How well did you know guys like Maverick Carter and Randy Mims?

Green: “Pretty well. You know, they were pretty good friends. Spoke to ‘em all the time. They were cool just like anybody else was.”

Krolik: How much of a presence were they on the team? Were they in the locker room?

Green: “Randy was a lot more of a presence than Mav and Rich was. Randy traveled with us on the road trips, did a lot of stuff with the team.”

Krolik: Can you describe what his personality was like?

Green: “Great guys. Just like everybody else on the team, just going out, having fun, living life.”

J.J. Hickson:

Krolik: How’s your time been in Vegas so far? You had 34 points in your last game — how are you looking to build on that?

Hickson: “It’s all good, you know. It’s even better to get the win. My first year in summer league, we went 0-5, so it feels good to get the win. I’m just trying to come out here, work on my game.”

Krolik: What is some of that stuff you’ve been working on? I’ve noticed a lot more jump shooting.

Hickson: “A ton of shooting. I already know I can jump and finish, so I’m working on everything else. Putting the ball on the floor once or twice — I’m not saying I can bring it up the floor yet, but you know, it’s always good to have in store. I’m just coming out here, and working on a lot of the stuff I’ve been working out during the summer.”

Krolik: It looks like the team has really tried to run. Can you talk about the full-court game, and how you play in it?

Hickson: “I think that fits my game more, when we get out and run. That fits my game more, when we gotta run. I think I’ve proven I can run the floor as a big man and defend and rebound. You know, we push the ball, it fits to my game more.”

Krolik :You had a crazy year last year. You started out as a rotation player, became a starter, then you went back to being a rotation player, then you became more of a situational player in the playoffs. Can you talk about what you learned while switching between all those roles?

Hickson: “You know, we all professionals, so I — I’m not gonna sit here and lie, I wasn’t too happy about it. At the same time, I respect the coach’s decision, you know, I was a pro about the situation with the coaches and my teammates, and when it was time to play, I played.”

Krolik: Being a starter — what kind of a learning experience was that?

Hickson: “Most of the stuff I learned, I can’t even explain. As far as the mental aspect goes, I think confidence is the cure for anything. For any situation. So I think, you know, when you start or not start, I think it kind of messed my confidence a little bit. As we stand in the Summer League, I think my confidence is at an all-time high right now.”

Krolik: There’s been a lot of talk about Byron Scott’s system. Can you talk about the old system a little bit? How did it work, and what was your role in it?

Hickson: “You know, we had the big fella in the middle. That’s not all the reason about why, you know, we didn’t run as much, but we kinda had to wait on him. It’s expected. You know, that’s not his game. His game is not to get up and down the court, so you know. With B. Scott right now, he wants to push the ball, he’s been running us a lot, so we got a lot of looks once we go to training camp.”

Krolik: Other than pace of play, what are the differences between the two offenses and the sets?

Hickson: “I think we do try to press the offense. When it does get in the half-court, which is very rare, for the most part all we’re looking to do is push the ball and run and have some fun.

Krolik: You’re one of the younger guys on the team at 21 years old, but you’re one of the most expereinced guys on this summer-league team. Do you try and be a leader to the rest of the summer-league team?

Hickson: “Of course. Not only on the summer-league team, but the Cavaliers overall. I know I’m young, but I’m up to the task of being a young leader. I’m working on it right now with talking to guys like Christian and Danny — he’s older than me, but I have been in the league longer.”

Krolik: Who do you see the locker-room leaders of the team being next season?

Hickson: “I’m not looking for anyone to give it to me, but I’d be willing to take on that role of being a leader. I still gotta listen to my older vets, guys like Mo and stuff like that.”

Krolik: Talk about what you’ve learned from Antawn since he came over. You know, he’s such a great scorer — have you been learning things by playing with him?

Hickson: “Of course. You know, our games are so different, it’s like night and day. He’s more pick-and-pop, and I’m more pick-and-roll. But as you can see, I’m doing little things to my game right now, with my shooting and stuff. You know, it’s working for me.”

Krolik: Do you see yourself playing more center this year?

Hickson: “I mean, if that’s what coach asks me, of course. But I still see myself as more of a power forward.”

Krolik: What are you trying to do to get better as a defender and a rebounder?

Hickson: “You know, defending and rebounding is all about your heart. Your effort. I don’t think that’s something you can work at, you’ve just gotta have it.”

Krolik: What are the changes to the defense? Usually if you want to get out and run, it means playing defense a different way.

Hickson: “I think our schemes will be a bit different, but I think both coaches, Mike Brown and Byron Scott, they’re both ministers of defense. So I mean the schemes will change, but I don’t think our effort will change.”

Krolik: What should we expect to see from the Cleveland Cavaliers and J.J. Hickson next season?

Hickson: “To go out, get wins, have fun. Get up and down the floor, and win some games.”

Recap: Cavs 81, Bulls 80 (Or, of life, love, and Pooh Jeter)

Friday, July 16th, 2010

-Pooh Jeter is the story of this one. The game-winning three was just the cherry on top for Jeter tonight; he continues to look like he belongs. He loves to push the ball, he can shoot it, he’s always vocal, and he has such an unmistakable faith in himself. I’ve got a Daily Dime piece coming on Pooh, so I’ll keep things brief here. Just know that I’m officially rooting for Pooh Jeter to get a roster spot.

-Hickson kind of drifted in and out of this one. He’s so talented that he ended up with 21 points anyways, but his focus wasn’t quite there. He was quiet early, he made bad turnovers, he was weak on the boards, and Samardo Samuels went for 19 and 9 on him. He’s got a guaranteed roster spot, and Summer League can be a grind, so it’s not like I don’t understand what happened.

-Same stuff, different day for Eyenga: he’ll take your breath away, but he is just way too raw to have any sort of consistency. He can make the three, as long as he can set his feet and he has time to release the ball. Jamario Moon is a very good comparable for Eyenga.

-Danny Green showed again that Summer League isn’t the best place for him to showcase his talents. I’m giving him a pass until he can play with guys that can let him be a role player.

-Rashad McCants: officially not at Summer League. His agent told me that he’s been with his sick mother and that he’ll be ready to play on Sunday, but Byron Scott doesn’t plan to let him play if he does show up on Sunday.

Alright, that’s all for this one, unfortunately. More later, including stuff from my interviews with Green and Hickson earlier today.

Yahoo! Sports on how James left Cleveland

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has just put up a massive piece on why LeBron ended up signing with the Heat. It’s been extensively researched, and there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the piece. The article states that LeBron’s attitude and entourage nearly kept him off of the 2008 Olympic team, that he pushed for Mike Brown to get fired after both the Orlando and Boston series, and much, much more.

No mention of LeBron trying to recruit Chris Bosh to Cleveland, which is really the event that makes all the difference — if LeBron really did try to get Bosh to Cleveland, it was a choice. If not, it was something approaching a conspiracy. It’s not much more complicated than that.

Delonte West pleads guilty to weapons charges

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Here’s the report, courtesy of the AP:

In Prince George’s County Circuit Court, Judge Graydon McKee sentenced West to eight months of electronic monitoring, two years of unsupervised probation, 40 hours of community service and psychological counseling.
Accompanied by his mother, girlfriend and uncle in court, West told Judge McKee he was ashamed.
He said he has been “put on a pedestal” because he can “dribble a basketball,” and worries about letting down youth who look up to athletes.
Authorities said the basketball player was carrying two loaded handguns, a loaded shotgun and an 8½-inch Bowie knife while speeding on a three-wheel motorcycle on the Capital Beltway last September. Police said West, who lives in Brandywine, Md., was pulled over after cutting off an officer.
West’s attorney said the player had the weapons because he was transporting them from one home to another that he owns in the county, after his mother ordered him to remove them from one property.

Glad that Delonte didn’t end up in jail. He’ll almost certainly be waived, and a possible suspension could make it harder for him to get a contract from another team. Delonte can really play, but I worry if the fallout from this will keep him from getting back to the level he was at during the 08-09 season. I hope it doesn’t, because he’s everything you want a basketball player to be when his head is in the right place and he has a franchise who supports him.

Recap: Cavs 93, Suns 82 (Or, Hicksomania!)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

-Hickson is obviously the story in this one. He’s really trying to expand his game, and he was throwing a lot of stuff against the wall against the Suns. Sometimes it worked for him, and sometimes it didn’t — he had a nice step-back jumper from the free throw line, but also had his fair share of travels in the post and forced shots out of face-up situations.

Where Hickson really shone was in the open court — this Summer League is pushing EVERYTHING, and nobody has an answer for Hickson’s athleticism in full-court situations. Even when the straight-up break didn’t work, the break did a good job of scrambling Phoenix and giving Hickson some lanes to go through. On defense, I didn’t notice him either way, which represents major progress from the D-League game.

-Eyenga is still raw, but he’ll take your breath away. He jumped clean across Matt Janning for an offensive rebound early, and it was impressive. He just glides up there. His fast-break tomahawk was also very impressive. He looks pretty lost off the dribble, although he did have one nice one-dribble drive to the hoop late that everyone on the staff wants to see more of from him. I still think he’s a year away, but there’s real talent there.

-Green played more in control, but he’s being forced to try and do way too much on his own right now. He’s not a #1 option, no matter how much stuff gets run for him. He can really play, but Summer League isn’t a good opportunity for him to show his strengths.

-Pooh Jeter wants a chance somewhere. He’s confident, and he has some skills. Not sure if he has NBA talent, but he might be forcing the Cavs to give him a look.

-After the game, I talked with Danny Green and Byron Scott. Green was excited about the up-tempo style, wants to improve his consistency, and says he’s not letting the roster moves and rumors distract him — I actually had to tell him that Z signed with Miami.

When I asked him about what he’s trying to do to get the team out on the break, he says that he’s focusing on his defense, and that he’s looking to push the ball whenever he gets it in his hands.

When I asked Byron Scott why New Orleans didn’t play at a fast pace when he played there, he said they didn’t have enough athletic wings to make it work. Chris Paul was pushing the ball, but there was nobody there to run with him except for Tyson Chandler. With Cleveland, Scott thinks that wing players like Jamario Moon, Danny Green, and Eyenga will help the Cavs run, and that JJ Hickson will be a huge asset in the up-tempo game.

When I asked him if Eyenga would be on the roster or not, Scott called him a “work in progress,” but said he loved the way Eyenga had progressed. He wants Eyenga on the weak-side a little more, which would be a great way to utilize Eyenga’s athleticism.

Alright campers, it’s been a long day. I’m starting to like the young, run-first, athletic Cavs that nobody expects to do anything. Maybe it’s just being in Vegas — anything’s possible here, right? More tomorrow, everyone.

Links To The Present: July 14, 2010

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

“It was not a surprise to the Cavs, who had attempted to work a sign-and-trade deal with the Rockets prior to having Lowry sign the offer sheet. The Rockets refused, confident they’d match the offer, which they did.” [Brian Windhorst on the Cavs Kyle Lowry Denial]

Byron Scott isn’t wasting any time putting his stamp on the Cavaliers, even if it’s just the summer version.” [Brian Windhorst on Byron Scott’s Style]

“Stern said the players were “totally within their rights” to perpetrate this ambush on a nearly $4 billion industry, and he would know. Stern, under the very collective bargaining agreement he wants to set aflame like Clevelanders are doing to LeBron jerseys, is the sole and final arbiter of all matters tampering.” [Ken Berger Not a Fan of the NBA’s Incestuous Relationships]

What are the Cavs going to do with Jamison?  WFNY explores.

“But the true low point for the team was hearing and then reading about how James was actively recruiting free agents for his new team: putting the full-court press on friend Mike Miller, meeting Derek Fisher at the airport and calling up to tug Mr. Cavalier Zydrunas Ilgauskas to South Beach.” [Brian Windhorst on Cavs Limited Options]

Cavs interested in sign-and-trade for Marvin Williams?

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

The report, courtesy of David Aldridge:

- The Cleveland Cavaliers’ pursuit of Hawks swingman Marvin Williams centers at the moment on trying to convince the Hawks to do a sign-and-trade deal that would send Shaquille O’Neal to Atlanta, according to a league source.
The Hawks do have an interest in the 38-year-old O’Neal, who is not likely to return to Cleveland next season. But Atlanta has budget limitations after agreeing to give guard Joe Johnson a $124 million max contract, with ownership unlikely to approve a deal for O’Neal or any other backup center that goes much above the veteran minimum. The Hawks are also interested in free agent center Brad Miller and Bucks free agent center Kurt Thomas.
Cleveland got a $14.5 million trade exception by agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal for LeBron James to Miami, in addition to two future draft picks from the Heat. The Cavs could use part of the exception to absorb Williams’s $6.7 million salary for next season.

Atlanta also got a trade exception, worth about $2.9 million, when it agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that will send free agent forward Josh Childress to the Phoenix Suns for a future draft pick, and can use that exception to acquire a player making that much money. O’Neal made $20 million last year in the final year of his contract but knows he will have to take a major pay cut next season. He has expressed an interest in playing for the Spurs, though it is not known if San Antonio’s interest, if any, is reciprocal.

- The Cleveland Cavaliers’ pursuit of Hawks swingman Marvin Williams centers at the moment on trying to convince the Hawks to do a sign-and-trade deal that would send Shaquille O’Neal to Atlanta, according to a league source.The Hawks do have an interest in the 38-year-old O’Neal, who is not likely to return to Cleveland next season. But Atlanta has budget limitations after agreeing to give guard Joe Johnson a $124 million max contract, with ownership unlikely to approve a deal for O’Neal or any other backup center that goes much above the veteran minimum. The Hawks are also interested in free agent center Brad Miller and Bucks free agent center Kurt Thomas.Cleveland got a $14.5 million trade exception by agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal for LeBron James to Miami, in addition to two future draft picks from the Heat. The Cavs could use part of the exception to absorb Williams’s $6.7 million salary for next season.Atlanta also got a trade exception, worth about $2.9 million, when it agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that will send free agent forward Josh Childress to the Phoenix Suns for a future draft pick, and can use that exception to acquire a player making that much money. O’Neal made $20 million last year in the final year of his contract but knows he will have to take a major pay cut next season. He has expressed an interest in playing for the Spurs, though it is not known if San Antonio’s interest, if any, is reciprocal.

So, that’s a thing. Williams is a nice player, but the Cavs should hold off on going for guys like him until they find somebody capable of actually running the offense next season. (Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison: not that somebody.) We’ll see how the Cavs’ search for players that can run an uptempo offense goes.

Recap: Cavs 88, D-League Select 82 (Or, the time the Cavs won without LeBron)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

It’s Summer League, so these will be bullets:

-Hickson was more the same than different: flashes of greatness on offense, serious issues on defense. Here’s my Daily Dime piece on his play.

-Eyenga: raw as hell, but talented. Finished some plays when guys set him up with alley-oops or cuts to the basket, and has three-point range. Nothing else is there yet. No ball skills, questionable defensive fundamentals, and doesn’t know where to be. He’s at least a year away.

-Danny Green is a solid role player, but the Cavs asked him to do to much. If he can play the role he’s supposed to, he”ll be good.

-Pooh Jeter is one of those guys who’s perfect for VSL: he won’t make the NBA, but he’s confident enough to take over Summer League games.

-Macej Lampe — nice mid-range game for a big man. Not an NBA talent.

Honestly, that’s all I have for tonight. I love Kyle Lowry; more on him later. Wish he could have played next to LeBron. Alas.

Windhorst: Ilgauskas to sign with the Heat

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

According to Brian Windhorst, Zydrunas Ilgauskas will join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in Miami next season.

Miami gets the center they needed, although I do think they would have wanted a more athletic center who could allow them to get out on the break a bit more. Still, Ilgauskas can defend the rim, finish around the basket, doesn’t do many stupid things, and will be a great locker-room presence for them.

It’ll be tough not seeing Ilgauskas on the roster, but I respect his decision. Ilgauskas has given everything and more to the Cavalier franchise, and he deserves a shot at that elusive ring. The best player to ever wear a Cavalier uniform left on Thursday; one of the greatest Cavaliers ever left today. Best of luck to Zydrunas in all his future endeavors, and hopefully we will see him come back to the Cavaliers for one more run before his jersey gets raised to the rafters.