Archive for August, 2010

Notes and Errata: August 31st, 2010

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Some updates from Windhorst, who’s currently in Bangkok:

-Likely starting lineup for next season: The starters will be Sessions/Mo/Jawad/Hickson Varejao (I suppose Jamison comes off the bench)

-Expect the vets on the block in February if the team is below .500

-Windhorst thinks there’s a 60% chance Jamison gets moved before the deadline.

Random notes:

-Mo and LeBron met at the airport on Monday. Apparently things proceeded amicably.

-Forced MMA metaphor alert: the B.J. Penn saga and the LeBron era have some things in common. Nobody was ever more talented, both of them were supposed to take over their sports on an unspecified date, both turned off fans with their behavior, both had some explainable near-misses at greatness before their ultimate falls (Edgar dominating Penn at LW on Saturday, LBJ falling short against the Celtics when he was supposed to be in his prime/a complete player.)

-Say what you will about LeBron, but Kat Stacks isn’t filing a police report against him. No way LeBron could have gotten away with the way Carmelo has acted this off-season.

I’ll leave you with this: Kevin Arnovitz’s interview with Kevin Martin is an absolute must-read.

How it all went wrong: Jiri Welsch

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

failure

Dear lord, the trade that sent the Cavs’ 2007 1st-round pick to the Celtics in exchange for Jiri Welsch was awful. Horrifying, inexcusable, inexplicable, and awful.

The Theory:

On February 23rd, 2005, the Cavs were doing pretty well. They were 31-21, appeared to be well on their way to the playoffs, and LeBron James had improved so dramatically since his rookie of the year campaign that Sports Illustrated’s cover declared him “The best 20-year old ever.”

On February 24th, 2005, Jim Paxson traded the Cavaliers’ 1st-round pick for Jiri Welsch. At the time, Welsch was averaging 7.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game on 42.8%/32.3%/77.3% shooting in 20.5 minutes per game for the Celtics. In other words, he was a replacement-level basketball player in every possible sense. To be fair to Paxson, Welsch shot 38% from deep during the 03-04 season, and was a white non-American player, so in theory he could’ve been a good shooter.

That’s who Paxson traded, in effect, two first-round picks for. That’s right, two. To ensure the trade went through, Paxson removed the lottery protection on the Cavs’ 2005 draft pick, meaning that the Cavs wouldn’t get to keep their pick if they missed the playoffs.

There are two possible explanations for this move:

-Jim Paxson was absolutely sure the Cavaliers would make the 2005 playoffs.

-Jim Paxson didn’t think he’d still be the team’s general manager at the time of the 2007 draft.

Paxson was right about one of those things; he was fired in April of 2005. That’s the issue with running a sports team — when everything is win-now and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, coaches and executives will almost always take long-term risks for short-term benefits. I suppose it’s better than the alternative (giving executives a license to make as many bad moves as possible), but there will be some issues. Paxson knew he wasn’t making the best long-term move, and he didn’t care. If the Cavs made the playoffs and did well, everyone would be happy and things would work themselves out when the 2007 draft came around. If not, he’d be working for a different team anyways.

The Reality:

Stunning, total, and almost comical failure. After the Welsch trade was made, the Cavs immediately went on a six-game losing streak. Even though the Cavs didn’t trade any players for Welsch, the basketball gods immediately made the Cavaliers inept to punish Paxson for being so foolish. The Cavaliers went 11-19 after the Welsch trade, finished the season 42-40, and missed the playoffs because the Nets held the tiebreaker for the 8th and final playoff spot.

For his part, Jiri Welsch was absolutely terrible, averaging 2.9 points on 23.5% shooting during his time with the Cavs.

The Cavs would have had the #13 overall pick, but because Paxson removed the pick’s lottery protection, the pick went to the Bobcats. Had the Cavs held onto the pick, they would likely have chosen Sean May, Rashad McCants, Antoine Wright, Joey Graham, Gerald Green, or Hakim Warrick.

As The Wine and Gold rush pointed out, the Celtics ended up trading the 2007 pick they got from the Cavs to the Suns for the 21st overall pick in the 2006 draft, which they used to take Rajon Rondo. (The Suns ended up using the 2007 pick on Rudy Fernandez.)

Since taking LeBron with the 1st overall pick in 2003, the Cavs have used their first-round picks on Luke Jackson, Jiri Welsch, Shannon Brown, J.J. Hickson, and Christian Eyenga. Six drafts, five players, one Cavaliers rotation player. I’m not saying that the Cavs would have drafted a Granger or a Rondo if they’d kept those picks, but they at least would’ve had a chance.

The draft is an inexact science — for every Scottie Pippen, there’s a Mike Dunleavy. For every Pau Gasol, there’s a Darko. For every Josh Smith, there’s a Ndudi Ebi. For every Rajon Rondo, there are three Acie Laws. For every Manu Ginobili, there are hundreds of Sergei Monias. The draft is the best way to add real talent to a team, but it’s also the riskiest. It’s hard to blame any team’s front office for not finding a Pippen-like home run pick because of how unpredictable the draft is; no matter who you are, there’s a ton of luck involved in getting the draft right. Failing to get lucky is one thing. Giving away two of the Cavaliers’ best chances to get lucky in exchange for 16 games of Jiri Welsch is quite another. Just unfathomable how disastrous this move was for the Cavaliers.

Links To The Present: August 29, 2010

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

5. Joe Tait recently had a long meeting with Scott. The broadcaster said: “I really liked him. The minute he referred to the stuff at the arena away from the game as ‘all that crap,’ I yelled, ‘You are my man!’ He has a sense of humor, but you can see that he’s all business. He’s what the team needs at this point.” [Terry Pluto]

“”That’s one of the things I’ve been doing all summer — getting my body in good shape, knowing that we’re going to be an up and down team,” Gibson said. “I think this summer I did a lot more cardio. Normally I don’t do cardio because I’m already frail as it is. I try to stay away from a whole lot of running because I lose a lot of weight.” [Boobie Gibson Calls Himself Frail...]

Sam Amico is optimistic about the Cavs.  Me too.

About 3/4 of these highlights are “Ramon sessions directing Traffic” – that being said, I like Sessions, and think he will run an efficient offense.

News Roundup: August 26th, 2010

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

wtf photos videos - Building A Deathstar

-Danny Ferry will head back to San Antonio and work for the Spurs. Good to see him land on his feet and get to work for a franchise with such an impeccable reputation.

-Cavs are looking at Juan Dixon. Try to contain your excitement.

-GM Chris Grant gets a five-year extension. Front office stability!

-Via Windhorst, that Chinese investment group that reportedly wanted to buy a stake in the Cavs apparently didn’t actually have the ability to do so. Actually being able to buy a stake in the team, it turns out, an important part of the team-owning process.

How it all went wrong: Luke Jackson

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

sinbad-always-sunny

Welcome to “how it all went wrong,” a breezy romp through the ways the Cavaliers managed not to build a solid “core” around LeBron James during his time in Cleveland. This is an idea I came up with during the free agency process, but never really got around to it. Since I did, LeBron signed with Miami, who built their team this off-season in an audacious, unprecedented, and possibly pre-planned turn of events. Because of that, I realize that some people might say the Cavs’ failure to build a core around LeBron ultimately turned out to be a moot point, but I still think there’s value in taking a look how the Cavs were more or less forced to build with LeBron and duct tape during Cleveland’s competitive years.

One other thing: this is not a “this was all the front office’s fault” thing. Because LeBron made the Cavaliers so good so fast, they only had a few chances to make the move or draft pick that would have given him a true running mate or set of running mates. Due to a series of circumstances both within and beyond management’s control, the moves they made didn’t work out. Without further ado, the tale of Luke Jackson, the Cavs’ only lottery pick in the LeBron era.

The Theory:

Things were looking good for the Cavs after the 03-04 season. LeBron won rookie of the year and was well on his way to becoming a superstar, the Cavs finished the year strong after dropping Ricky Davis and Darius Miles, Carlos Boozer had shown promise as a potential running mate before his contract situation got more and more dire, and basketball was cool in Cleveland. All good things, and the Cavs had their sights set on building on the momentum they’d gained and making a playoff run.

With the #10 overall pick, Luke Jackson was the fairly obvious choice. Thanks to LeBron, high school/young player mania was in full effect, and the draft was full of risky picks: 8 of the first 20 picks were either in high school or too young to have attended a year of American college.
Furthermore, the Cavs knew who their star was, and didn’t see the need to take a risky player: they knew they were going to compete for a playoff spot next season and run the offense through James, so they wanted a player who would be able to contribute right away and would be a good fit next to LeBron. Again, Luke Jackson was the only thing approaching a “safe” pick at the #10 spot. Here were the players taken after Jackson:

#11: Andris Biedrins, a horrifyingly raw center (the Cavs still had Z) who was actually younger than any of the high schoolers in the draft

12: Robert Swift, a high school center and that year’s recipient of the Sonics’ scholarship fund for raw centers who didn’t know how to play basketball

13: Sebastian Telfair, who was considered a huge reach at 13 and most people were sure would be a bust (and who the Cavs would later GIVE AWAY. RIGHT AS THEY WERE BUILDING A RUNNING TEAM. A RUNNING TEAM FOR BASSY. I can’t talk about Bassy without ranting about my love for a short point guard who can’t shoot or finish inside. I apologize.)

14: Kris Humphries, who is Kris Humphries

15: Al Jefferson, high school big man

16: Kirk Snyder, who went to college and is now serving a three-year prison sentence. Currently working with Maurice Clarett on a book about how age limits keep players from making bad life decisions.

17. Josh Smith, high school player then considered a shooting guard, albeit one who couldn’t shoot or dribble with his right hand. Bilas predicted that he would be the bust of the draft.

18. J.R. Smith, high schooler, three-point gunner, neck-tattoo enthusiast

19. Dorell Wright, high-schooler

20. Jameer Nelson. I’m telling you, this was an ass-backwards draft. How ass-backwards?

21. Pavel Podkolzine “Pavel Podkolzine went one pick behind Jameer Nelson” ass-backwards.

Then Russian Teammates Viktor Khryapa and Sergei Monia were taken before Delonte West, Tony Allen, Kevin Martin, Sasha Vujacic, Beno Udrih, David Harrison, and Anderson Varejao were taken with consecutive selections. Making a bad pick in the 2005 draft was like making poor health choices in Mad Men times. I mean, look at the players taken before Jackson:

#1: Dwight Howard: Okay, he would’ve been nice.

#2: Emeka Okafor: I mean, kinda meh. Good player, but not a franchise savior. How much better would he have been at his contract number than Varejao at his, considering Varejao and LeBron’s chemistry?

#3: Ben Gordon: Would’ve been a nice pickup/player. No Scottie Pippen, to say the least.

#4: Shaun Livingston: (Shakes fist at absent God)

#5: Devin Harris: Would’ve been nice, but he was raw and seemed like a reach. Jury’s still out on whether he’s a star — very little talk about the power of a LeBron/Harris pair this summer.

#6: Josh Childress: Played LeBron’s position. Went to Greece.

#7: Luol Deng: Played LeBron’s position. LeBron was unexcited by the possibility of Deng being the fourth-best player on LeBron’s new team.

#8: Rafael Araujo: Probably a very nice man.

#9: Andre Iguodala: More on that later.

Furthermore, Luke Jackson really should have worked on paper. The dude averaged 21.2/7.2/4.5 in his last year at Oregon, on 48.8%/44%/86.2% shooting, had good size for his position, and wasn’t supposed to need athleticism because the Cavs had LeBron to create most of the plays anyways.

My basic “the team really screwed this pick up” rules are as follows: the correct choice has to be within five picks of the team’s actual choice, and not have been considered a huge risk or bad fit at the time — it has to be plausible that the team actually would have made the pick. No “Oh, the Grizzlies and Cavs passed on Amar’e for Drew Gooden and Dajuan Wagner.” Other than Jameer, there’s no player who wasn’t a huge unknown behind the Jackson pick, and Jameer went at 20. Here’s the scary part: if the Cavs had the #9 pick and a choice between a raw-as-hell, similar to LeBron, averaged 13 points in college Andre Iguodala, which player would have seemed like the more logical choice? That one would have looked terrible in hindsight, but even then the Jackson pick would be justifiable.

The Reality:

Unfortunately, Luke Jackson struggled with not being injured and not sucking throughout his NBA career. He played a total of 46 games for Cleveland, never averaging more than 8.9 minutes per game. After Cleveland got rid of him, he bounced from the Clippers to the Raptors to D-League and international ball. I saw him in Summer League this season, and he didn’t look like he belonged there. I don’t know if it was the injuries, but Luke Jackson never resembled an NBA role player.

The Cost:

Thanks to the Jiri Welsch debacle and the Cavs’ subsequent success, Jackson was the Cavs’ only lottery pick. No Durant/Westbrook/Harden for the Cavs, thank you. Just LeBron and Luke Jackson for Cleveland. Good hindsight is always fun, but for to fix this one you might have needed a DeLorian and a case of St. Joe’s DVDs. Sigh. Just because something was nobody’s fault doesn’t make it suck less in the end.

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Notes and Errata: August 24th, 2010

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Just a few things tonight — I was in transit today, and now I’m back at school for my last semester and settling in a bit.

First off, here’s a fairly substantial piece I did for NBC on what LeBron’s game might look like next season in Miami.

Not many people know this about me, but I’ve actually been published in China. Here’s the story: SLAM China needed someone to grab quotes about LeBron from Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, and I was in LA and available, so I got the gig. They gave me two questions to ask, one of which was the following: “Which of these four terms would you say best describes LeBron James to you: A Man, The Man, My Man, or a Humble Human Being?”

Seemed a little silly at the time, but isn’t that the question just about everyone has been wrestling with w/r/t LeBron this off-season? Just kinda struck me as interesting. (I do suspect that there aren’t a lot of people who would choose the “Humble Human Being” option at this point in time.)

So J.R. Smith is available, apparently. Once upon a time, I wanted to see him on the Cavs, but I think his bad habits are embedded way too deep. Jacking threes whenever you feel like it when you’re as talented as JR isn’t the best way to go about things, but he’s convinced that that’s “his game,” and he’s been successful enough to get away with it, I suppose.

-Delonte with a 10-game suspension to start the season, assuming he gets picked up. Amazing how quick his stock fell, and I really hope he lands on his feet somewhere. I still think he’s worth taking a chance on, assuming the off-court stuff wasn’t too terrifying.

-Oh, let’s please get at least one documentary film crew to capture the Kwame/MJ reunion. Open thread question: Nobody really cared about reports that MJ repeatedly and viciously blasted Kwame with a certain anti-gay slur back in the early part of the milenium.

I feel like LeBron or Kobe would get in a LOT more trouble if reports of that nature surfaced about them now. Is it just that MJ will always be made of Teflon in the eyes of the public? Is it that our sensitivity to homophobic slurs has gone up in the last decade or so? Is it the integration of twitter/TMZ/Gawker-type stuff into the sports world? Or do people just not have sympathy for draft busts? Or am I just wrong here, and people/media types still think that homophobia in the sports world is just “boys being boys?”

That’s all I have for tonight. Until tomorrow, everyone.

Open Thread and goodness: August 20th, 2010

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Oh, man. Not a lot to talk about tonight, eh? Sorry again about the lack of in-depth stuff here recently: again, I’ve only got a few days of summer vacation left before I likely never have one again, and that’s been taking priority recently.

-Re: Brett Favre and LeBron: I feel like there’s something to be said about sports fans’ obsession with narrative. The thing about sports is that they are not a story: they’re what happens when the best athletes in the world compete with a common goal in mind. The LeBron/Favre backlash does seem to speak for the sports-as-a-narrative thing, which is interesting in and of itself.

Part of me feels like all of this is sports fans playing the role of Sammi Sweetheart talking about how everything isn’t a fairy tale while Ronnie drunk (and possibly high on coke) is making out with multiple strippers and climbing up onto the stage. Some things aren’t supposed to be fairy tales. Embrace the strategy and the game, embrace the ridiculousness, and realize that it wasn’t all that long ago that Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant were the most reviled basketball players on the planet. The game is the game, man.

Honestly, that’s all I really have for tonight. Until later, guys.

Here are the new Cavs uniforms

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

If the above picture isn’t working for you, head over to the team’s official site for a look. I like ‘em — kind of an old-school flair to them, but clean and modern-looking as well. Hopefully this means the Cavs won’t be wearing 2,000 different jerseys over the course of next season.

The LeBron James GQ Profile

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Is ¬†here, in all its glory. Let me know what you think of it. Also, help me out with this question: is LeBron news still worth blogging about here? I don’t want to make “Cleveland hates LeBron” a through-line of this blog, but the LeBron situation and its fallout has, admittedly, been more interesting than the stuff the Cavs have been doing this off-season. I don’t mean to overshadow the franchise, I’m just telling you what’s going on. Let me know what I should or shouldn’t be doing w/r/t LeBron in the comments.

Notes and Errata: August 17th, 2010

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Very, very, quick stuff tonight:

-Cavaliers set to unveil uniforms tomorrow/today. Apparently the block lettering will be new. So they’ve got going for them, anyways.

-Looks like the Carmelo and CP3 situations that could get quite ugly quite soon. After what Bron/Wade/Bosh pulled off, and the success of Boston’s Big Three, it does make some sense for superstars to feel entitled to a great team. ‘Melo to the Knicks almost makes too much sense to work, if that makes any sense. We’ll see how all this shakes out — I don’t think it was a coincidence all the free agency stuff this year happened during the last year of the current CBA.

-Looks like the Cavs have officially signed Samardo Samuels. Good stuff. That’s all for tonight. Until tomorrow.