Archive for January, 2011

Varejao may be done for the year

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Wow. According to the AP, Varejao has a torn ankle tendon and may be done for the year. Obviously, this is completely devastating. Not only was Andy the team’s best player and the only guy playing any defense, but he was the only truly attractive trade asset the Cavs had. Keeping Andy isn’t the worst thing in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but trading him for the right package could have really helped the team rebuild in earnest.

Well, not much more to say here. The worst team in basketball just lost its best player. Lord only knows how much lower the Cavs will sink now. Never say things can’t get worse, right?

Recap: Warriors 116, Cavs 98 (Or, seeing the forest through the threes)

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Overview: In a matchup of the league’s worst three-point defense and the league’s most accurate three-point shooting team, the Warriors rained 14 threes on the Cavs over the course of a 116-98 win.  Monta Ellis led all scorers with 32 points and 10 assists,

Predictability can be painful bullets:

So, the Cavs can’t defend the three-point line. They gave up 14 threes. They can’t defend penetration. The Warriors got into the paint at will and either laid the ball in or drove and kicked. They can’t defend elite scoring wings. Monta went off for 32 and 10. Their only good interior defender is Varejao. Andy was hurt, and David Lee shot 10-16 from the field.

There’s really no point in talking about the offense after a defensive performance like that. If the Warriors get those looks, there is no way the Cavs are going to win the game. Trying to figure out an “offensive scheme” after getting manhandled is absolutely the basketball equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. This team needs to be torn to its foundations and built back up with a clear defensive scheme in mind and players who can make that scheme work. That is the only way to make a team with this little talent work, because anything can happen in a close game, and sometimes a random player or two will get hot on offense.

There is no way to win games without a superstar if teams are continuously getting whatever they want on offense. And that is what is happening here. The Cavs are functioning as a showcase for other teams. I’ve realized I can’t really evaluate players that I’m not all that familiar with, such as Julian Wright, when they play the Cavs, because the team’s defense essentially functions as the cones in a combine workout. On a team level, the Cavs play defense like the “Os” the opposing coach draws when he maps plays out on the greaseboard.

It’s kind of impossible to write about this team right now, because this is not a team with discernible ups and downs, or a series of things it needs to do in order to win games. The team literally has no identity. Its only purpose at the current moment is to showcase the talents of its opponent to whoever may be watching the game. It’s time to stop working on the Paper-Mache Winchester Mystery house the Cavs have made this team into and rebuild everything from the ground up, starting with a solid defensive foundation. Right now, this is not basketball.

Offensively, all I’ll say is this: you know the expression “you take what the other team gives you?” On Saturday, the only good looks the Cavs got were the ones the Warriors literally gave to them. In the third quarter, the Warriors pretty much either made a basket or just gave it to the Cavs with a completely unforced and embarrassing turnover, because they were up by 15-20 points and didn’t care enough. They looked like somebody playing 2K on medium difficulty while not really paying attention. Honestly, part of me wished that the Cavs had lost by 40 instead of losing by 18 because the Warriors couldn’t be bothered to take the Cavs seriously for the full 48 minutes of play.

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


Links To The Present: January 7, 2011

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Abbreviated links today, y’all. Just got back to my building to discover the power’s out, and now I’m dealing with shoddy Starbucks wi-fi… and my dairy products are shot. There will be no bagels with cream cheese at the McGowan abode today.

In addition to struggling to excel at the game of basketball, the Cavs are currently enduring a nasty rash of injuries. Boobie Gibson did not travel with the team to San Francisco, as he’s back in Cleveland rehabbing an ankle sprain he acquired against the Raptors on Wednesday night. Joey Graham is also out with a right quad strain and Anthony Parker, Anderson Verejao, and Leon Powe are all questionable for tonight’s game against the Warriors with various ailments.

J.J. Hickson’s unofficial suspension will apparently last no longer than one game, as Byron Scott says he is slated to play in tonight’s tilt. Scott claims he’s not clashing with Hickson and that the young power forward has learned his lesson.

This isn’t the main angle of Rick Noland’s article, but his piece further illuminates a growing trend: there have been a lot of quotes from Cavs players and coaches lately that they’re not communicating very effectively at the defensive end. The Cavaliers don’t have the athletes to be an elite or very good defensive team, but the least they can do is communicate, no? Perhaps it’s a product of young players being integrated into the rotation, but no matter the team’s skill level, enough hours in practice should remedy that problem. Emphasis on “should.”

On The Twitters

“Getting on this west coast really mess your sleep up. I been up since 5am.” [Mo Williams]

“Cavs are embarking on 5-game West Coast trip with the worst record in the NBA. #Cavs” [Bob Finnan]

“Monta Ellis could very well go for 40 points tonight – may be fun to watch from a basketball standpoint. Not so much from a #Cavs fan’s.” [Scott Sargent]

Broussard: Cavs almost completed three-way deal with Nuggets, Nets

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

According to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard, the Nets, Nuggets, and Cavs almost completed a three-way deal that would have sent Carmelo to New Jersey, Favors, Devin Harris, a lot of picks, and the Cavs’ 14.5 million trade exception to Denver, and Troy Murphy and two first-round picks to the Cavs. According to Broussard, the deal fell through because Carmelo wouldn’t sign an extension with the Netsand the Cavs and Nuggets both want the Warriors’ top-7 protected 2012 1st-rounder, which the Nets currently possess.

A few thoughts:

1. Props to Dan Gilbert for reportedly being willing to eat the rest of Murphy’s remaining (expiring) contract to get the team a few first-rounders. Teams with bad talent and bad coaching are bad — teams with bad ownership stay bad.

2. I’m probably the only person who likes Troy Murphy’s game less than Avery Johnson. He can shoot threes and rebound, but his offensive game is awkward, and he doesn’t score inside, defend, or pass. He’s much better on paper than he is on the court, and I don’t think he’d help the Cavs very much at all, especially if the Cavs don’t manage to move Jamison.

3. There’s no way that Nets team would be much better than the Nuggets are now, right? An underperforming Brook Lopez, no draft picks, and Carmelo? Where does that really get you? This is going to be a weird trade when it happens.

Well, that’s all for right now. Hopefully the Cavs can get some first-rounders before this deadline is up. That’s all I want.

Links To The Present: January 6, 2011

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

You may have noticed that J.J. Hickson was DNP-CD’d last night. This is due to the fact that he missed a mandatory workout on Monday. On its own, the incident isn’t a huge deal, but given Hickson’s inconsistent effort and ostensible unwillingness to accept responsibility for his shortcomings, it’s probably time to admit the guy is not nearly as committed as we would like him to be. Dude needs to get his head right or ship out.

In Mary Schmitt Boyer’s post-game wrap-up, she characterized the Cavs as a “terrible team that is getting worse.” It has been well-documented by The Blog and other outlets just how atrocious the Cavaliers’ defense has been this season, and Boyer further bemoans that no one in the locker room “seems all that upset about losing.” As the losses pile up like so much wintry precipitation, it’s easy for a defeated numbness to wash over fans, but the facts are sobering: this team has been breathtakingly awful since its decent start, and it’s going to take a ton of work to make them competitive once again.

“Whatever [Scott]’s trying to get across to his players, it isn’t working.” [Bob Finnan]

“Losing to Toronto (12-23), which had just four road victories coming in and is the worst 3-point shooting team in the league, should not be easy, but the Cavs had absolutely no trouble turning an early 15-point lead into another run-of-the-mill 15-point loss at home.” [Rick Noland]

“Every time I think we’re taking a step forward, we take two steps back, especially on the defensive end.” [Byron Scott via WFNY]

No Twitter today for lack of anything interesting. But always remember: when hiring a homeless man in an attempt to divert attention away from your horrendous basketball team, try to look into if he’s been in and out of court for the past 20 years on various misdemeanors.

Raptors 120, Cavs 105 (Or, who wants to talk about just the first quarter?)

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

I think Dan Gilbert might ask Ted Williams to borrow his sign.

First off…all of this Ted Williams business is pretty awesome.  That story totally brightened my day.  Second off…boy, do the Cavs stink.  They are a bleak, black rain cloud of a basketball team, and they are following me around.  I’m glad I was working with such a bright day, otherwise today’s game would’ve seriously dampened my mood.

During the last recap I wrote for this site, I prognosticated that the Cavs would ultimately be able to navigate their way through the season’s adversity, then just commencing.  They were 6-8 at the time, still looking rather sprightly, and I thought they could get back on track.  The Cavs have since gone 2-19.  (Being Right Pct. = .105)   So allow me to put that rather unsightly feather in my cap, and double down with some more prognostication…if Dan Gilbert’s guarantee has any chance of coming true, however slim it may still be, we needed to get this bad.  And we needed to do it this quickly.  Purgatory is the middle of the NBA (ever expanding), and we are definitely well south of purgatory.  I don’t see any way this team doesn’t feature a young, new SF next season.  And that will be the start of things again.

So that’s the future…about which a psychologist would say I’m deluding myself so as not to focus on…

Tonight’s Game Summary:

I think I can do this quickly (which, historically, is a pretty tough feat for me).

The Cavs outscored the Raptors 38-26 in the first quarter, shooting 67% from the field as compared to Toronto’s 50% (that’s defense, baby!).  Obviously, this was the highlight of the game.  The Cavs were able to get some stops, control the defensive glass, and even get out and run.  They had their only 10 fast break points in the opening 12 minutes.  The Cavs even flashed some relatively impressive glimpses of Byron Scott’s motion offense.   But enjoyable though it was, I have to admit that behind the Cavalier offensive barrage was some pretty porous defensive play by the Raptors (coincidentally, struggling with many of the same issues that have been plaguing the Cavs this season).  They were sloppy offensively, they were late getting back on defense, and they were late getting out to Jamison and Boobie Gibson on the three-point line.  A very Cavalier-like performance in those regards.

As per usual, the Cavs too were not guarding with any type of intensity.  As soon as the Raptors settled down a bit, and as soon as the Cavs stopped shooting 67% from the field, the tide turned quickly.  Cleveland, up 15 in the first quarter, was already down by 3 at halftime.  And the Raptors pulled away from there, methodically extending their lead on the heels of what would be considered an astoundingly good shooting night (at 56.8%, 50% from 3) had they not been up against such a porous defensive team. By way of points allowed, the Cavs were the 8th worst defensive team in the league coming into the night.  By opponent field goal percentage (even more important because it’s applicable at any pace), they were 4th worst.  They look like they’re clinging to both of those rankings.

Calderon went for 20 and 17 (on 8-10 shooting), Bargnani had 25 and 8, and the Julian Wright/Leandro Barbosa combo was huge off the bench for the Raptors, who put up 94 points on the Cavs in the final three quarters.  The Raptors’ 50% (9 of 18) from 3?  Even more discouraging considering they were the league’s worst three point shooting team coming into the night.

For the Cavs, Jamison had a huge night with 32 (keeping the Cavs in it for as long as they were), Mo had 11 and 9 (with 6 TO), and Sessions and Eyenga both had 16.  Boobie Gibson had 13 and 6 and was looking very sharp before going out with an ankle injury.

Cavs Related Bullets:

“We need everybody communicating and we need everybody contributing.”

(Note: I appreciate the concern, but since when is Antawn Jamison an authority on defense?)

The Cavaliers allowed 62 points in the paint tonight, 9 of 18 from three, and 11 free throws.  Pts in the paint + points off 3’s + FT’s = 100.  100 of 120.  Pretty awful.

The Cavs defense is pretty, pretty, pretty awful.

John’s been harping on it all season, I’ve been harping on it for three games…I think a lot of people have been harping on it.  But it’s the preeminent issue the Cavs are dealing with, so, at the risk of being redundant…the Cavs’ defense is hideously bad.  The problem has a lot to do with athleticism (we’re probably the only team in the league that employs the rarely seen small, slow lineup), but that said, more then half of the Cavs roster played under Mike Brown, and I don’t see any of his principles in this defense.  The help, the weak side defense, any kind of rotation…it’s all slow or non-existent.  Many of the double teams feel as if they were thrown on a whim.  Just startling undisciplined play.  Andy is still Andy, and Boobie has had his moments too, but the Cavs as a whole are the worst defensive team I’ve seen in a long time.  Just a small example of a broad futility, but with less then a minute left in the third, Julian Wright got a fast break lay-up off an Antawn Jamison free throw because only Ryan Hollins got back, and he had his head turned.  And what’s worse, this all trickles down to the progression of the offense.  The Cavs want to be a running team, and you can’t run if you can’t defend.  Unless you’re playing against the Cavs.  Then you’re likely to find a way.

“It’s got to hurt. It’s got to be painful.”

The Cavs are in free-fall.  If you’ve watched this team for more then 2 games, you can see that they just don’t have the athleticism to compete consistently against any of the more talented teams in the league.  And despite the musings of some, the talent level in the league has never been higher.  So I get why the Cavs are where they are.  It’s time to restock, reload, re-whatever you do to get poor basketball teams cap space and draft picks.  That understood, the most disconcerting thing about the Cavs to me is that they seem to have fallen into this type of game as their identity.  We wanted grit, we wanted hustle, and it seems that we ended up with passive acceptance.  I don’t doubt that a lot of the team is taking this personally, and I don’t expect them to publicly seethe in the locker room after each of their now 27 losses, but I would like to see them play a little harder, or in searching for a more specific word…with a little more physicality, or purpose.  Andy, of course, still does.  Daniel Gibson sometimes, too.  But the team, as a whole, is not only sans identity, it is sans any type of presence.  From game to game, I see them offering little resistance to the adversities of a tumultuous season.  They’ve accepted it.  And that’s a stark change coming from the remnants of a recently proud group.  I don’t know, maybe that’s part of it.  That no one actually saw this season coming, or at least not this bad of one.  Nobody seems to be actively searching for ways to make it better, save for maybe Byron Scott.  And if you’re not searching, you’re kind of just waiting for it to end.  Again, it’s better that it’s happening now, and it’s better that it’s happening this quickly.  Regardless though, that acceptance has been the hardest thing for me to watch.

“Well, for one reason, I don’t know who else to put at that position.”

This is is Byron-speak for “youth movement.”  Or at least as much of a youth-movement as a team with an average age of 26 can have.  Christian Eyenga, in only his second professional game, looked pretty decent tonight. Alonzo Gee, starting in place of the injured Anthony Parker, certainly didn’t embarrass himself either.

Literally the only 'Youth Movement' picture I could find (Alonzo Gee in the background). The photogs kind of shrugged off Cavs/Raps, huh?

Along with Manny Harris, I think it’s time to get these guys on the floor more, and I think Byron Scott is ready to do that.  I’d bet only Eyenga is on the team in three years, but we do need to see what we have anyway.  Even more then that, I think the wide eyes of the 21-year-olds could serve us well.  At least to them, a January game against an 11-23 Raptors team is a big deal.  Both Eyenga and Gee made their fair share of mistakes tonight, but I also thought they played with more enthusiasm then a lot of the vets.  Also, while he still is not anywhere close to harnessing his physical abilities, it’s fun to watch a guy as athletic and eager as Eyenga challenge shots.  And offensively, he seemed more in tune with things then I expected him to be.  He used the Cavs’ ball rotation to set up some of his penetration, and he was even able to set himself up for some  high-ish percentage mid-range looks.  So far (granted, 2 games), he’s kind of reminding me of a longer, lankier early-Shannon Brown, in that he has completely superior athleticism, a passable shot and improving awareness, but he doesn’t really seem to be much of a playmaker, and thus will often be without a way to use his aforementioned strong points.  So the more we can get him comfortable in the offense, the more he becomes aware of ways to get his shot, and the less he’ll have to be reliant on creating plays himself.  It was fun to watch him tonight.

“It is what it is, I missed a practice.”

Requisite J.J. Hickson bullet.  I don’t want to give up on the guy (and I won’t), but he’s making it awful tough lately.  If there’s one thing that rarely ends well, it’s the disgruntled player act.  In J.J.’s defense, the full quote is a little more benign then the partial above, but I think it’s time J.J. stopped acting like he’s none to blame for his struggles.  I didn’t really think the Cavs missed him at all tonight, and that’s got to change.  I don’t want to see J.J. on the back end of a trade like Earl Clark, a similarly talented, similarly challenged PF.  J.J. has already been productive in the league, but he has to stop acting as though he’s done more then he has.  In the past, I’ve wanted the team to baby him a little more, but A) that’s not going to happen, and B) it shouldn’t need to happen.  From this point on, J.J.’s career is on J.J..  I’ve given up on ‘athletic Paul Milsap’, but there’s plenty of room for productivity beneath that distinction.

3 Random Thoughts I Had While Watching the Game:

1)  Cavalier-Raptor super-team. Let’s say Dan Gilbert and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (apparently the Raptors owner?) get together and, as some kind of a ‘lovers scorned unite’-type move, combined rosters to form the best team possible.  Here was the starting lineup I came up with:

PG-Calderon or Mo

SG-DeRozan

SF-Weems

PF-Bargnani

C-Andy

That team doesn’t sniff the playoffs, does it?

2) In the post-game show, Austin Carr referenced that the Cavs had 10 fast break points in the first quarter, then ended the game with 10.  He worried that they can’t run consistently because they’re not in elite running shape.  I would argue something else.  It’s because they’re the least athletic running team in the history of the NBA.  They’re kind of a running team in name only.  Similar to those the high-flying Utah teams of the mid-90’s.

3) Byron Scott has been wearing a WWJD bracelet.  My guess?  Rig the draft.

………………

It’s been a pleasure everyone :)  Off the Cavs go to the West Coast for the next 5.  May their luck change out there.  I’m off to read about Perry Jones.

Links To The Present: January 5, 2011

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

WFNY’s Scott Sargent has a piece about the recent speculation as to where Antawn Jamison will land in the coming month or so. Apparently, there have been unconfirmed reports that third-party scouts have attended a Cavs practice and that Jamison has “played himself into a level that is second only to Anderson Varejao in terms of trade value.” I’m pretty sure this qualifies as good news. Soak it in, Cavs fan brethren.

“Despite Byron Scott’s bold proclamation last week that the Cleveland Cavaliers could still make the playoffs, reality dictates they are on a collision course with Ping-Pong balls. Lots and lots of Ping-Pong balls.” [Jason Lloyd]

Both Anderson Verejao and Boobie Gibson will be back for tonight’s tilt at Toronto. Andy has been outfitted with a mask to protect his still-fragile right cheek bone. The Cavs will unfortunately be sporting the rather hideous 2011 edition of the CavFanatic jersey tonight as well.

Oh, and remember the homeless guy with the awesome radio voice? The Cavs have offered that guy a job doing voice-over work. There’s a deep, depressing metaphor in there somewhere, but, I mean, good for him.

On The Twitters

“Whenever I read the “Cavs offered Ted Williams a job” I imagine a frozen head sitting in between AC and Fred.” [realcavsfans]

“Terrelle Pryor just sold that homeless man’s Golden voice.” [Scott Sargent]

“How long until the Sugar Bowl MVP trophy winds up on e-Bay?” [Jason Lloyd]

Links To The Present: January 4, 2011

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

“Cavs fans were given a taste of Christian Eyenga on Sunday night, and by all accounts, it was hard not to like what they saw. In his 15 minutes, Eyenga showed athleticism, hustle and a refreshing energy. It wasn’t pretty, but it was something. And with his 4 points and 3 rebounds, I found myself asking, is it time to turn it over to the youngsters for good?” [Martin Rickman]

“As the Cavaliers sit with a conference-worst record of 8-26, Byron Scott will be forced to turn the team over to his younger players.  Testing the waters with young, athletic swingmen like Alonzo Gee and Christian Eyenga (the 284th all-time leading scorer in franchise history!) will be the only way that Scott can see what he has as a foundation while the front office looks to take the proper steps for successful rebuild.  That said, expect a lot more of Eyenga in the coming games as Scott will continue to see just where his rookie’s energy and athleticism can take him.” [Scott Sargent]

In other Cavalier Young’n News, Byron Scott and J.J. Hickson had a sitdown at some point in the last week that Jason Lloyd characterizes as “brief, stern, and one-sided.” As we’re well aware, the two have been bickering at one another via post-game quotes for the majority of the season. There are two seemingly arbitrary gestures in sports locker rooms: the player’s only meeting and the “clearing the air” talk between coach and player. If J.J. finally “gets it” because of his sitdown with Scott, I’ll happily eat my words.

After looking like a downright awful offseason acquisition over the first quarter of the season, Ramon Sessions has been one of the Cavs’ most effective players of late. Jodie Valade of the Plain Dealer contends that Sessions may have simply needed time to adjust to a new offense and new teammates and Bob Finnan cites that the former Timberwolf’s jumpshot has been markedly improved over the past few weeks.

Injury note: both Boobie Gibson and Andy Verejao expect to play tomorrow night against the Raptors.

On The Twitters

“I can’t want until the phony Heatlemania has bitten the dust.” [Kurt Helin]

“If you haven’t seen Kemba Walker play I do suggest you tune in. The kid has Barry Sanders type moves with the ball in his hands.” [realcavsfans]

It’s time to think Cavalier Thoughts

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

For the last year or so, I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people that want to know how to get my “job,” or “gig,” or whatever this is. I generally tell them the same thing — write every day, spend time being a good commenter or message board poster, build a following that way, learn the game and how to write about it, and be patient.

One person who never emailed me was the commenter we’ve all come to know as “Rich,” but he followed my advice anyways. For at least a year, Rich has commented on just about every post I’ve written in a thorough and intelligent fashion, he’s never campaigned for a gig, and he’s started a Cavs blog at a time when only the most die-hard fan would start a Cavs blog.

The blog is called Cavalier Thoughts, and I encourage you to give it a click. These are bleak times, and the devotion of fans/writers like Rich is going to have to make up for a lot of missing victories. Check out the blog if you have time — I hope you like it as much as I’ve liked Rich’s contributions to this blog.

P.S. — I’ve been meaning to say this for a while, and it may seem hypocritical to do it now, but DO NOT PIMP YOUR BLOG IN THIS COMMENTS SECTION. I WILL BAN YOU. I am serious. It is a pet peeve. If you have a blog you think is good, email me or trust that I’ll find it on my own and I’ll be happy to promote it for you. That is all.

Notes and Errata: January 4th, 2011

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Here’s an interesting thing: The Bulls, the Heat, and the Magic are all top-5 teams in defensive efficiency. All five of those teams start power forwards who were considered defensive liabilities in the recent past. The Bulls are particularly weird — going into this season, I thought the Noah-Thibodeau combination would produce a top-10 defense no matter who else was on that team, but I was worried that Boozer would kill their chances of becoming a top-5 defense. Well, the Chicago is #2 in defensive efficiency, adjusted +/- says Noah is the worst defender on the team, and the defense has only gotten better since Noah got injured and Boozer got healthy.

At this point, we have to say that Tom Thibodeau is the best defensive human in basketball, right? Look at the players on that Chicago roster. Would anyone have batted an eye if they were an average/below-average defensive squad? No. But Thibs has them at #2. Honestly, I don’t know if Dwight Howard or Thibodeau is a more valuable defensive entity. Thibs’ track record is simply too freaky. Although nobody scores in the paint against Howard.

So the moral of the story is that just like every quarterback, every defender is a system defender to some extent. This is why Chris Bosh is good at defense now, and why Byron Scott probably shouldn’t get a free pass for letting the Cavs’ defense go to [poop]. LeBron’s one of the three best defensive players in the league, Shaq and Z defended the rim, and Delonte is hell in sneakers, but come on. Shaq and Z were inconsistent defensively, Delonte was flat-out inconsistent, all three of them were out of the lineup for extended stretches, and LeBron was going at about 80% on defense.

Is laughing at Laker misfortune still kosher in Cavsland? Legitimate question: does the Cav fanbase still hate its former rivals (Kobe, DeShawn, et cetera), or are we now of the opinion that they were right all along? I’m confused. Anyways, the Lakers are going to be fine. I’m not positive of that, but I’m still far from convinced that they’re not going to win title #3. Blame it on last year’s Celtics and the “never, ever count out Kobe” factor. Also, Pau’s stuff isn’t right and they’re still working Bynum back into things.

Dear God yes, the season is already over for the Cavaliers.

That’s all for me tonight. Until later, campers.