Archive for March, 2011

Links To The Present: March 31, 2011

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

“The Cavaliers did it. They banded together, played like an actual NBA team, and defeated LeBron James and his Miami Heat. It was an unlikely victory, to say the least, but offered a sweet satisfaction. This is as close as Cleveland will get to catharsis: LeBron leaving town with a loss, some mildly enthusiastic cheers in an arena that wasn’t even sold out, and an unremarkable regular-season game that history will soon forget.” [Rob Mahoney]

“Revenge is keeping the Heat from making a claim on the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Closure is beating Miami for the bigger reward of leapfrogging the Heat or Boston for playoff position.” [Bud Shaw]

“Communication is very important for [Baron Davis] because of the fact that he is so smart. He sees things in a different light than a lot of guys. Most great players do. We have to have that communication because I expect him to go out there on the floor and carry out our plan.” [Byron Scott via Mary Schmitt Boyer]

Mary Schmitt Boyer talks Cavs v. Heat, resigning Anthony Parker in the offseason, and the possibility of the team acquiring more draft picks before June 23rd.

And Rick of WFNY gives the Cavs three rules to follow for the rest of the season.

On The Twitters

“To illustrate the range of Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ career, he’s now been ejected for fist fights with John Wall & Greg Ostertag.” [Brian Windhorst]

“Sessions dropped 24 and went 10-10 from the line. Just looks weird in the boxscore. When’s the last time a Cav did that? Mo? 20 & 7 for J.J.” [Eric Knappenberger]

“Why did Ramon Sessions pick up his dribble? That whole play was a disaster.” [Kurt Helin]

Recap: Bobcats 98, Cavs 97 (Or, We’ll take a good performance and the ping-pong balls)

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Overview: The Charlotte Bobcats won a game that came down to the last possession on a free throw by Boris Diaw with 14 seconds remaining in the game. Boris Diaw and Kwame Brown combined for 42 points on 25 shots, and Ramon Sessions led the Cavs with 24 points off the bench.

Ryan Hollins is a mysterious fish bullets:

Oh, Ryan Hollins. One game after controlling the paint and shutting down Chris Bosh, you score four points, collect three rebounds, and get destroyed inside by Kwame Brown. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Ryan Hollins experience. I have given up on trying to figure this out.

The good news for the Cavs is that both Hickson and Sessions looked like they were on their games. Hickson was using that power dribble really well, finding the seams, and finishing with force, and he even managed to hit a few jumpers. I’m concerned that Boris Diaw was able to go off on him, but Hickson is what he is. On a playoff team, I think he’s a very good to respectable 1st big man off the bench. I think that’s my final official position on J.J. Hickson. A lot of Cavs fans are higher on J.J. Hickson than I am, but they probably spend less time worshiping at the altar of Omer Asik and Anderson Varejao than I do. I think rebuilding starts with building a defensive frontcourt that will make life hell, and I don’t see Hickson being a starter in that frontcourt.

The demotion to the bench seemed to put Razor Ramon into February mode-he was attacking with a lot of success, made some good passes, and got to the lane and converted in the lane. It’s clear that this is the role Byron Scott has wanted him to play since the season began, and I think he can be pretty good at it.

The late-game execution was poor. Baron seemed to give up the ball a little too willingly, because Ramon diving to the rim and Hickson trying to work from the high post does not work as well in crunch time as it does during the rest of the game. It simply doesn’t. Ideally, I’d like to see the Cavs be confident running an offense in crunch time, but until them that’s when I’d like Baron creating plays off the dribble. I’m also not sure why Baron didn’t work harder to exploit Augustin on the block, but Baron never has posted up as much as I’d like him to.

Those are my big takeaways from this game — good game, the Cavs competed, poor execution down the stretch. Eight games left to go.

On a Future and the Desire of One

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

The Cavaliers are atrocious. There is little quibbling over this fact. It has been confirmed in a painful fashion since late November, when a 106-87 undressing courtesy of the Celtics sent the Cavs into a tailspin in which they lost 36 of their next 37, many by embarrassing margins. Though their play has since improved, one could argue that on paper, they should lose every single game they play. The worst aspect of suffering through a season so bleak is the monotony of watching this team three or four times a week. It’s like being trapped in isolation; one grows delusional and begins to follow these threads of delusion for the sheer want of something to do. Once Eyenga learns how to shoot, play defense, and hones those passing skills, he’s going to be unstoppable! Fans of every team do this to an extent, but happy forecasts are the vice of the miserable fan. This is because an abysmal team extinguishes the realistic chance of victory on a nightly basis. Like the death of a friend might cause one to imbibe, an unceasing string of double-digit losses will force fans to scout their young players’ games for burgeoning skills and scour the college ranks for a savior.

A hefty amount of Greek literature (at least the texts that have survived this long) discusses Eros, primordial god of sexual love and beauty. Because most of humankind strives for such things, there is a strong link between Eros and desire, to the point where the deity’s name and the term have grown together, like the intertwined roots of a timeworn tree. Fragment 130 from the poet Sappho characterizes Eros in stark terms: “Eros the melter of limbs (now again) stirs me– / sweetbitter unmanageable creature who steals in.” This is one of the most apt descriptions of the sensation. Desire is a phenomenon which infects us. It melts us and stirs us and while we might writhe uncomfortably throughout, when the experience ends, we wish it would not have ceased and immediately leave off in search of something that will perform the process on us again. It’s this thirst for desire’s turbulence that causes some of us to suffer from drug or gambling or sex addiction. For many more of us, it’s a large part of the reason we love sports.

As a passionate fan of most NBA teams, one’s chief desire is to watch their team win on a regular basis. As a fan of an elite NBA team, one’s desire is devoted not just to wins, but to the acquisition of a championship. As a fan of a cellar dweller like the Cavaliers, your desire is a source of confusion. You want J.J. Hickson’s jumpshot to improve. You want Christian Eyenga to play smarter on the defensive end. You want these things to not happen during the season because you want the team to lose, so they can draft the player you want—Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Kemba Walker—and you want that player to be terrific. This is weird because, as a fan, you have literally no control over any of these things. If you are desirous towards a man or woman you work with, you may be able to win their affection through intelligence or charm or humor. J.J. Hickson’s jumpshot will improve or not improve based on his talents and the amount of time he spends developing those talents; you are powerless to alter it one way or the other. We use “we” when we refer to our favorite teams, but, despairingly, that “we” indicates only the pain or joy we feel due to decisions and events we cannot influence.

It would be easy to feel panicked in this situation. And while desire encapsulates angst and worry, panic is distinctly unpleasant. So, you want something to assuage this panic and prove to you the things you cannot control are being performed by trustworthy individuals. A Celtics fan may experience cottonmouth in the final moments of a tight playoff matchup, but they do not panic. Paul Pierce has hit that pull-up jumper from the elbow before. Ray Allen knows how to come off a double screen and knock down a clutch three. If you leave Big Baby open, there’s a good chance he will make you pay. Familiarity breeds solace.

In 2011, there is no championship for the Cavaliers to win; there are no playoff games for which we need a 4th quarter assassin. We need a future before any of those things are possible. GM Chris Grant will be the architect of that future, and he has done little to encourage Cavs fans to place trust in him. This is through no fault of his own. He’s just the new guy; we will learn more of his strengths and weaknesses over the coming years. It’s difficult to know how much input he had on the Cavaliers’ front office decisions over the five years he spent working under Danny Ferry (Dan Gilbert, upon his promotion, characterized him as “instrumental in a lot of things we’ve done”), though he obviously acquired enough influence that the Cavaliers felt comfortable handing him the keys. Since he has become the face of the Cavs’ front office, the only major transaction he has made was, by consensus, “good”: a top 10 pick in exchange for a couple role players and the burden of a talented underachiever with a lousy contract.

One wonders whether this top 10 pick will be a starter or all-star; if he will be overwhelmed by the NBA and end up balling in Greece with an ancient Sasha Pavolovic; or if he will desert us at the peak of his powers. Because that’s all one can do: wonder and hope. Maybe write an overlong blog post. The only certainty for a Cavalier fan is that this team will be constructed without their consultation. If the Cavs draft the next Darko with the fifth pick, we are afforded remarkably useless tools of dissent: boos and profanity. Anger will grow in desire’s stead.

But hope is a mysterious power. Battered as Cavaliers fans are, one dreadful season cannot drain us of our hope. We have experienced the euphoria of serendipity too recently to forsake hope. Drunk with its fervor, I send a plea into the ether of cyberspace, perhaps into the ears of someone who can help: build us a future. Build us a young team with talent and promise for whom we can desire victory. Give us look out for us next year! Then develop those players and add energy guys and bench scorers and athletic defenders who nail open corner threes. Build us a team for whom we can desire a playoff run. Build us a team that pushes a better one to seven games. Build us a team that exceeds expectations. Then add a final piece. A late-round draft pick, a reclamation project, a veteran who sets screens and rebounds. Give us a team for whom we can desire a championship. A team that melts our limbs. A team down four with three minutes left in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals. Give us desire, and let it render us dizzy and furious and barely swimming in its spirit-rendering sap.

Links To The Present: March 30, 2011

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

“Let’s start with this: The fans were incredible last night.  Absolutely amazing.  Things were much more reserved at the start of the game than in December, but once the Cavs proved that they deserved the fans’ support, the crowd was electric.  They inspired the home team and took the life out of the soft Heat players.  I’ve heard the building that loud, but I’ve never heard it louder.  The place was exploding with big shots at the end of the game.” [Michael Curry]

“The events Tuesday didn’t wipe everything away, but it was an escape complete with roller-coaster drama. The Cavs built and lost a 23-point lead in the second half, the crowd twisting with emotion all the way. The fans had mostly forgotten to continue to boo James, who was in the midst of a triple-double, because they wanted to cheer for their team too badly.” [Brian Windhorst]

“Miraculously, Hollins finished the night +33 in terms of point differential.  Chris Bosh was -24.” [Scott Sargent]

“He’s a Bruin. We know the talent is there, it’s just a matter of him having that mentality. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been challenging him a lot. You can see us on the court, we go at it a lot. But I know I can challenge him to do the things necessary for us to win.” [Baron Davis on Ryan Hollins via Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“The atmosphere is always good here. Even when I played here the atmosphere was great. The fans are unbelievable and I’ve always said that and it was great for their team tonight.” [LeBron on Cavaliers fans]

NBA Playbook–one of my very favorite NBA sites–breaks down how poor closeouts from Heat defenders led to easy jumpers for the Cavs.

And Dan Devine preaches the Gospel of Baron.

On The Twitters

“Congrats to the city of Cleveland for that win. They deserve it. They have taken a lot this yr along with my former teammates.” [Mo Williams]

“To the best fans, u all deserve it! Thanks for your support tonight and all year! God bless!” [Anthony Parker]

“ALL FOR ONE! ONE FOR ALL! S/O to the Loyal Fans of CLE.. Best Fans in the NBA. U deserved that one.. #GoCavs” [Boobie Gibson]

“Ryan Hollins should walk into the nearest bar and do the LeBron chalk toss. People would love him forever and a day.” [Zac Jackson]

“You may not win them all, Cavs fans…but my, my, how sweet tonight must be! I’m sure Dan Gilbert will write a sweet letter.” [Michelle Beadle]

“Not in our garage!!” [Dan Gilbert]

“I’m the only man in America who bet $50,000 on the Cleveland Cavaliers.” [Floyd Mayweather]

Recap: Cavs 102, Heat 90 (Or, HOLY CRAP CAVS WIN.)

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

 LeBron James #6 Of The Miami Heat Walks

Recap: The Cleveland Cavaliers got the first double-digit win of the season against the Miami Heat. The Cavs shot 9 of 17 from beyond the arc, and J.J. Hickson led the Cavaliers with 21 points and 12 rebounds. LeBron James led all scorers with 27 points, and recorded his fourth triple-double of the season in defeat.

That could have gone much worse bullets:

Right from the beginning, the Cavs came out with a lot more energy. Baron Davis showed that he belongs in the starting lineup, at least in games that the Cavs really want to win. The Heat thought that they could walk right over the Cavaliers; if the Cavs had played like they did at the beginning of Sunday’s game, they would have been right.

But this was a different Cavs team. Baron started the game by drilling a three, and the Cavs never trailed after that. Early on, the Cavs were scoring, getting stops, and getting the crowd involved, and that energy was the deciding factor in the game.

The Cavs did two things exceptionally well — they controlled the paint defensively and they made threes on offense. Ryan Hollins was physical all game, and he absolutely gave Chris Bosh fits under the basket with his length, athleticism, and hustle. Bosh shot 5-14, Anthony didn’t make a field goal, and Dampier didn’t attempt one. The Cavs out-worked the Heat inside, and that was the key to keeping them from establishing their offense.

When the Cavs had the ball, the best thing they did was make threes. Baron had the one to start the game and that crazy buzzer-beater at the end of the 1st half. Eyenga hit a MONSTER three just before the end of the third quarter, although that was negated by LeBron’s 75-footer. Parker was an absolute assassin with timely three-pointers. Every March, we learn that outside shooting is the great equalizer, and that’s just as true in the NBA as it is in college ball.

Apart from the threes, the biggest thing the Cavs had going for them was the level of activity inside. Hickson and Hollins never stopped working,  and they combined for 22 free throw attempts because of that. The Heat’s zone forced the Cavs to give up the massive lead they built in the third quarter, but eventually the Heat had enough timely shooting and good energy to take advantage of the Heat falling apart on offense.

Huge plays, great hustle, and you can’t say enough about the crowd effect. We’ve seen this team fold down the stretch time after time down the stretch, and despite the “The Heat choke” meme, they’ve been destroying people down the stretch since the advent of the Wade/LeBron pick-and-roll, and we’ve seen LeBron take over fourth quarters while wearing a Cavs jersey too many times to count. But the crowd was not about to let the Cavs lose tonight. The Heat couldn’t focus, and the Cavs refused to believe that they were going to miss. Unbelievable. Great performance.

Every court is just as wide as the next. The three-point line is in the same place. The lane is just as wide. The charge circles are painted the same. And yet there’s something about a special crowd that can change the outcome of a game. That’s what happened on Tuesday. A great win, and one the fans deserved.

Links To The Present: March 29, 2011

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

WFNY’s Scott Sargent poses the question “does anyone really care about LeBron’s second return to the Q?” To which Fear the Sword’s Conrad Kaczmarek responds with a forceful “yes.”

BDL’s Eric Freeman believes Bron “has reasons to believe things will be significantly less crazy.”

“Since that first matchup, the Cavs (14-58) have fallen almost completely off the map. The fans aren’t nearly as fired up for this meeting, nor should they be.” [Bob Finnan]

“Only three players on the active roster — Daniel Gibson, Anthony Parker and J.J. Hickson — ever played with James. The others? They have heard the reasons why they should be even more motivated to secure their 15th win of the season against Miami, but even Cavaliers coach Byron Scott didn’t experience the pain that would lead to more passion about this contest.” [Jodie Valade]

Joe Gabriele has a report on the progress the Cavaliers’ rookies have made throughout the season.

On The Twitters

“All bias aside, LeBron is further proof of one thing – sports are soap operas. People want plot. We cheer for cities, but root for drama.” [Eric Knappenberger]

“Samardo Samuels is out for tonight and tomorrow in Charlotte with sprained right wrist. That leaves the frontcourt very thin.” [Bob Finnan]

“3 players most likely to foul LeBron hard foul: Hollins (likes to foul stupidly), Baron (try to manufacture some love) and Harangody (!!!).” [Robert Attenweiler]

“Baron Davis will start tonight for #Cavs vs Heat” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

Links To The Present: March 28, 2011

Monday, March 28th, 2011

“With the Cavaliers and Hawks squaring up for the last Sunday home game of the 2010-11 season, there was actually one moment where the entire Quicken Loans Arena was on their feet: a standing ovation for Joe Tait, broadcasting his first game of the season since undergoing heart surgery roughly five months earlier.” [Scott Sargent]

“LeBron James will make his second trip to The Q on Tuesday and James tells the media in Miami that this visit can’t get any worse than on Dec. 2.” [Branson Wright]

“Our guys are just really starting to get it. They’re understanding our rotations and defensive philosophy.” [Byron Scott via Jodie Valade]

On The Twitters

“I feel like Colonel Kurtz after watching the #Cavs all season #TheHorror.” [Michael A. Young]

“Samardo Samuels is out for #Cavs game against Miami Tues. with sprained wrist, Byron Scott says.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“Some of buzz is gone for Heat rematch in Cle. BScott can’t remember last time someone in city asked him about facing LeBron.” [Jason Lloyd]

Recap: Hawks 99, Cavs 83 (Or, Slouching towards the draft)

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Overview: Al Horford and Marvin Williams combined for 51 points in a 99-83 drubbing of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Baron Davis led the Cavs with 19 points and 7 assists off the bench.

Yet another loss bullets:

Well, there was nothing resembling energy early. The Cavs were getting beat down the floor nearly every time, and the half-court offense consisted of Alonzo Gee forcing shots. That is not a winning formula. Byron Scott called a time-out, told the team to focus and get back on defense, and a few plays later the Cavs gave up a made basket fast-break and-1 to Jason Collins. It’s been that kind of a season.

The team did manage to settle down, but they never really got back in the game. If this team doesn’t come to play, they can not win. We learned this many moons ago. The Cavs didn’t come to play on Sunday.

Baron and Ramon both had solid games, but neither of them really controlled the game, and Ramon really wasn’t running the offense in that crucial early part of the game. Still, Baron has definitely given more than I thought the Cavs would get from him this season. If he stays in shape this off-season, it’ll be good to have him and allow whatever young guard we get to develop at his own pace.

On defense, the Cavs had no answer for Al Horford or Marvin Williams. Horford is a monster. That’s all there is to it. He’s got incredible touch around the basket, he runs the floor like a deer, and he’s automatic from 16-20 feet. No shame in letting him get his points. And Marvin Williams has always had the tools — on Sunday, he was hitting his jumpers and going hard to the rim, and the Cavs don’t have a defender who can handle that. I was actually impressed by how well the Cavs defended Josh Smith — isn’t it strange that he can be such an effective player in so many ways, but Luke Harangody can hold his own against him in the high post?

Christian Eyenga, please stop shooting jump shots. Please. You are not adept at them.

And Ryan Hollins scored 2 points and was a -24 in 26 minutes. He does keep you on your toes.

That’s the story of this one — terrible start, no answer for Horford or Williams, Cavs didn’t shoot well, and Baron and Ramon didn’t really take the game over. Loss #58.

Recap: Cavs 97, Pistons 91 (Or, WIN #14!!)

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Overview: Baron Davis had 16 points and 5 assists in his first game back from back spasms, and the Cavaliers managed to get a win over the Detroit Pistons.

Hey, they actually won bullets:

Hickson looked great. Find a seam, take one or two power dribbles, and finish hard at the rim. Not a lot of jumpers, not a lot of unnecessary movement with the ball, not too many shots in traffic. Just quick, calculated basket attacks. That’s his game. Baron being back helped, but Hickson looked good when he wasn’t on the floor as well.

When Baron is on the floor, Ryan Hollins looks like a passable offensive big and Luke Harangody looks like a passable offensive four. It’s really not very difficult to get easy shots when Baron is on the floor.

Baron’s still hitting his threes, which is deeply strange. Hey, I’m not complaining. And that dagger three was very nice. There’s no denying that Baron has an “it” factor that no other Cav possesses.

Ramon looked confident early, then completely disappeared after Baron came in for the first time. At least he wasn’t forcing things like he was during his slump.

Anthony Parker shot 50% in February and has shot 33% in March. I suspect not getting traded may have taken something out of him.

No real complaints defensively — the only easy baskets the Pistons got were on Greg Monroe offensive rebounds. Good, solid game against a bad team. Let’s see if the Cavs can finish the year with a little momentum.

Links To The Present: March 25, 2011

Friday, March 25th, 2011

“Sessions will step aside and make way for Baron Davis, perhaps as soon as Friday night when the Cavaliers host the Detroit Pistons at Quicken Loans Arena. Davis made it through an entire practice Thursday, which was the last hurdle he had to clear before returning to the rotation.” [Jason Lloyd]

“When he’s healthy and his head is on straight, Davis brings the total package. That’s why Cavs coach Byron Scott is anxious to turn the reins of the offense over to him.” [Bob Finnan]

“Davis already has visions of a team next season with him, Jamison and center Anderson Varejao (out with an ankle injury) anchoring a youthful core.” [Jodie Valade]

“[Derrick] Williams led the Wildcats in a relative upset with 32 points (11-of-17 from the floor), 13 rebounds (six offensive), two steals, a blocked shot and a Williams-esque 5-of-6 from three-point land. [Kyrie] Irving, though playing for the losing Blue Devils, did not disappoint with team-high 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go with three assists and a steal.” [Scott Sargent]

On The Twitters

“Cavs magic number is 9 (CLE losses; MIN victories) to clinch a 75% chance of not securing the top overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.” [Eric Knappenberger]

“In regard to the #NBA draft do not get seduced by the last thing you see regardless of whether it’s good or bad. #Cavs” [Michael A. Young]

“My thoughts on draft: NBA rules prevent any comment on players still playing and/or undeclared for draft….And how I wish I could comment!” [Dan Gilbert]