Archive for December, 2011

Cavaliers Season Preview (Part 2): The Rookies

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Because the Cavs are in an obvious rebuilding mode, I thought we’d spend today’s preview looking at the newbies on the roster.  From that perspective, things look very promising.

The Cavs had three draft picks in this year’s draft.  With the number one overall pick they selected Kyrie Irving out of Duke.  With the fourth overall pick they (surprisingly) took Tristan Thompson from University of Texas.  In the second round with the second pick (32 overall) they took Justin Harper, but flipped him over to Orlando.  They later acquired Milan Macvan with the 24th pick in the second round (54 overall), but I doubt we’ll see much of him in the coming years – he’s currently in the midst of a 5-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, and it would take a hefty buyout to get him here anytime soon.  The Cavs also acquired Kenny Hayes and Mychel Thompson as unsigned rookies.  While it’s a long shot, they’re both hoping to make the team and avoid the D-League.

Kyrie Irving

The obvious highlight of this Cavalier draft class is Irving.  A heralded recruit in 2010, Irving played sparsely during his freshman campaign at Duke.  While our sample serving of him is small, we do know a few near-definite things about the young point guard:

First and foremost, the kid is very much a true point guard.  Irving has excellent ball handling skills and is a good passer.  While he did only average 4.3 assists per game, he has the court vision and pass-first mentality to up that total substantially, particularly if he has some excellent talent surrounding him.  While this may not happen for a while, and he certainly will need to work hard to perfect his passing, it bodes very very well for the Cavs’ future.

Irving is an very efficient scorer, particularly for someone who is more of a jump shooter than a driver.  He hit an insane 52.9% of his shots, and an equally astonishing 46.2% of his threes.  Irving averaged 6.5 free throws per game, making 90% of those shots.  In all, his shooting numbers should take an (obvious) dip as he transitions to the pros, but he rates out to continue being an efficient shooter – something the Cavaliers desperately needed last year.  He wont take a ton of shots, but when he does, you’ll be sure he’s doing it because he knows it’s the right situation to do it.

Another major positive about Kyrie’s game is his defensive skills.  Irving is a lockdown defender committed to stopping other teams’ elite PGs.  His defensive stats aren’t anything incredible, but he’s the type of silent defender that will do everything so well, you wont even notice it’s happening until you realize how little the other team’s point guard has done.

Irving has excellent leadership skills and has all the intangibles you want as your team’s star.  His work ethic will propel him to improving every facet of his game.  He’s a decent rebounder and will grab a few every game.  He isn’t the world’s greatest athlete, but he’s more than competent to hold his own in the NBA.

Irving isn’t without his flaws, though.  As I said before, Irving wasn’t the best passer in college.  Additionally, his lack of elite athleticism may hurt him against the likes of Rose, Rondo, Paul, and Westbrook – the faster PGs in in the NBA.  The biggest red flag, though, is Irving’s health.  He played in only 11 games in his only NCAA season because of a ligament injury in his toe.  While this isn’t necessarily indicative of long term health problems, it’s definitely somethign to keep an eye on for the future.

In all, Irving seems to be just what the Cavs need a year after having such an abysmal season.  He’ll need some time to grow into a great passer, but he should be able to come in and contribute as a nice scorer and defender.  And more than anything, he gives the Cavs hope for the future – something they’re desperate for in the post-Lebron era.

Tristan Thompson

The Cavs shocked most everyone on draft day by taking Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall pick.  While most people were disappointed that they didn’t take Jonas Valanciunas, a true center, with the number four pick, I actually believe that Thompson could be a special player with a lot of hard work and patience.

Thompson’s biggest asset is his skill on defense.  Tristan plays with a high motor and a lot of activity.  He is strong, fast, and long, and has the ability to play guard outside and inside.  He averaged a good 2.21 blocks, and that should go up as he learns to use his long arms and body more effectively.  He has the potential to be a devastating defender in the future, and should be an exciting addition to the Cavs frontcourt.

While he is by no means a complete offensive player, Thompson is great while facing the rim.  He’s shown some good ability at driving to the basket and finish, and plays well above the rim, particularly for someone so small (he stands at a below-average 6 foot 8).  Thompson is a good offensive rebounder and is able to get a lot of his points off of missed shots.  Finally, Tristan is outstanding at getting to the line.  During his only season at Texas, 26.3% of his possessions resulted in free throws.

Unfortunately that’s where the good ends and the bad begins.  Thompson is a terrible free throw shooter.  I mean truly horrendous.  He shot an abysmal 48.7% at the line last season.  Not only is he a terrible free throw shooter, but he’s relatively unskilled in the post and as a jump shooter.  Furthermore, Thompson is actually a fairly poor defensive rebounder – he averaged just 5.1 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, which is far too few for a guy who can’t be a huge offensive threat.

Overall, Thompson has the potential to develop into a great defender and a fine option on offense.  With Irving dishing the ball to him, Thompson can use his athleticism efficiently, driving to the rim and scoring with power.  As long as he works to develop a post game and better defensive rebounding skills, he’ll definitely be a consistent contributor, and could even be a occasional force.

Kenny Hayes and Mychel Thompson

Aka the long shots.  These guys don’t really have much of a shot at making the team, but I figured I might as well discuss them a bit.

Hayes is a small guard who isn’t particularly great at passing (3.1 assists per game as a senior at Miami of Ohio) or shooting (40.2% shooting in 43 games while playing for Maine in the D-League).  On defense Hayes is, again, nothing to write home about.  He’s not great at stealing or blocking, and isn’t big or fast enough to defend either guard position.

A tall swing guard (standing at 6’7″), Thompson isn’t the most efficient offensive player.  He shot a terrible 36.1% from the field as a senior at Pepperdine (and that was an improvement over years past!).  Still, he’s a pretty good defender, averaging nearly a steal and a block per game, and he gets enough rebounds (between 5 and 6) to make himself felt while on the court.  He probably has the better shot of the two of ultimately making the team, especially given that the Cavs don’t have many tall swing guards on the roster.

Stay tuned for tomorrow – Colin will be back with some more preview fun – this time, he’ll be discussing the schedule.

Links to the Present: December 22, 2011

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Mary Schmitt Boyer thinks that the Cavs bench is going to be an area of concern this season, especially Ryan Hollins, who had a lousy (albeit very short) preseason.

“Irving probably wasn’t as impressive in Tuesday’s 90-89 loss to visiting Detroit as he was in the first preseason game (or the Wine & Gold Scrimmage, for that matter). But one thing I’ve noticed about the kid is when he’s on the floor, the entire atmosphere changes for both teams. The Cavs just ran a little smoother and the Pistons were forced to defend a little harder.” [Sam Amico]

“The Cavaliers view Christian Eyenga as a wild card. At some point, the second-year swingman could evolve into a devastating and arguably the most athletic defender in the NBA. Or, he could drift into oblivion and return overseas once his current contract expires. The 6-foot-7 1/4, 210-pounder clearly doesn’t always get “it.” He’s jovial, fun to be around and always has a smile on his face. However, he seems to live in his own little world at times.” [Bob Finnan]

I’m very concerned about Eyenga, and this Finnan article confirms my fears. I wrote yesterday that I think he’s the eight-most minutes on the team, but that’s probably wrong. I like him a lot, and I keep hoping he’ll put it together, so if I were the coach of the Cavs, I would give him some run and see what he can do. But Byron Scott will likely keep him on a short leash; if Eyenga can’t get his head straightened out on the defensive side of the ball, Alonzo Gee will get the bulk of his minutes. If I absolutely had to make a prediction, I would say Eyenga’s playing in Europe sometime in the next three years. Fortunately, I’m not a psychic, so we’ll see. But potential is only potential for so long before you have to admit the 6’7″ guy who can jump out of the gym doesn’t belong in the NBA.

Oh, by the way: be on the lookout for part 2 of our Cavs season preview. Mallory will be posting his portion of the preview this afternoon.

Cavaliers Season Preview (Part 1): The Roster

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

And so it begins. Or it begins, like, soon. On December 26th, the Cavs will open the season at the Q against the Raptors, then play another 65 games in the span of four months. We are not clairvoyants or wizards, so we can’t predict win totals or PPG averages or whether Byron Scott will grow his compact facial hair into a sweet handlebar ‘stache and start wearing searsuckers on the sidelines (do it!), but we can offer some writerly analysis of the upcoming Cavaliers season. Today, we’ll take a look at the Cavs’ roster.

The Starters

I’m going to ignore whatever the Cavs starting lineup is on opening night against Toronto. Byron Scott seems like the sort of coach who will have Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving come off the bench initially to prove a point to them that their place in the starting lineup must be earned. You can debate the merits of that approach (and if it’s enacted, we here at CtB probably will), but I think it will be irrelevant some ten, twenty, thirty games into the season. Irving and Thompson will log significant minutes for the Cavs because A.) They need the reps and B.) Even as rookies, they might be two of the best players on the team. By February the starting lineup will probably look something like this:

PG: Kyrie Irving (at Duke, playing 27.5 MPG in 11 games: 17.5 PPG on 53%/46%/90% and 4.3 APG)
SG: Anthony Parker (playing 29 MPG in 72 games: 8.3 PPG on 40%/38%/78% and 3 APG)
SF: Omri Casspi (playing 24 MPG in 71 games: 8.6 PPG on 41%/37%/67% and 4.3 RPG)
PF: Tristan Thompson (at Texas, playing 31 MPG in 36 games: 13.1 PPG on 54%/49% with 7.8 RPG and 2.5 BPG)
C: Anderson Varejao (playing 32 MPG in 31 games: 9.1 PPG on 53%/67% and 9.7 RPG)

Those numbers in parentheses are, as you can probably tell, statistics from last season. Looking at this lineup and thinking about where these guys fit together on the offensive end, the key to success is going to be Irving, as if he doesn’t have enough pressure on him already. Casspi and Parker are most useful as spot-up shooters at the three-point line, and the bigs are both players who make their living cutting to the basket and cleaning up the offensive glass. Irving will need to penetrate, draw defenders, and kick the ball out to the perimeter to maximize the talents of Casspi and Parker; and he needs to keep his head up and practice his bounce-passes to find Thompson and Varejao slashing through the paint. If he can do that, along with creating some shots for himself off the dribble, the Cavs’ starting unit will be reasonably effective.

This probably won’t happen right away or with much consistency in Irving’s rookie season, but my point is that it needs to happen if the Cavs are going to be respectable on the offensive end of the floor. Which essentially means that, some nights, the Cavs won’t be respectable on the offensive end of the floor, especially against teams with point guards who can pester Irving and force him into turnovers. What we can look for is how often and with how much consistency Irving puts it together and animates the Cavs’ offense. If, once or twice a week, he puts up 13-7 with only a turnover or two, he’ll have assembled quite a rookie season for himself.

On defense, the Cavaliers have the potential to be tremendous inside. Thompson will need some time to learn how to play help defense in the NBA, and he might need to add some bulk to guard stronger PFs, but between Varejao’s quick feet and Thompson’s athleticism and shot-blocking ability, the Cleveland paint, especially for penetrating guards, could become a hazardous area. On the perimeter, Parker is above average; Casspi, though he tries hard, is pretty awful; and Kyrie Irving will be solid, but no one will confuse him with Rajon Rondo. I think Varejao and Thompson (after he grows into his role) will be able to compensate capably when Casspi guards athletic 3s who can get around him easily, and the guards will provide a decent enough defensive presence that the Cavs won’t get torched by exceptional backcourts.

One area in which the Cavs need to improve is defending the three-point line. Any team that played the Cavs last season put up Anthony “I Don’t Miss” Morrow numbers from beyond the arc (41%!). I would be more concerned about this problem if it didn’t seem, at least in the midst of last season’s unrelentingly depressing losing streak, to be an issue of effort. I don’t think we’ll see as many poor closeouts or wide-open opponents this season if only because two rookies—who Scott can pull of the floor if their defensive effort wanes—will be playing big minutes, Casspi and Varejao are extremely hard workers, and even the most fervent pessimist can’t anticipate the Cavs will suffer another losing streak that numbers in the twenties and demoralizes every single person who roots for, is employed by, or has heard of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But, y’know, getting that opponent 3FG% down to a respectable number (is 35% doable?) would help this team stay in some games.

The Bench

Again, I’m sort of projecting what Byron Scott’s rotation is going to be by mid-season, but suppose the bench looks something like this:

6. Antawn Jamison (PF/SF, 6’9-235, scorer)
7. Ramon Sessions (PG/SG, 6’3-190, sparkplug)
8. Daniel Gibson (SG/PG, 6’2-200, 3-pt specialist)
9. Christian Eyenga (SG/SF 6’7-210, athletic freak)
10. Samardo Samuels (PF, 6’9-260, rebounder, foul-drawer)
11. Ryan Hollins (C, 7′-230, tall)
12. Alonzo Gee (SF/SG, 6’6-220, perimeter defender, maybe?)
13. Semih Erden (C; 6’11-240; tall, but in a European way)
14. Luke Harangody (SF/PF 6’7-250, hustler)
15. Manny Harris (SG/PG, 6’5-185, rooting interest)
16. Colin McGowan (PG, 6’1-165, all-around dynamo)

There is good news and bad news here. (And the worse news is I got cut from the team, despite the fact that I would make a much better token white guy than Luke Harangody. C’mon, B-Scott! I was gonna make everyone on the team personalized highlight reels set to Just Blaze beats. I’ve been rehearsing a series of exaggerated “holy crap, I can’t believe he made that shot!” reactions for months. I was going to be Brian Cardinal 2.0! You’ll regret this while Harangody sits stoically at his locker before games, singing “Satellite” to himself beneath his breath, not even bothering to map step-by-step diagrams of the awesome handshakes he plans to execute with his beloved teammates as they walk to the bench after a timeout. This is an outrage.)

The good news: this bench is deep. The Cavs have 10 to 12 (depending on how you feel about Gee and Hollins) capable NBA players on their roster. In this compact season that’s going to feature a lot of games in a short amount of time, every NBA coach is going to plumb the depths of his bench for able-bodied basketball players, due either to fatigue or injury. Byron Scott, at the very least, knows what he’s getting from the Cavs’ bench, since many of these guys played big minutes last season due to a massive injury bug that struck the team around January.

The bad news: This bench isn’t very good. I think both Gibson and Sessions can be effective off the bench—the former as a spot-up shooter and increasingly capable defender, the latter as a guy who flies around for 15-18 minutes a game—but the problem is that if Scott plays both of them together, or pairs one of them with Irving, the Cavalier backcourt becomes incredibly small. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that Sessions is pretty dismal on the defensive end.

Beyond the backcourt subs, the Cavs have Jamison (low-efficiency scorer, below average defender), Eyenga (incredibly raw, apparently in B-Scott’s doghouse), and a bunch of guys who are good at either one or two things or nothing at all. So, while there are a lot of bodies—guys who can step onto the hardwood and not completely embarrass themselves—I’m not sure how much winning basketball Scott can wring from those bodies.

Big Picture

It seems to me that Scott is going to have to do a better job this year in getting the team to play smart, active defense for four quarters. Because the Cavalier offense is going to struggle. The two guys who be doing the majority of the offense-orchestrating are A.) a rookie and B.) A guy who is sometimes prone to put his head down, drive to the hoop without a plan, and clank the ball against the underside of the rim. So, Jamison, who completely checked out last year, is going to have to adjust his mindset (he has said during training camp that this is going to be a focus for him this season); Thompson is going to have to learn quickly when to rotate, when to double, when to stay at home; and the backcourt, which will sometimes be quite undersized, is going to need to move their feet, know where help is, and do the best they can on nights when the opposing team’s shooting guard is 6’6″.

And a Shameless Plug

Well, sort of. John and I participated in ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 feature last week. We talked Irving, Thompson, the impact of a shortened season, and the Cavs’ lineup deficiencies. We also managed to use the term “rookie wall” gratuitously. You can read that here.

Tomorrow, Mallory will handle part two of our preview. He’ll be profiling Cavalier newcomers Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. And Friday, I’ll be back with a look at the Cavs’ schedule.

Links to the Present: December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

You can read mine and Kevin’s recaps of last night’s preseason loss to the Pistons below, but Doc Rostov over at FTS has some thoughts of his own.

“Jamison has the strangest array of awkward but effective underhanded flip shots in the league, and he has particularly enjoyed using them lately against the rookie in practice. Every time Thompson goes right for the block, Jamison goes underhanded to his left. He said that whenever it happens, Thompson pauses for a moment with a bewildered look on his face.” [Jason Lloyd]

“With [Anderson Varejao] in the lineup, the Cavs held the Pistons to 33.3 percent shooting in the third quarter while building a 12-point lead. With him on the bench, the Cavs gave up a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter as the Pistons got back into the game, eventually winning on Austin Daye’s two free throws with 3.1 seconds left.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“These are very early returns, but it appears the Cavs do have two rookies worth watching in Kyrie Irving andTristan Thompson. Fans have heard a lot about Irving, the top player in the draft and in position at the point where it is very easy to show his skills. His ability to create a shot when covered and the 24-second clock is ticking down is critical, because the Cavs remain weak at the two most athletic spots in the NBA — small forward and shooting guard.” [Terry Pluto]

Manny Harris’s weird freezer burn-like injury is going to keep him out until January. And Kyrie Irving is going to put his first NBA paycheck in the bank. (What a super-pleasant, intelligent guy Irving seems to be. Dude puts a smile on my face.)

Part one of a Cavaliers season preview coming this afternoon. Stay tuned.

Preseason Game Recap, Part 2

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

As Colin discusses below (see his game notes also)…Last night, the Cavs missed a golden opportunity to finish the preseason undefeated. From a team perspective though, obviously there isn’t too much to read into the game. The Cavs’ crunch time lineup was Ramon Sessions, Anthony Parker, Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi, and Ryan Hollins…until Hollins fouled out and was replaced by Luke Harangody. This was the only action that Harangody saw all game, and he missed a wide open 10 footer that would have won the game. We hopefully won’t see this sequence of events ever again.

I’ll add a few bullets to what Colin addresses:

• The addition of Irving, Casspi, and Thompson, plus the return of Varejao – brings a lot more energy to the court than the Cavs showed most of last year. It was great to see the Cavs playing with some speed and passion, even in a meaningless game. Seeing Varejao on the court again is awesome; he finished with 9 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block and 3 steals in 25 minutes.

• Jamison is going to shoot more this year than is probably good for the Cavs. As the only “established” NBA offensive player on the team, Jamison will look to shoot frequently. He was 3 of 11 from the field in 24 minutes.

• Irving is definitely a more dynamic offensive player than anything else the Cavs have. He had a few effective drives late in the game; one resulted in an and-one to cut a Piston’s lead to one. Another of his drive / kick-outs ended with a nice swing of passes around the perimeter, leading to a Casspi three (also cutting the lead to one). In addition to his three assists and zero turnovers; he made a really nice pass in the lane to Hollins, but Hollins was fouled and couldn’t convert.

• Early in the 4th quarter; Thompson had a steal, outletted it to Irving, who passed ahead to Casspi for a transition dunk. That was a really nice sequence involving the new guys. Hopefully there is a lot more of that this year.

• The Cavs made 17 of 31 on free throws. If this continues, it will obviously make winning very hard.

The Cavs are probably headed back to the lottery, but the team should be fun to watch this year. Bring on the regular season.

Preseason Game Recap: Pistons 90, Cavs 89

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

The Cavs held the lead for much of the second half, but gave the game away in the 4th quarter. Luke Harangody missed a wide-open 10-footer at the buzzer that would have given the Cavaliers the victory. (Let’s hope I never have to write a sentence like that ever again.) Anyway, it was a preseason game, so it’s not like the result much mattered. On to the bullet points:

— The game was, as is to be expected from a preseason game following an extended lockout, woefully disjointed at times. A lot of ill-advised passes and bad shots. Let’s hope the Cavs—and the league as a whole, really—shake the rust off by the middle of January.

— As a friend of the Jewish people, I’m elated to have an Israeli on the team, especially one who plays as hard as Omri Casspi. Incidentally, Casspi had a terrific game, leading the Cavs with 18 points. He hit open jumpers, ran the floor well, and… attempted to play defense. His activity level was outstanding. I think Casspi, in concert with Andy Varejao (so good to have him back), will be the engine of this team, something we’re going to need while trudging through a brutally compact schedule.

— Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson were unspectacular. Irving didn’t turn the ball over, put up 11 points on 5-12 shooting, and missed a couple easy jumpers. Thompson didn’t make much of an impact on the offensive end, but he rotated well in the post and collected 5 rebounds in 21 minutes.

— A DNP-CD for Skyenga tonight. According to the Plain Dealer’s Twitter account, Byron Scott “has not been happy with [Eyenga]’s training camp.” I suspect that means Eyenga’s still struggling mightily at the defensive end. Not a good sign for the Congolese guard.

— Are we sure Ryan Hollins is an NBA player? The 7-footer’s stat line looked like this at the end of the night: 22 mins, 4 points on 0-3 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 3 TOs. And he fouled out late in the fourth quarter when he, for no real reason, pulled Greg Monroe to the floor as Monroe was jogging toward the block. Hollins is entitled to have a lousy preseason outing, but he was pretty miserable last season, and if he hasn’t improved at all in the offseason, I don’t see how he can help the Cavs win this year other than providing 6 fouls when Dwight Howard visits the Q.

— Brandon Knight looks like a player who hasn’t quite found his sea legs. You might remember that early in the season at Kentucky last year, he was forcing shots and looked a bit out of his league against elite D-1 college competition. I think he’s going to experience the same thing in the NBA. He looked great for a five-minute spell early in the 4th quarter, but for the most part, he was taking questionable jumpers and turning the ball over with a disconcerting frequency. Regardless, I thought he was the steal of the draft at eight; I’m sure he’ll figure it out eventually.

Anyway, the Cavs open the actual season the day after Christmas against the Raptors, which is an eminently winnable game.

Links to the Present: December 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

“Antawn Jamison has been many things during his 13-year NBA career. This year, he gets to be Mr. Everything for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s a lot to ask for a 35-year old forward coming off pinkie surgery. But it’s a role for which Jamison says he is well-prepared.” [Sam Amico]

“Though handed a rather unorthodox preseason schedule, the Cleveland Cavaliers will finish up their second of two exhibitions tonight when they play host to the Detroit Pistons.  With 17  players in tow and the roster needing to be trimmed by two roughly 48 hours before their season tips off, tonight’s contest will undoubtedly be used to help Chris Grant and Byron Scott make any decisions they see fit.” [Scott Sargent]

“Mychel Thompson is making a name for himself in the Cavaliers’ training camp. Heading into today’s second, and last, preseason game against the Detroit Pistons in The Q, Thompson is one of just two undrafted rookies still on the roster. He is the only one to get any playing time in Friday’s 91-87 preseason victory at Detroit. Kenny Haynes did not play.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

Rick Noland has a piece on Samardo Samuels’s path to the NBA and what Byron Scott expects from him this season.

And for anyone wondering if the Cavs were going to use their cap space to go after Arron Afflalo, Denver just signed him to a 5-year, $43 million contract. I like Afflalo and everything, but I wouldn’t want to pay him an average of $9 mil per year over five seasons.

On the Twitters

“Thompson says that he and Kyrie are like “Batman and Robin.” when asked who was who, he smiled and decided they’re both Batman. #Cavs” [Scott Sargent]

“Tristan Thompson is big Maple Leafs fan — owns a Mats Sundin jersey — and knows of Johnny Bower. He was unaware Bower banner hangs in Q.” [PDCavsInsider]

“Casspi’s knee is OK, will play tonight, BScott hasn’t decided if he’ll start. Either way, he’s the starter once season begins.” [Jason Lloyd]

“BScott on Irving & Knight: ‘Kyrie is def a true PG. I think Brandon has the ability to be a true PG, but it’s something he has to learn.'” [Jason Lloyd]

Links to the Present: December 19, 2011

Monday, December 19th, 2011

For those of you who missed it, the Cavs defeated the Pistons 91-87 on Friday night in the first of two preseason games. I didn’t watch, but Conrad Kaczmarek over at FTS did, and you can read his recap here.

The Cavs also played their Wine vs. Gold scrimmage on Sunday. Tom Reed discusses Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson’s performances in the game over at the Plain Dealer.

In other news, Byron Scott is particularly pleased with newcomer Omri Casspi’s contributions to the team. He characterizes Casspi as a “pitbull,” and thinks his tenacity will help the Cavaliers remain mentally tough throughout the upcoming season.

Fear the Sword has a survey of the guards who will come off the bench for the Cavs this season.

Baron Davis cleared amnesty waivers and will reportedly join the Knicks, so any of you worried about him helping the Heat capture a championship this year can exhale.

And the guys over at Ball Don’t Lie have an excellent, entertaining Cavs season preview for you. Enjoy it, since, if this season goes like I think it will, BDL likely won’t have much to say about the mediocre-to-awful (but promising!) Cavaliers.

Links to the Present: December 16, 2011

Friday, December 16th, 2011

“I think [Irving]’s ready. I think he can definitely play. But if I’m ready to give him the ball? When will I know? Probably Dec. 25. I’ll let you know on the 26th.” [Byron Scott via Mary Schmitt Boyer on the possibility of Kyrie Irving being the team’s starting PG]

“I really don’t have this attitude where I need to start. I think my play will continue to dictate that as we continue to go through training camp. Hopefully, I’ll be a starter, but if not, I’ll bring energy off the bench. So we’ll see how it goes.” [Kyrie Irving]

Kyrie also has “mixed emotions” about the Baron Davis move, according to Bob Finnan.

Fear the Sword has a preview of tonight’s preseason tilt against the Pistons.

TD over at WFNY examines whether or not Dan Gilbert has an image problem.

On the Twitters

“Gilbert on when Cleveland wins a championship: ‘It will be one big-ass party, my friend.'” [Scott Sargent]

“Unrealistic expectations of Tristan Thompson by fans and media alike. Will take him years to learn how to play on the offensive side.” [realcavsfans]

Links to the Present: December 15, 2011

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Slow news day unless you wanna read nine separate reports about Baron Davis being waived via the new CBA’s amnesty clause, but here’s a story detailing the bulging disk from which BD is currently suffering. It appears he’s going to be on the bench for awhile, which makes him a perfect fit to play 20-30 regular season games before helping a contender during a deep playoff run, no? (Provided he’s not 438 pounds by February.)

Also, Manny Harris has a strange, freezer-burn type mark on his right foot that’s going to sideline him for approximately two weeks. I wonder if this is going to hurt his ability to make the team. And Omri Casspi is day-to-day with a sprained knee. He might not play in the Cavs’ exhibition opener against Detroit.

And for anyone who missed it, here are Davis’s very nice tweets upon learning that he is no longer a Cavalier.

I haven’t read anything about what the Cavaliers’ front office will do with the cap space (about $8 mil) created by Davis’s departure, but if Chris Grant does anything in the next couple of days, I’ll make sure to pass it along.