Archive for January, 2012

Links to the Present: January 4, 2011

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

“[Thompson]’s an exceptional player. The thing I like about him is the energy he brings on both ends of the floor. He learns. If you tell him something once, he picks it up quickly. He wants to get better. He wants to be a great player. That’s a sign of success.” [Antawn Jamison on TT]

“Omri Casspi… made 2 of 3 shots for 5 points in 18:42 on Tuesday. He had 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 4 turnovers. Coach Byron Scott remains steadfast in his support, even leaving Casspi in the game after he picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and his man, Corey Maggette, scored 12 points. Scott insists Casspi’s starting spot is not in jeopardy, but Alonzo Gee played twice as much in the second half. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.” [Tom Reed]

“I think [the Cavs’ players] are enjoying playing with one another, which is great. Chemistry is so important — and camaraderie. I’ve always said, ‘You give me a team with good talent and great chemistry and camaraderie and we’ll win.’ We have a team here with that great chemistry and camaraderie that we’re starting to develop. It’s just a matter of these guys playing more basketball together as this season goes along.” [Byron Scott via Mary Schmitt Boyer]

Here’s a video of Kyrie Irving’s chasedown block during the third quarter of last night’s game via the WFNY Tumblr.

Recap: Cavs 115, Bobcats 101 (Or, Did the Cavs just take care of business?)

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Overview: The Cavs easily dispatched the struggling Bobcats at home to improve their record to 3-2. Kyrie Irving had his best game as a pro, scoring 20 points on 8-10 shooting from the floor and recording six assists without a single turnover.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Oh, so THAT’S why Kyrie was the consensus #1 overall pick in the draft. Kyrie was in complete control, reading every screen perfectly, swishing jumpers when they were open, making the smart pass, and going to the rim when the driving lane was there. The Bobcats are playing some of the worst defense in the league right now, but that was an absolutely gorgeous performance from Kyrie, and one that makes you think he could lead the Cavs into a brighter future. And how about that chase-down block?

TRISTAN THOMPSON. SUPERBEAST. This is a weird game to analyze for him, because he had more great plays than he’s had in any game this season, but his final line suffered because he got a little cocky offensively and took a lot of shots that he really shouldn’t be taking yet. After he swished that first step-back jumper, he tried a lot of shots and dribble moves that he shouldn’t be trying in games yet, and he only finished with 16 points on 16 shots.

Still, when Thompson was doing his thing, he was a MONSTER. He finishes with as much authority as I’ve ever seen a Cavs big finish with, he’s a junkyard dog around the rim, he gets off the floor quickly and with power, and his block on B.J. Mullens was freaking epic. I will not completely concede Tristan over Jonas until next season, but I am absolutely loving TT right now.

Jamison with a classic Jamison scoring night: 19 points on 16 shots, with baskets from everywhere on the court. Jamison does seem to be playing with a lot more energy on both sides of the floor this year — whether it’s because Varejao and TT’s energy is infectious, Jamison is 100% healthy, or Jamison is in a contract year, he’s actually playing like he gives a crap this season.

Anthony Parker is going to be making open threes from the corner until he’s 46 years old. It helps that Kyrie set him up with some absolutely beautiful dimes on Tuesday night.

Casspi really has to start being less of a disaster.

A dominant win over a clearly inferior team for the Cavs on Tuesday. Not many times you could say that last year. Things are going to get tougher when the 3-point shooting regresses to the mean for Cleveland, but it’s not a bad time to be a Cavs fan right now, especially since Kyrie and TT are both looking like the real deal.

Links to the Present: January 2, 2012

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

“Meanwhile, Thompson is coming off the bench at power forward. The Cavs’ decision to take him at No. 4 raised some eyebrows, as most of the draft websites had Thompson projected somewhere in the 8-12 range. But the only thing being raised nowadays is the opponents’ blood pressure when Thompson leaps to throw back another one of their shots.” [Sam Amico]

“I would add that Tristan is in a perfect position right now. Normally, the fourth pick in the draft would be under a lot of pressure to produce for his team. With Kyrie Irving going to the Cavs in front of him, Thompson has been given a pass of sorts. He isn’t the one SportsCenter is looking for when they pick their 15 second highlight clips. Expectations were pretty low for him this season, at least by those outside the Cavaliers’ offices. He has to be gaining confidence with each passing game.” [Rick at WFNY]

“Hey look, another rookie in the notable performances. Tristan Thompson had his entire arsenal on display against the Nets. He scored 9 points, all of which game in the paint or at the free throw line. He grabbed 3 offensive rebounds, blocked 3 shots, and altered several other shots by simply being huge and jumping crazy high. Tigger was the one Cavaliers that got to the line with some frequency. Unfortunately, Thompson was unable to cash in on those trips to the charity stripe, shooting only 1 of 6 on FTs. I don’t have much advanced analysis on that, he just needs to get better at shooting them. Teams would rather foul him hard and put him at the line than let him dunk. He needs to be able to make them pay for this strategy.” [Conrad Kaczmarek]

Semih Erden has returned to practice. He is in the process of recovering from a broken right thumb he acquired while playing in Turkey during the lockout.

Recap: Cavs 98, Nets 82 (Or, Free Jamison!)

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Let Antawn shoot! I’m pretty sure that’s the crux of what John’s been trying to write for the past year and a half.

“Put the ball in his hands, and then watch him go to work.” – not John Krolik

Okay, so things won’t go this way every night for our beloved Cavaliers (New Jersey may be the only team in the league employing our 2010-11 defensive strategy of not closing out on three-point shooters), but I suppose we should take them as they come and try not to overanalyze.

The Cavs hit 16 3-pointers Sunday night (the team record is 17) to blow open what was a five point game halfway through the fourth quarter, and their 16-point margin of victory was four points greater than any achieved last season.

The following are my pertinent thoughts:

  • Credit where credit is due… Really good game for Antawn Jamison tonight. 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, while visibly contributing on the defensive end (he somehow blocked two shots). The biggest criticism of Jamison offensively is that he’s a volume shooter, but when he’s on, well…see the next bullet.
  • Here’s a good Jamison-related stat from the Cavs’ new beat writer, Tom Reed: “In the Cavs’ two losses, Jamison is 10-of-34 from the field. In the two wins, he’s 16-of-24.” Small sample size, but I’d argue two things – One, regardless of the size (that’s how most of my arguments start), this stat does indicate something very relevant, and two, that something has not so much to do with Jamison, but more so with the function Jamison serves. The Cavs desperately need an efficient scorer capable of demanding defensive attention. Even with a fully developed Kyrie, they’ll need that. Ideally, this would be a guy who could create on his own. At this point, I’m just looking for someone for Kyrie to pass the ball to. When Jamison is hitting, we have a guy at the very least comfortable functioning in that role. When he’s not…we just don’t have that guy (with the possible exception of Luke Harangody).
  • Exceedingly steady game from Kyrie, but nothing spectacular tonight. On the plus side, it was nice to see his jumper start to make an appearance. He’d been doing most of his damage thus far around the basket, but against New Jersey he finally looked to be settling down from midrange and finding a comfort level behind the 3-point line (3-4 tonight after going 1-7 in the first four games). Only real negatives — Kyrie wasn’t quite as aggressive pushing the ball up the floor, and he spent more time on Sundiata Gaines than he did against Deron Williams. I guess there are worse things in the world than not getting a baptism by fire. In closing, I love Kyrie.

His name is not Jonas.

  • And the other rook? Austin Carr reiterated this quite fervently, but we really haven’t had a 4 that long and athletic since Larry Nance. His work from the weak-side is fast becoming as fun to watch as LeBron’s chase down blocks were, and his offense is at times quite encouraging (as long as he makes a decisive move and doesn’t have to improvise, he’s able to get quality looks purely via his quickness). In each game, I’ve thought he’s played better than his stats suggested. Same thing tonight. I think I love Tristan too. I’m a basketball polygamist.
  • Daniel Gibson is so solid, and I continue to be impressed by his development as a player. 19 points, 5 of 7 from 3. Other than Andy, he might be the most reliable player on the team right now.
  • Alonzo Gee is winning me over with his toughness. His game (right now) is reminiscent of a Laker-era Shannon Brown.
  • The Cavs bench is currently averaging just under 47% of the Cavalier points. I think that means that we have both a deep bench, and a mediocre starting lineup.

Closing quips:

  • That Mehmet Okur trade has failed to save the Nets thus far.
  • 3-Gee is a great nickname.
  • Sundiata’s game has expanded past the heave.
  • Deron Williams is really good…and there is nothing around him.
  • MarShon Brooks, who at 15.3 ppg was leading all rookies in scoring entering the game, didn’t score a point tonight. He also wore socks that made him look like the Aluminum Monster.

If there's one thing I know about metallic silver, it's that it never goes out of style.

  • I bet Kris Humphries matches his point and rebound total more frequently than any other player in the league.
  • And lastly…for draft pick watchers, there are at least three teams in the East clearly worse than the Cavs — New Jersey, Detroit, and the Wizards. I’d put Toronto on that list too had they not, ya know, beat us in the first game of the season.

Epilogue-y segment:

Kevin, our resident stat guru, found some great stuff for me to include in the recap tonight in the event that Kyrie found himself driving to the rim consistently. Sure enough, most of Kyrie’s 11 shots were jumpers. It’s still worth reading.

From Kevin:

According to hoopdata.com, through the 12/30 games, there have been 113 NBA guards who played at least 3 games + 10 minutes per game.

Of them, Kyrie Irving has ranked 5th for shots at the rim per 40 minutes (he’s getting off 8 shots at the rim per 40), 7th for assists at the rim per 40 minutes (4.5), and 1st (tied with Andre Miller) in sum of his shots + assists at the rim per 40 minutes (12.5).

And, slightly less encouraging:

Kyrie’s been a below average finisher at the rim.  His 50% shooting is below the NBA average of 61.5% for guards (both in 2010 – 2011 and so far this year), though the sum of his made shots plus assists at the rim (8.5) is third behind Andre Miller (9.4) and Monta Ellis (8.8).

Catch all that? It’s basically hard evidence that Kyrie is getting to the rim (awesome), but not finishing at an astonishingly high rate (less awesome).

Here’s my take: The finishing thing is something I’ve noticed from game one — once Kyrie gets to the basket, he’s often just tossing the ball weakly at he rim. Now Kyrie, at Duke, was actually able to finish pretty effectively via a hopefully transferable combination of size and craftiness. He’ll never float over everyone like Derrick Rose, or explode through a defender a la Russell Westbrook…but that 50% shooting at the rim is something I’m crossing my fingers will improve as Kyrie adjusts to the speed and length of the guys defending at the NBA level. The most important thing he could do? I think would be to take off more on balance and on occasion, more under control. When he’s getting blocked, it’s because he’s already on his way down and just has to get the ball up before he hits the ground. He needs to go up from a position of power. His worst game in this regard was, by far, game one… So I’m hopeful he’s getting better here already. Definitely something to keep an eye on. Think positive.

…………………………..

See you next Sunday everyone!

Go Cavs!

-Ryan

Ryan Braun’s 2012 NBA Season Preview One Week Into The Season:

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to the year’s first installment of what was (and may soon be again if I can’t think of a better name) Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant.

“Where did all the pictures go?” – at least one person.

This year, we’ll be trying something a little bit different — a league-topical cartoon (vs. a purely Cavalier one), plus some accordant sentiments on whatever the topic was that seemed cartoon-worthy. And that will be posted every Sunday morning.

How’s that sound?

This week’s accordant sentiments — as dictated by our picture — just a general look around the league. Notes and observations through one week of play. I promise this will get more interesting.

Here is what I’ve gleaned so far:

  • New York will either beat Miami, or completely flame out. Three reasons they’re so exciting: Tyson Chandler provides a foundation for defensive improvement, Baron Davis has the ability to replace/improve upon what Chauncey brought, and Carmelo/Amar’e both think highly enough of themselves to see a matchup with the Heat as relatively even. Which is a good thing. If I’m being honest with myself, then yes, it’s doubtful that Super Team 0.5 will be able to get it done…but if enough momentum is at their back in May, who knows.
  • Derrick Rose won’t be able to one-up his 2010-11 season, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a better player. The guy is as tenacious as anyone in the league, and in a weird way, I think it’ll forever make it harder for him to tangibly show us his season-to-season improvement. At this point, it’s all about nuance for him – advances in his game will come in the form of empowering Boozer and finding non-scoring avenues to succeed against elite defenses.
  • Kevin Durant is, without a doubt, the second best player in the league (with the possible exception of Dwight Howard, who affects the game in a completely different way). He’s so much bigger than he was in his rookie year, and he’s getting so comfortable in carrying the Thunder for stretches/determining when those stretches should be. The litmus test will come against LeBron. If Durant can avoid getting pushed out past the 3-point-line for 90% of the game, the Thunder can win it all.
  • More Thunder: There is no one that OKC could get for Russell Westbrook even remotely close to his caliber. Westbrook is a top-15 player who’s fully capable of jumping into the top-5 by the end of the year. He’s Derrick Rose, just a little less savvy off the dribble (and a little more tenacious defensively).
  • Dirk Nowitzki is still really good.
  • Evan Turner, not so much.
  • Blake Griffin will average over 25 ppg for the next 8 years.
  • Ricky Rubio will average over 8 ast for the next 25 years. (I’m still figuring out Rubio in my head. He’s definitely fun, but ultimately, might be Rondo without the defense.)
  • Kobe Bryant is not even close to the same player he was four years ago. And I say that out of respect to how good Kobe used to be. He’s still really good.
  • Dwight Howard only makes sense in Chicago or Dallas. (Or in Orlando, but for completely different reasons.)
  • Utah will eventually trade another big.
  • And…just to reiterate, anyone rooting against Miami should also be rooting against Dwyane Wade’s knees. This season has a distinct The Empire Strikes Back-type feel. Which means that next season we’ll draft one of LeBron’s kids.

Notes on the Cavs specifically:

  • Tristan > Bismack
  • Kings < Playoffs
  • David West = James Harrison
  • Omri Casspi’s game is exclusively linear.
  • Samardo Samuels is a poor man’s Jared Sullinger.
  • Luke Harangody is a poor man’s Brian Cardinal.
  • A guard rotation of Kyrie Irving, Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson and whoever replaces Anthony Parker could be very, very good.
  • As much as we hate on Antawn Jamison (and much/all of it is valid), the Cavs currently have no one on the roster capable of shouldering the offensive burden he does. He doesn’t shoulder it particularly well…but who else is looking to take 15 shots a game from the power forward/center position? Don’t misinterpret, I’d trade him in a heartbeat…but we’d all notice he was gone.
  • Ultimately, I think Omri Casspi and Alonzo Gee are vying for the same position — backup 3 on a good team.
  • Initial final summation: These Cavs still need more talent, but they’re better, clearly more exciting, and infinitely tougher than last year’s team. Credit both Byron Scott and Chris Grant for the latter. Watching Kyrie grow will be plenty exciting for the next few years, and Andy is a perfect P&R partner for him (as he was for LeBron).
  • End note to the final summation: I hate to be this guy, but the biggest “misstep” the Cavs could make this year would be winning a few too many games and not landing Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond. We need one more elite guy to develop into a contender. Dan Gilbert can find us the supplementary guys (e.g. the Iguodala’s of the world)…and I’m hoping we need only one more draft to hit on a second star.
  • End note’s end note: I had a dream last night that we got the fifth pick in the draft (after David Stern picked numbers out of a hat). Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal would still be awesome. We’d just end up small.

……………………

AWARD WATCH ( 6% of the way through the season):

NBA MVP – LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat. (33.5 ppg, 7.5 reb, 7 ast) He’s shooting just under 60% from the field and 83% from the line. Plus, he just proposed to his girlfriend. It’s a bummer, but his life seems to be smoothing out.

CAVALIER MVP – Andy Varejao, PF/C. God, is it good to have him back. Andy is the best thing Tristan Thompson has going for him.

NBA COY– Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat. For getting so much out of so little. If Miami wins 56+, it’s his. That said, by the end of the season, I think George Karl, Nate McMillan and Monty Williams will all have a shot at it.

CAVALIER COY – Byron Scott. Barely edging out Mike Krzyzewski. I worried a little early about Byron being perhaps a bit too eager to make the rookies “earn it”…but I’m feeling pretty good about everything now.

NBA ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers. If the voting ended today, I think it would be close (and maybe Rubio would get some kind of a publicity boost) …but no rookie is really shouldering the same level of responsibility as Kyrie right now. And game one aside, he’s been handling it pretty well.

CAVALIER ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG. Tristan’s been strong (I love the way he runs the floor at literally every opportunity—he’s not gotten the ball once yet, but someone else always comes open as a result), but again, Kyrie just has so much more to worry about. If Tristan can become “smart Josh Smith” within three years, we made out.

………………….

Enjoy the game tonight! Big test for Kyrie, not so big test for everyone else.

Happy New Year everyone!

-Ryan

(Note: My friend Aron colored the picture, and there’s more of her stuff and my stuff over at CFAAP.com. This blog is better though.)