Archive for February, 2012

Recap: Cleveland 112, Milwaukee 113 (Or, a salute to misfit toys)

Friday, February 10th, 2012

(This recap sort of operates in two sections: a quick look at the game and then a more abstract Rudolph the red-nose reindeer concept.  This may be the longest recap in blog history.)

For two teams essentially playing the season for pride, this was a pretty big game.  The Bucks and Cavs are currently locked in a battle for the 8th seed in the East.  Kyrie Irving was sitting again with concussion symptoms, but Milwaukee has been missing Andrew Bogut for 3 weeks.  Tristan Thompson returned.

The game was worthy of the monumental stakes.  Byron Scott got a T, Scott Skiles was ejected; EVERYONE knew what this game meant.  The Cavs started the game running a virtual layup line, opening up a 17 – 2 lead midway through the 1st quarter.  As quick as the lead was built though, it was lost; a couple of Gee turnovers, an Eyenga foul on a three pointer, some Milwaukee transition threes, and Milwaukee leads at the end of the 1st: 25 – 28.  The second quarter featured a relatively steady assault by the Cavs, they held Brandon Jennings in check and everyone was pitching in for Cleveland.  The halftime lead was 57 – 53 with five players scoring six points or more.    After falling behind early in the third quarter, Anderson Varejao left the game due to injury (sprained wrist, x-rays were negative).  I was sure this was this end with no Irving and no Varejao, but then Mr. Electric went to work…Antawn Jamison was ON FIRE!!  Eighteen third quarter points took the Cavs to an 85 – 77 lead.  The fourth quarter started poorly with TT, Samuels and Eyenga struggling at both ends, letting the Bucks get back within two, but then Jamison came back in and MONEY IN THE BANK!!  Jamison had accumulated 34 points as the game wound down to the final minute.  With the score tied 102 – 102, a really poor possession of offensive execution ended with Tristan Thompson turning the ball over with 2 second left on the shot clock.  It looked like trouble, as Brandon Jennings dribbled out the shot clock, before driving to the hoop.  Amazingly he missed though and Jamison was FOULED on the rebound with 3 seconds to go! 

Except it was all downhill from there.  Jamison missed both free throws, the game went to overtime where the Cavs continued to not get off good shots, and eventually they lost 113 – 112.  It would have been nice if Jamison hit one of those freebies, but clearly the loss can’t be pinned on that.  The Cavs shot 6 of 13 on free throws in the 4th quarter.  Their last possession in regulation really could have used Kyrie Irving.  Ultimately it was an exciting game, their free throw shooting killed them as did their lack of depth without Irving and Varejao; Thompson, Samuels and Eyenga needed relied on too much, their 11 points on 16 shots didn’t get it done in a close game.

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Whatever though, I’ve decided to take a positive outlook with this year’s Cavs.  No getting upset about Antawn Jamison’s shot selection or Ramon Sessions’ defense or the fact that half the minutes at the wing & frontcourt go to players with one foot in the D-league, Europe or retirement.  Last season wasn’t fun for anyone; time to leave that behind.  This year’s team is the first real step in a re-building process, so I will cease getting bothered by the miscues of players that are largely auditioning for a continued role anyways.   Recent wins over the Mavericks, Celtics, Clippers, and Knicks, by a team seemingly destined for another disappointing season, have left me appreciative.  Viewed through the spectrum of a first re-building season, the Cavs overachieving bunch of undrafted, undersized, un-athletic or under-aged players, is a great surprise.  Watching the Cavs battle the superstar-laden Heat for three quarters, I couldn’t help but think of the “Island of Misfit Toys”, from the popular Christmas special “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”.  You know the story.   After being teased at home, the protagonist runs away, eventually ending up in a land of flawed toys that can’t find homes. The misfit toys are a loveable group that enamors themselves to Rudolph, who eventually saves Christmas and gets them delivered to children around the world. 

These castaways were so likeable that NBC had to change the original airing, because so many viewers complained that the plight of the toys was not adequately resolved.  I think Cleveland currently has their own cherish able Misfit Toys.  Tonight, the re-cap will include a comparison of each player to one of the originals (comparison in italics, recap is not).

Moonracer – A lion with wings was the leader of the crew.  If Cleveland has ever possessed such a creature, it’s Anderson Varejao.  The effort he brings to every situation has been unbelievable and is undoubtedly the heart of this team.  This year, the effort is even showing up in the stat sheets.  His 11 points, 12 rebounds and 1.3 steals every night are easily career bests.  You could have flipped a coin to determine if he or Roy Hibbert should have been the East’s back-up All-Star center; if Cleveland had 17 wins and Indiana 10, Varejao would be on that team. 

Hopefully Varejao’s injury is as minor as the Cavs’ announcers made it sound.  I don’t want to think of this season sans Andy.  The Cavs struggled on the glass in this game, and Andy’s 4 rebounds in 20 minutes were a season low.  Get back soon!

Charlie-in-the-box – He guarded the island’s entrance.  Cleveland’s team defense has improved by 7 points per 100 possessions over last season and the defensive efforts of Alonzo Gee and Daniel Gibson certainly play a role in that.  Both players routinely rise to the challenge of guarding the opponent’s best.  The play of Gee has been a foremost cause of my positivity, as he definitely looks capable of being a rotation player on a contender.

The defense wasn’t bad tonight.  The 113 points allowed came on 110 possessions.  Everything was going really well until the 4th quarter when Shawn Livingston started terrorizing the Cavs.  The Bucks started moving the ball better late in the game and ended up with too many fourth quarter layups.  Gibson had a really solid game, playing both guard positions: 17 points on 12 shots with 6 rebounds and 8 assists.  In the last minute of the game and overtime, Gibson was really the only Cav getting good looks.  Gee had an Alonzo Gee game; 18 points on really aggressive play, 4 turnovers.  He needs to spend all of next summer working on ball handling drills.

Bird Fish –  A power forward whose shot selection is 77% jump shots and 0% dunks…Antawn Jamison, you sir  are the NBA’s swimming bird.  I’m not upset though; Jamison serves as a veteran that is ultimately helpful to his year’s team.  Until he’s traded or leaves in the off-season, I’ll contentedly accept Jamison as part of this motley crew.

Until the two missed free throws, Jamison was out of his mind tonight.  34 points and 11 rebounds with 3 assists and no turnovers.  Everything he threw up went in, until overtime when he scored nothing.   That’s two really solid offensive games in a row for Jamison, although I still can’t imagine anyone trading anything of substance for him.

A Dolly for Sue – This toy was depressed due to abandonment by her owner.  Ramon Sessions has repeatedly been on the margins of being wanted.  Whether being drafted 56th, becoming a free agent when everyone was saving cap space for Lebron, being traded to Cleveland for nothing, or watching the Cavs draft a PG first in the draft; Ramon has struggled to find a home.  When cast as the undisputed starter, he’s shown ability to thrive, and the 24 points & 13 assists on Wednesday should leave him in the good graces of Cavs fans everywhere.  If it increases his trade value; that’s fine too.

Sessions is reliving his Milwaukee days; 16 assists for the Razor tonight.  He was 4 of 16 from the field and didn’t play particularly good defense, but he was a really good floor general, as the Cavs moved the ball around pretty well until the end.  They finished with 33 assists on 43 field goals, shooting 58% through three quarters, before regressing to 31% in the 4th Q and OT (plus the 7 of 15 free throws).

Squirt gun that shoots grape jelly – Omri Casspi, your shooting motion is unorthodox.  I’m not sure where you fit into the future, but moving JJ Hickson was crucial towards defining a new Cavaliers identity.

Casspi was pretty good tonight and lead the team in plus/minus at +16.  He had 9 points during the initial 17 – 2 run and never turned the ball over.

Cowboy riding an ostrich – If an explanation is required, you don’t understand Luke Harangody.

Tonight Luke, the bench was your ostrich.  That was probably for the best.

A toy boat that sinks – Christian Eyenga occasionally enthralls with flashes of shocking athleticism.  Eventually though, you realize there are too many leaks to fix. For now, I will appreciate the Sportscenter worthy plays and accept everything else, while banking on Alonzo Gee as the perimeter defensive stopper of the future.

Skyenga made one appearance with a fantastic second quarter baseline drive & dunk.  Other than that, he drowned.  His other six shots were misses and he only chipped in one rebound, while the Cavs went -15 with him on the floor.

Spotted Elephant – The “round mound of confound”, Samardo Samuels will have the occasional encouraging game, like his 15 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes in the first Miami game.  Most other times, he’ll do something else (28% field goal shooting since then).  He plays hard and I’ll take that this year.

Samuels was overmatched, too.  He couldn’t finish near the basket and the Cavs struggled rebounding with him on the floor.   4 points, 3 rebounds and minus 16 during his 14 minutes.

Trainer – Tristan Thompson is our locomotive with square wheels.  Your energetic dunks & blocks are a great addition.  My fingers are crossed though that you can polish the rough edges and make your wheels round.

It was great to see him back on the court, and this was one of his better games.  He needs to quit forcing shots, but he was a defensive and rebounding menace tonight; 13 rebounds and 3 awesome blocks in 28 minutes.  He really is a mess on offense though.

An airplane that doesn’t fly – At nearly 37, Anthony Parker’s most athletic days are far behind him.  No problem though; he’s cheap roster filler until this off-season, when presumably a younger player or two will be added to the mix.

AP stayed in the hangar tonight due to his lingering back issues.

Rudolph – Kyrie Irving is the one leading this sleigh.  Anderson Varejao being more awesome than ever, Alonzo Gee looking like a keeper, and Irving’s emergence as a franchise cornerstone are the main drivers of my optimistic take on all things Cleveland basketball.  That’s a good start for year one of serious re-building.

Here’s to a speedy recovery, Kyrie.  There’s no Christmas without you.  The Cavs probably win this game if Irving is there for the 4th quarter.

I probably broke a record tonight; Longest recap of all time.  Until tomorrow, hombres…

Cavs sign Ben Uzoh to a 10-day contract

Friday, February 10th, 2012

According to WFNY, Cleveland has signed Ben Uzoh to a ten-day contract.  Obviously this is most significant, because Kyrie Irving will be out for at least a few more games.

Uzoh was undrafted out of Tulsa in 2010.  Here’s his Draft Express profile.  He’s a very athletic combo guard, who played 400 minutes for the Nets last season and wasn’t terrible.

Links to the Present: February 10, 2012

Friday, February 10th, 2012

“The Cavs are not looking to trade Anderson Varejao. You never say “never” in the trade business, but it would be a shock if any deal involving the Cavs center happened before the March 15 trading deadline. This is based on several NBA sources.” [Terry Pluto]

“Irving probably will miss his second consecutive game tonight, against Milwaukee, because of a concussion. The head injury was sustained in Tuesday’s loss in Miami and diagnosed before Wednesday’s home win over the Los Angeles Clippers.” [Tom Reed]

And as you probably already know, Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving have been left off the All-Star team. I’m fine with this.

Draft Profile – Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Starting this month, two potential draft prospects will be looked at.  There’s a heavy concentration for potential lottery picks:  three at Kentucky, three at UNC, two at Baylor, two at Florida, and the two players at Connecticut that will be profiled today.  Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb occupy positions of need for the Cavs; Drummond – a mammoth center, and Lamb – a slick shooting wing.

Photo by Jessica Hill - AP

Drummond is currently projected as the 2nd pick in the 2012 draft.  Size and athleticism constitute his primary strengths: 6’11”, 275 lbs, 7’5” wingspan, runs the court like a smaller player, jumps through the roof…physically, an extremely rare player.  To some extent though, that’s where the definite strengths end.  He possesses decent shooting and passing ability, but defers too often.  He’s always the biggest player on the court, but doesn’t consistently use it to his advantage.  He gathers rebounds due to his size and leaping, but doesn’t show great fundamentals or always assert himself.  He blocks shots, but can appear lost defensively.  You get the drift; a nineteen-year-old possessing all the physical gifts in the world, that hasn’t learned to utilize them.  Oh yeah, there’s also the little problem of 34% free throw shooting.

As a shooting guard, Lamb’s primary strength is as a scorer.  Through 23 games, he’s averaging 17 points on 47 / 35/ 84 shooting.  He can create looks off the dribble and is also excellent as a set shooter.  With a huge seven-foot wingspan and solid athleticism, he gathers steals by disrupting passing lanes.  His father is Rolando Lamb, the 53rd pick in the 1985 NBA draft, and the younger Lamb’s game reflects an understanding gained through spending his life around basketball.  A primary weakness is that he’s not strong; at 6’5” and with great length, he only weighs 185 lbs.  His light frame and a tendency to settle for perimeter looks, results in one free throw attempt for every four field goal attempts.  Finally, his laid back playing style can adversely affect his defensive intensity and his rebounding. 

Notes from recent games include:

01/14 against Notre Dame – In this UConn victory, Drummond finished with 10 points on 42% true shooting, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 36 minutes.  Scouting reports on him held up, as he never showed a “strong” post move, instead settling for turnarounds and fadeaways.  As a contrast, teammate Alex Oriakhi repeatedly established deep post position on #14 (who also frequently guarded Drummond) and made strong moves.  Both of Drummond’s blocks were recoveries to thwart layups that probably wouldn’t have been attempted if his positioning and attentiveness were better.  His defensive rebounding fundamentals are also lacking; he rarely showed great movement or positioning after a shot goes up or, instead standing in place and relying on his size and leaping.  In this particular game, that was frequently good enough.  He is an amazing athlete- there were a couple of rebounds where his hand was two feet higher than anyone else’s.  Early in the game on a fast break, he ran the court like a guard, got rewarded and finished with a spectacular dunk.

Lamb finished with 6 points on 3 of 11 shooting with only 3 rebounds in 40 minutes.  It was an uninspiring game.  He made a couple of jump shots, once off the dribble and another time off a screen.  He stole a pass and finished in transition.  Other than that, lots of misses and half-hearted defense & rebounding.  On the bright side, he had seven assists, plus at least two easy setups that were missed by his big men.

photo by Jim Rogash - Getty Images

01/29 against Cincinnati

Drummond was largely ineffective in this 67- 70 UConn loss, finishing with 4 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block in 28 minutes.  Again his play was generally “weak”; shooting jump shots, floaters and fadeaways instead of punishing smaller players on the block.  Twice when the ball came to him near the basket, he leapt, soaring above everyone for an easy scoring opportunity…except he passed the ball, resulting in turnovers as the intended recipient was not expecting the ball.   Some nonexistent box-outs lead to opponent offensive rebounds.  Early in the second half, I noted that if Drummond’s size & athleticism could be combined with teammate Alex Oriakhi’s motor & toughness, you’d have a Dwight Howard clone.  His play did pick up in the second half and he had a couple of quality defensive possessions, affecting pick-and-rolls on the perimeter before retreating to contest the shot at the rim.  He finally showed a strong post move, spinning to his right for a vicious dunk (it was waived off though, due to a hand check).  Crunch time was a letdown, with misses on a couple of makeable shots that could have been difference makers.

Lamb finished with 14 points on 53% true shooting with 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 turnovers.  His game started well; hitting a couple of long shots off of screens, driving into the lane for a tough 8-footer, and threading a sweet crosscourt bounce pass for a layup.  In the second half though, he looked disengaged and exhibited bad body language.  He only took 3 shots in the last 14:40, as teammate Shabazz Napier scored ten points in the final minutes to nearly rally UConn to victory.  Napier was UConn’s best player this game, finishing with 27 points and 7 assists on 64% true shooting.

02/01 against Georgetown

This game was ugly, with UConn losing 44 – 58, but the first four minutes were the best play I saw from Drummond.  Displaying a variety of methods, Drummond scored 8 points while leading UConn to a 13-7 lead.  A baseline spin move resulted in a lay-up, deep post position netted an easy slam, a cut to the basket lead to an alley-oop finish, and a perfectly timed pick & roll provided a highlight reel dunk.  This is how Drummond needs to look every time he steps on the floor.  For a reason that is unclear to me, Drummond went to the bench at this point.  UConn only made one field goal in the next thirteen minutes (off a Drummond assist), before finding him for another bucket to end the drought.  On several possessions, it appeared that playing with better passers could have resulted in more Drummond baskets.  He wasn’t perfect though and had occassional defensive & rebounding lapses and puzzling bouts with passivity.  Three times in the second half, he tried to steal a pass 20 – 25 feet from the basket and missed, allowing his man a path to a layup.  After the third time, he was briefly benched.  He finished with 18 points on 65% true shooting with 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block in 32 minutes.

This was a super-forgettable game for Lamb; 14 points on 4 of 18 shooting with 6 rebounds and 1 assist.  Lots of missed shots and he also has a tendency to close out on shooters too hard, getting fooled by pump fakes.  In a game short on Lamb highlights, a flying dunk on an offensive rebound showcased his athleticism.

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Summary:  Drummond needs to become the brute force that he was built for.  Through 23 games in 28 minutes per game, he’s averaged 9.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.  His 16% defensive rebounding rate would be great for a small forward (Kidd-Gilchrist has been better); his 53 free throw attempts, reasonable for a perimeter bomber.  He showed some nice high post – low post passing ability in the games I watched, but he’s logged only 12 assists this year.  Someone needs to teach him to punish his opponent in the low post, rebound a space the size of Rhode Island, and wreak havoc on everything the opponent brings within five feet of the basket.  There’s no reason he can’t do all of these things, and until he does, he’ll never meet the lofty expectations of being pressed from the same mold as Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire.

For me, Lamb is too much of a combination of one-dimensional / not-good-enough-at-that- dimension for him to be extremely effective in the NBA.  Also he must have caught word that I was going to be profiling him and let it affect his game; he’s fallen off a cliff since the first Notre Dame game, shooting 37% from the field and 26% from three.

Through 4 draft profiles, my rankings are:

  1. Andre Drummond – After Anthony Davis, it will be hard to pass up an athletic giant, but could the Cavs really build around two big men that shoot under 50% on free throws?
  2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – His offense has taken a downturn since the New Year; 10.5 points and 2.5 turnovers in 33 minutes per game on 51% true shooting.  He’s still rebounding well and tallying a block & steal per game.  He’s a Gerald Wallace-type small forward as a defensive stopper / rebounder / slashing scorer.  I was hoping to see a little more promise in his shooting, but 14% from three in the last eleven games is drawing him closer to…
  3. Harrison Barnes – He keeps scoring with efficiency; 18.7 points on 57% true shooting in 28 minutes per game in January and February.  He only has six assists during that time though and continues to be underwhelming as a rebounder.
  4. Jeremy Lamb – There’s a pretty big drop from MKG & Barnes down to Lamb.  A good case scenario may be O.J. Mayo; a capable scorer if you’re content with average to slightly-below-average efficiency, a below average rebounder, and a sometimes disinterested defender. 

Links to the Present: February 9, 2012

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

“It was an impressive win over what is widely considered one of the Western Conference’s top four teams, a win that came without rookie point guard and leading scorer Kyrie Irving, a win that proved the Cavs understand you need to have guts to get any glory. A couple of hard fouls might not hurt, either.” [Sam Amico]

“This is a game we should have came in here and won. We obviosuly didn’t have the energy and that starts with me. It was as if we were the team that played last night – [the Cavs] came out and got us tonight.” [Chris Paul via WFNY]

“This is the summer where it’s imperative for GM Chris Grant to grab one thing and it’s not a big guy. It’s absolutely 100% critical that the Cleveland Cavaliers come away from the 2012 NBA Draft with a dominant wing player to put the franchise into the stages of becoming one of the best young groups in the league.” [John of Fear the Sword]

According to the articles I’ve scoured, Kyrie Irving is day-to-day after suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter of the Heat game on Tuesday night. I assume the Cavs will be cautious in bringing him back, and there’s no official timetable for his return.

Recap: Clippers 92, Cavs 99

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

The Cavs defeated the Clippers despite the absence of Kyrie Irving (concussion). Colin McGowan had a faulty wireless connection for most of the game, so this recap’s going to be short.

–Of course Ramon Sessions played out of his freaking head one night after looking like a total scrub. He drained threes, snaked to the bucket, and even flashed a couple pull-up jumpers. He made Chris Paul look bad. Sessions will probably turn the ball over five times the next time he plays, but he was revelatory tonight.

–Great job by Anderson Varejao on Blake Griffin. I don’t often mention how well Varejao checks his man in the post because he plays impermeable defense almost every night, but considering the physical freak Griffin is, Wild Thing’s commendable defensive performance is particularly notable.

–I apologize to Antawn Jamison for all the mean things I’ve said about him. He put up 27 points on 10-18 shooting, and confounded Griffin a couple of times with his various angles of delivery.

–I forget that Boobie Gibson’s a valuable player because he’s in and out of the lineup so much, but he came up big tonight with 17 points on 6-11 shooting including a crucial three-pointer with 1:20 left in the game.

–Am I missing something or has Christian Eyenga looked not terrible in his short appearances the last couple games? I need to go over some game tape and see if he’s as lost in terms of defensive rotations as he was last season, but in real time, he looked competent.

–Mo Williams blew a lay-up that would’ve tied the game late in the fourth quarter. So, y’know, Mo Williams doing Mo Williams things.

–Vinny Del Negro, at one point, went small against a Cavs frontcourt of Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody. Vinny Del Negro is very not good at coaching.

Alright, that’s all I got. I’ll probably have more news on Kyrie’s concussion tomorrow. Until then, friends.

Links to the Present: February 8, 2012

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

“I don’t think anyone affiliated with the Cavs likes what they saw from backups Ryan Hollins and Luke Harangody. Both played hard, but at this level against an elite team, that’s not enough. Hollins grabbed just one rebound and committed four fouls in 10 minutes, while Harangody was a miserable 1-for-9 shooting. And at least two of those misses were within a foot of the basket.” [Sam Amico]

“We need a shooting guard. Badly. With Daniel Gibson and Anthony Parker still hurting, the Cavs had to play Alonzo Gee at SG and it didn’t go particularly well. It’s not that Gee is that terrible at that spot, it’s just that we need him to play elsewhere. When Gee has to play shooting guard, he can’t come off the bench to play small forward behind Omri Casspi. It just creates unfortunate mismatches in other places. It makes Luke Harangody and Christian Eyenga play significant minutes. Nobody wants that. Chris Grant better sign a D-Leaguer who can play shooting guard soon.” [Conrad Kaczmarek]

“With all respect due to their respecitve levels of professional basketball talent, replacing Thompson and Gibson with Luke Harangody and Christian Eyenga — the only two men to have played for Cleveland’s NBDL franchise this season — is rarely going to bear fruit when it comes to the win column. Certainly, Tuesday evening’s final score indicated far worse of a demise, but the Wine and Gold went in to the fourth quarter (typically their best period through this season) down a mere six points. It would only be after the team shot 5-of-23 in the fourth with the Heat continue to trade in transition and dagger-like three-pointers, even a superhuman effort from Kyrie Irving wouldn’t have narrowed the gap.” [Scott Sargent]

“An even tougher snub than Irving, in a way. Varejao is one of the NBA’s great defenders, and he leads the entire league in offensive rebounding rate. He has become a decent pick-and-roll threat, but he’s not quite on Chandler’s level in terms of working as a foundational offensive piece. A great, great player.” [Zach Lowe on Tyson Chandler over Andy V for the All-Star team]

“You have to game-plan for him. He’s not one of those guys you can say, ‘Just box him out.’ You’ve got to do other things. That’s the kind of player you look for. I heard something about role-player slots in the All-Star Game. He would be high on the list.” [Dwyane Wade on Varejao via Jason Lloyd]

Recap: Cavs 91, Heat 107

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

The scoreline is deceptive. This was a really fun, competitive game until the Heat pulled away in the fourth quarter to transform what had been a relatively close matchup into a rout.

–All praises due to Alonzo Gee, who had to guard D-Wade or LeBron whenever he was on the floor (35 minutes). I was impressed with not only Gee’s ability to stay in front of two of the most talented scorers in the NBA (he did pretty well!), but also by his attitude. Guarding guys like LBJ, Kevin Durant, et al. is sometimes an exercise in staying confident in the face of repeated defeat. Some possessions you keep your feet moving, direct the scorer toward help, do your best to contest the shot… and the superstar scores anyway because he’s really good at basketball. Gee didn’t hang his head at all when LeBron and Wade scored over him. He just kept plugging away. Also: 16 points on 6-11 shooting and no turnovers. I’m starting to imagine Gee as a Jared Dudley-type wing defender who can score a little bit. And he’s probably a better athlete than Dudley.

–Ryan Hollins: -14 with four fouls, three turnovers, five points, and a rebound. I have this friend, Jake, who’s, like, at least 6’6″. I think he might have played basketball in middle school? I’m positive he could play the 5 more effectively than Hollins. Does anyone have Chris Grant’s phone number?

–A Luke Harangody-Ryan Hollins frontcourt happened at some point? I dunno, I blacked out.

–Subpar game from Kyrie Irving. His jumper wasn’t falling, so the Heat were able to pack the lane on him without any consequences. He help up well enough on the defensive end; Mario Chalmers heating up from long-range wasn’t his fault.

–Antawn Jamison posted 25-9 on 22 shots. I’m fine with this.

–Sessions was awful, though Miami’s not a good matchup for him. Regardless, he was careless with the ball (4 TOs in 30 minutes) and the offense stagnated when he ran the point. I was exchanging emails with C:TB’s own Kevin Hetrick a few weeks ago and claimed that I thought Sessions could be a valuable bench scorer moving forward. I’ve since changed my opinion: Sessions is somewhat useful on this particular Cavs team, but he’s not a very good basketball player. He’s not a pure point guard (which, at 6’3″ is problematic); he’s a terrible defender; and he’s streaky to the point of being unreliable. The Cavs should cash in on his inflated stat line and look for a less expensive backup for Irving moving forward.

–The Cavs lost this game largely because of their depleted backcourt. Or at least the game devolved into a blowout because of this lack of depth. Eyenga saw some minutes, Gee performed admirably, and the strange Irving-Sessions backcourt remained strange, but in the end, the Cavs guards just didn’t have their legs beneath them in the final period, as LeBron and Wade got to the rim with ease.

Anyway, the Cavs host the Clips tomorrow night, which should be exciting. Irving v. Paul, Blake v. Andy, and Mo Williams’s homecoming are all compelling storylines. Until tomorrow, friends.

Links to the Present: February 7, 2012

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

The Cavs have elected to cut Mychel Thompson rather than guarantee his contract for the rest of the season. They will play shorthanded against Miami. To replace Thompson, the team will either sign a D-Leaguer to a 10-day contract or make the move America has been clamoring for and call up Manny Harris.

“Rookie teen-aged point guards generously listed at 6-3, like Irving, don’t shoot 50 percent one-third of the way through this year’s frantic NBA schedule. Going into Tuesday’s game at Miami against James and the Dancing BTUs, Irving’s body of work so far has been startling. In the categories relevant to scoring and shooting efficiency, Irving has it all over James in his 2003-04 rookie season. Irving has played 22 games, double the amount he played after being hobbled by a toe injury in his lone season at Duke. What really jumps out at the same point in each player’s rookie season is that, in 52 fewer shots, Irving is scoring more than James. Irving is more efficient at ambidextrously “finishing” drives with a lethal crossover dribble, explosive quickness and mid-air body control. But he can also put the ball in the basket at mid-range, at the line, and at long range.” [Bill Livingston]

“When the media showed up to the Cavaliers practice facility Monday, all but one question was about the Cavaliers. The other one came late in the interview session and was directed toward rookie point guard Kyrie Irving. It had something to do with the Miami Heat. That’s the team the Cavs visit Tuesday night (7:30 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio). It’s also the team for which LeBron James plays. You remember James, don’t you? The Akron native whom the Cavs selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2003? Sounds like a silly question, but there’s a point behind it. Namely, that most folks in these parts finally seem ready to focus on their own town and their own team — as well as Irving, their most recent No. 1 overall pick.” [Sam Amico]

“Spoelstra singles out Irving’s maturity, which is impressive considering Irving is the fourth-youngest player in the NBA. He calls him a “thinking man’s quarterback” who reads the defense in front of him but also dissects the “different layers of your protections and rotations” to find ways to exploit it.” [Tom D’Angelo]

Michael Curry has an NBA Playbook-ish breakdown of Irving’s game-winning lay-up against the Mavs.

Boobie Gibson was set to return to the lineup tonight, but it appears his neck is still bothering him. Is it safe to officially tag Gibson as “injury-prone”? He’s a valuable contributor off the bench, but he hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup for the last couple of seasons.

Rookie Roundup – Just Call Him Mr. Clutch (with all due respect to Jerry West)

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Every two weeks I’ll give a little recap of what our youngsters are up to, how they looked, and what to expect.


Full disclosure – I’m an avid player of NBA 2K video games.  It’s my weakness.   I played it during high school, college, and even now as a *somewhat* professional (much to the chagrin of my girlfriend).  Whenever I find myself in need of some quiet time, I turn on my X-Box and play some NBA 2K.  Generally I’ll start a franchise or a My Player.  For those of you who don’t know, My Player is a mode where you can create and play as an NBA player and guide him as he progresses to becoming a star.  The fun in the mode is that you can basically turn the player into anything you want.  Want to be a 7’6 passing whiz?  Do it.  A 5’9 dunking machine?  It’s possible.  While it’s fun to create the ridiculous, more often than not I end up creating point guards who are balanced and can really do a little (or, if they’re good enough, a lot) of everything.  The reason?  Those are the guys that are successful.  In the game, and in real life.  Exhibit A of this would be Hasheem Thabeet, who is great at blocking shots, but that’s it.  We saw how far that got him…

Anyway, the point of all my above ranting is that it’s starting to feel like Irving is some sort of 2K creation.  It’s scary, but Cleveland is feeling hopeful.  Really hopeful.  I’m not sure if we as a fan base are just projecting our desires on him or if he really is, 100%, the real deal, but if my eyes and my brain are correct, I think we really struck gold.

I’ve now written twice about our young guys.  In the last two weeks very little has changed in terms of the finer points of the two rookies’ respected games.  We know Kyrie can score, we know Tristan is powerful, we know Irving has some D issues and we know Thompson is raw.  What I feel like I’ve neglected is exactly what all this means.  1/4 of the way through the season, it’s starting to sink in – the sky could really, honestly be the limit for Irving.

In My Player mode there’s the option to give your guy a nickname.  I can honestly say that I’ve ALWAYS picked Mr. Clutch.  Who doesn’t want to be known for the big shot?  It goes without saying that a talented player who shies away or doesn’t deliver in the big moment is SO much less valuable than one who embraces it.  Beyond that, it makes the fans care that much more, and really, if you’re a sports star, that should always be your main concern – the people who root for you and pour their hard earned dollars and their valuable emotions into the team.

What makes the beginning of this Kyrie era so exciting, at least to me, is the fact that this kid knows he’s loved, and wants to deliver on that investment.  Plainly, he wants the ball.  Always.  As a fan, this can sometimes be worrisome.  I mean, we had the best player on the planet, and I never felt 100% comfortable with Lebron controlling the rock and the game on the line.  But with Kyrie, it feels different.  I get the feeling he cares a little more, and that he has the confidence and the wherewithal to make this work.

Early in the season, with the Cavs facing the very good Indiana Pacers, Kyrie drove to the rim as time expired to win it for the Cavs.  It didn’t go in, and the Cavs went on to lose.  But, with that loss came a shining positive – our guy lived for the big moment.

Fast forward a month and a half, and we’ve seen Kyrie make that game winning drive to the hoop, and in even more spectacular fashion than we could’ve initially imagined.  Yes, I know, it’s early – his career is young – but I refuse to believe that all of his late-game heroics and last second winning isn’t meaningful.  It just doesn’t seem possible that, after this many games played, we’re witnessing an anomaly.

After a month and a half, I’m ready to put all my chips in, to believe that the future is now.  Frankly, to believe we’ve found a winner.  If my eyes and my brain are worth anything, I think it’s time to look ahead and smile.  He may not be a video game creation, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be our Mr. Clutch.