Archive for February, 2012

Links to the Present: February 6, 2012

Monday, February 6th, 2012

“Players and coaches around the league are starting to recognize how special Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao is. But will it be enough to earn him a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team? The All-Star reserves will be announced on Thursday. Varejao had 17 points and 17 rebounds in the Cavs’ 91-88 upset victory over Dallas on Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena. He’s making a late push to be an All-Star by averaging 16.3 points and 17.3 rebounds in his last three games.” [Bob Finnan]

“Ramon Sessions is going to get traded before the deadline. We already know the Lakers are interested (although that is tied to the complex Dwight Howard trade situation), and there are a number of other teams that are interested in the point guard. Teams were a little concerned because Sessions is a two-year commitment, but he may make that easier by opting out of the last year of his deal. The price for Sessions will be at least a first round pick” [Kurt Helin]

“The upcoming schedule brings a battery of high-octane foes in Miami, the Los Angeles Clippers, your eight-seed Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlantic Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers. What the end result of these games are remains to be seen, but if the last two weeks of play are any indication, the win total may not be the deciding factor when giving this current Cavaliers team a year-end grade. Reading between the lines, it’s tough to argue that this team has not only turned things around faster than anyone deemed possible, but that Chris Grant and his litany of assets can only make things better.” [Scott Sargent]

“Cavs indeed getting calls from teams wanting Varejao, I’m told, but he’s played himself to near-untouchable status while all focus on Kyrie.” [Marc Stein]

“Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant has several monumental decisions facing him before the March 15 trade deadline. The biggest might be whether to trade center Anderson Varejao. Several contenders around the league would love to get their hands on the rebounding machine. They’ve given no indication whether they’ll deal him but might be inclined to hang on to their best defensive player. They’d likely be able to get a high first-round pick for him.” [FSOhio]

Recap: Cavs 91, Mavs 88 (Or, that Kyrie kid can play!)

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

Well, that was one of the more enjoyable games I’ve watched in a while.

Playing their sixth back-to-back in only 22 games, the Cavs started slowly but finished monstrously strong to beat the defending champions behind stellar efforts from a 19-year-old rookie, a 29-year-old Brazilian, and Mychal Thompson’s son for two minutes in the third quarter.

It was the Cavs first win of the season against a .500 team, and only their second win in the tail end of one of those aforementioned back-to-backs.

Want some blurbs?

Let’s do some blurbs.

Kyrie Irving puts up 20, 7 and 4. It’s getting pretty hard not to be really excited by the kid. He was pitched in the draft as being good at everything, but potentially, great at nothing.

At this point I’d think it’s safe to say that’s his floor.

Kyrie is faster than anyone gave him credit for, his handle is either insane or on the verge of insane, and there’s the type of nuance in his game that defies physical measurement and amplifies the ability he does have. And then again tonight, he flashed the capacity (slash desire) to seize the important moments of a game, which he did by weaving through the Maverick defense twice in the final two minutes to finish at the rim.

Remember how that wasn’t happening earlier in the season (the finishing at the rim)? Well, it’s happening now. The kid is getting better, and he’s getting better quickly.

Side note: Special thanks to Patrick Ewing for lending Kyrie his kneepads.

Andy Varejao continues to kill it. Andy Varejao has never had a run like this in his entire career. He had 17, 17 and 3 against the Mavs, and is averaging 16.3, 17.3 and 2 in the last 3 games. But more than that, as always is always the case with Andy, stats don’t tell the half of it.

His energy is changing the complexion of games right now. As important as Kyrie has been in improving the Cavs offensively, I would credit Varejao at least as much. His constant movement on the offensive end is surprisingly effective in opening up passing lanes and his offensive rebounding — tops in the league right now at 4.7 per game — is giving the Cavs opportunity to hang around in games they’d otherwise have shot themselves out of.

The Cavs won the game tonight because they took 26 more shots than the Mavericks, a result of their 17 offensive boards (7 from Andy) and 21-9 turnover advantage (only 1 for Kyrie). Remove those advantages from the equation and consider that Cleveland shot 39.8% to Dallas’ 47.8%… Without Andy Varejao, tonight’s game isn’t close.

He is the heart of the team, and really, one of the stronger hearts in the league.

Antawn Jamison…is a really nice person (and seriously, I mean that).

Wrote this down at some point in the first-half: “Antawn Jamison plays the game as though you get ½ a point for every shot attempt.” It’s not that he shoots all the time, it’s that sometimes he’s just shoveling the ball at the basket. I’m on record as saying we’d miss him were he gone (and I do believe we would), but ultimately, the Cavs are going to have to find a more consistent first (or second?) scoring option. Preferably one athletic enough to avoid shooting the ball around the side of a defender. AJ said a few weeks ago that there’s no one in the league who can stop his unorthodox game. I’m starting to question if anyone’s trying to.

Dan Gilbert, social media enthusiast.

I’m not dumb enough to think that Dan’s not pandering a bit…but I am dumb enough to think that he’s not pandering a lot. I’m pretty sure that Dan Gilbert loves this team semi-irrationally, that his heart is in the right place, and that when it’s time to be competitive again, we’ll once more have access to a talent-boosting hoard of his casino money. I feel comforted that he’s so invested. Just please, basketball god(s)…rig the lottery this year, land us Anthony Davis, and then we can all stop worrying about being too good, too quick for the foreseeable future. Then, we can free Dan Gilbert(‘s money).

How about we start throwing bounce passes the rest of the year? The Cavs are, without a doubt, the worst alley-oop team in the history of professional sports. In the past several games, I’ve seen lobs to Jamison, Casspi and even Harangody clunk off the backboard unrequited. With the exception of Gee and maybe Tristan (who I’m not 100% sure is the most natural lob catcher), there’s not a rotation player on the team capable of finishing what should be a NBA-requisite for positions 3-5. By no means is this a disaster (I actually think it’s kind of funny), but it’s indicative of our lack of athleticism on the perimeter and probably something we should try to rectify for 2012-13.

Last blurb. I don’t want to jinx it…but the Bruce Bowen comparison for Alonzo Gee? It might even be setting the bar low.

………………

Next game is Tuesday in Miami everyone, so until then…enjoy the Super Bowl!

(Actually, I have a picture post coming sometime tomorrow afternoon/night…so keep a lookout!*)

…………….

*And by tomorrow, I mean next Sunday. Sorry folks! Got a little off of my cartooning schedule. That said, here are a few pictures I had sitting on my desktop to tide you over/validate me. One Cavs cartoon, and one (just for the heck of it) Super Bowl promo.

The Kyrie pic was to head an article I wanted to write in a few weeks. Maybe now I’ll just draw a new picture to pair with it.

And this next one…well, happy Super Bowl Sunday.

-Ryan

Recap: Cavs 94, Magic 102

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

This one wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Though the Cavs rallied briefly in the final period, it never seemed that they were going to pull out a victory. Dwight Howard dominated the painted area, and the Cavs shot only 36.7% from the field.

–Kyrie Irving had a lot of trouble around the rim tonight, which was to be anticipated since Dwight Howard is a shot-blocking machine. Irving went 7-21 with a handful of those shots ending up in the third row. I’m not really sure there’s a solution to the problem of finishing at the rim when you’re a 6’3″ point guard going up against one of the best defensive players to ever play the game other than “hope your jump shot is working.”

–One minor concern: I know the team had a couple of days off before this game, but Irving shouldn’t play 40 minutes in a game that’s not all that competitive. The Cavs have a banged-up backcourt, but how about giving Eyenga some PT at the 2-guard instead of running Irving ragged? (This apparently speaks to just how far in the doghouse Skyenga is with Byron Scott.)

–Alonzo Gee was the lone bright spot tonight. 20 points on 7-12 shooting. I’ve taken a real liking to AG. I think if his defense continues to improve, he can become a valuable sixth or seventh man down the road. As it stands, he might be the Cavs third-best player. I am not comfortable with this fact.

–Antawn Jamison grabbed 12 rebounds in this game, which defies the laws of the universe. He also shot 6-19, which makes a lot of sense.

–In retrospect, the one positive of the whole LeBron debacle was that Cavs fans didn’t have to experience this weird Sword of Damocles thing that Nuggets and Magic fans have had to put up with. There was always a decent chance LeBron was leaving the Cavs after the 2009-10 season, but it’s not like Cavs fans were actively mourning his departure as he was still playing for the team. What do Magic fans do, exactly, when Howard comes out of nowhere to make a spectacular block. Wow that was an amazing play I’m really depressed! I dunno. The whole thing makes me sad.

I don’t have much else to say. The Cavs played a better team and lost. It’s the sort of boring loss a team like this endures from time-to-time. The Cavaliers host the Mavs tomorrow night. Until then, friends.

Links to the Present: February 3, 2012

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Here are a couple of previews for tonight’s game against the Magic from Conrad Kaczmarek over at FTS, and Bob Finnan of the News-Herald.

“We’re getting into what we call late-clock situations way too often. Our pace of play has to be faster. The way we want to play and the way we want to get the ball moving from side to side and then look to attack means you have to get the ball up the court a lot faster.” [Byron Scott via Jason Lloyd]

“New players are exciting, whether for one team or the league as a whole, and it’s in the NBA’s best interest to promote those guys whenever possible. Irving deserves to get in on the merits, too, with 18.1 ppg and 4.9 apg in only 28.8 minutes as the Cavs battle for a playoff spot. He’s only going to get better and play more, and the league should take advantage of his budding stardom as soon as possible. Hype only seems stupid when a player’s success peters out — Irving’s not going to get to the point for some time.” [Eric Freeman on why Kyrie Irving deserves to make the All-Star team]

“Cavs rookie guard and leading scorer Kyrie Irving said having the imposing Howard clogging the middle won’t keep him from playing his normal game. ‘I will be throwing that ball almost as high as the shot clock, I’ll tell you that,’ Irving said, laughing. But he actually does have a plan of attack beyond that. ‘Playing against great shot-blockers, you just have to catch them off guard sometimes,” Irving said. “You know, stop-and-pop. I love going in (the paint), but once you see Dwight Howard, sometimes you stop-and-pop, sometimes you make the easy pass to your teammate and let him make the play.'” [Sam Amico]

The Edge of the Bench

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Yesterday, the Cavs recalled Luke Harangody from their NBDL affiliate in Canton. He had been sent there for a week to bring his sweat, push shot, and ineffable Midwesterness to minor cities across the nation. To spread the Gospel according to Luke, if you will. Each night, before heading to the arena, he looked in the mirror and whispered something like, “Are you ready to experience hustle in its purest distillation, Des Moines, Iowa?” then slam dunked a Hardee’s wrapper into the Comfort Inn wastebasket before laying siege to the world of semi-professional basketball. By “laying siege,” I mean setting fundamentally sound picks.

I joke because I have nothing substantive to say about Harangody. He’s a bundle of end-of-the-bench white guy clichés contained within the body of a Medieval stone mason, and thus he exists more as a symbol—Brian Scalabrine wearing a different mask—than as a person, or at a least basketball player, with whom I can engage. What’s most interesting about Harangody is the strange between-space he’s destined to occupy for the remainder of his career.

Luke Harangody doesn’t sit at the end of the bench so much as at the edge of it. He could fall off at any moment and land facedown in Bismark, North Dakota. Harangody exists within the narrow phylum of basketball player that is, at any given time, either barely good enough or not quite good enough to occupy a place in the NBA. “Place” is the accurate term here because this type of player doesn’t contribute to a team’s success or failure in a significant fashion. He is, in many ways, a placeholder: a body in practices, someone to spell the rotation players in blowouts, an insufficient insurance policy if the team is afflicted with injuries. I wonder if 12th men are chosen according to their ability to perform tasks other than being particularly good at basketball, if some guys have stayed in the league longer than other more talented players simply because they try hard in practice and are well-liked. It would make sense, because if a Harangody-like player is logging substantial minutes, the team is either dreadful or dreadfully injured. If all the 316th best player in the NBA can do is drive the Failure Bus to the Lottery Town, it’s probably important that he’s funny. Damon Jones probably stayed in the league an extra three years because of this.

I always enjoy when players cry at the NBA Draft. It’s the moment when triumph swallows a man whole. One imagines, as the teary-eyed draftee puts on a league-approved cap and attempts to gather himself for an awkward interview with Stuart Scott, the athlete has visions of early-morning 8-mile runs and three-hour free throw sessions—we sometimes forget there’s a mountain of boring, strenuous labor that goes into making a great athlete—performed in the name of a far-off goal. It is a justification, in the literal sense: the action of showing that one’s hard work was not in vain. Being drafted is also a metaphorical exhalation of breath held for some eight, twelve, seventeen years.

So then, what is it like to have to shove that metaphorical breath back into one’s lungs? Luke Harangody must have felt whatever that sensation is when he was sent down to Canton last week. Such is the plight of the barely-/not-quite-good-enough athlete. The NBA Draft, for the best college and international players, is like closing escrow on a new house. Kyrie Irving-like players walk through the doorway, throw down their bags, and prepare to live in the NBA for a decade-plus. For Harangody-like players, entry into the NBA is a bit like signing the lease on a palatial apartment they can just barely afford. They’re still ecstatic, obviously—I’ve always wanted a monogrammed bidet!—but lingering in the back of their minds must lurk the fact that a bad month or two at the office could spell eviction.

Precariously clinging to a roster spot in the NBA must be exhausting; all those platitudes about Harangody’s toughness might not be condescension at all. Surely, he must be one of the hardest-working members of the Cavaliers. One doesn’t exactly relax while hanging over the edge of a cliff; neither does one ever stop working hard when faced with the prospect of playing basketball in front of 4,000 people in Tulsa. Rarified air must smell like fear when the alternative is mustard gas.

Unfortunately for Luke Harangody, I think he might make a few more trips to Canton over the next couple of seasons. Or he might take his sweat, push shot, and ineffable Midwesterness to Turkey. Maybe we’ll see him on the end of the Bobcats bench in a few years. In all likelihood, he will exist in a sort of purgatorial state, if Purgatory had poles that functioned as approximations Heaven and Hell. Because no one dreams of being a benchwarmer for an NBA team, but it’s still a pretty great job; and no one dreams of playing for Bešiktaš, but there are worse circumstances. Harangody will oscillate like this for three, eight, twelve years. Until he gets sick of it and uses his Notre Dame degree to get a job at a PR firm or whatever. Until then, he reacquaints himself with his locker at the Q. His desire congeals for a moment, though he knows it might melt again in the morning. The universe blooms and curdles.

Links to the Present: February 2, 2012

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

“Many see little correlation between big-time pro sports and the real world. Hardly a surprise, given the disparity in weekly paychecks. Then again, most don’t give consideration to where athletes like Cavaliers guard Mychel Thompson spend so many games, sitting at the ends of benches, their tomorrows — like their contracts — not guaranteed.” [Tom Reed]

“When he learned he had played a career high in minutes Tuesday night, Kyrie Irving gave a slight fist pump and flashed a small grin. Turns out, Irving has been as anxious as the eager fans who have been clamoring for him to play more minutes. In part because of a backcourt hit hard by injuries, Irving played nearly 38 minutes in the loss to the Boston Celtics. The more he plays, the more difficult coach Byron Scott is finding it to keep him off the floor. In a surprise to no one, Irving was named the Eastern Conference’s Rookie of the Month on Wednesday. He averaged 18.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in games in December and January. He led all rookies in scoring, field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage and assists.” [Jason Lloyd]

“Trade rumors are swirling that the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks have inquired about G Ramon Sessions. He could be available, but the Cavs would want a first-round pick in return for the veteran point guard. He can opt out of his contract after this season. He dished out a season-high 10 assists on Tuesday in the Cavs’ loss to Boston.” [CBS Sports]

Plain Dealer scribe Tom Reed chat with Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao.

And for the sake of looking at a contrarian’s take on Kyrie Irving, Wages of Wins Journal argues that Irving definitely shouldn’t be this season’s Rookie of the Year.

Cavs reportedly interested in Chris Kaman: is it a good idea?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012


According to this report, the Cavaliers are apparently one of the teams in the Chris Kaman sweepstakes. The great Rohan Cryuff of At The Hive emailed me tonight asking, essentially, why the Cavs would want Chris Kaman. Here were my guesses at what’s going on behind these rumors:

– The Cavs want to make the playoffs this year. Badly. I’ve been on the record for a while saying that I hope the Cavs take their time and do a nice, long, patient, rebuild, but Dan Gilbert clearly doesn’t want to have to swallow the pill of a full 3-5 year rebuilding plan, and I think he really likes the idea of a potential Heat-Cavaliers playoff series, no matter how slim the chances of the records matching up or the Cavaliers winning the series — is it unfair to say that if the Cavs did pull of a win in that series, regardless of what happens through the rest of the playoffs, it would be a bigger Cleveland sports history moment than the 2007 Conference Championship, especially since that playoff run was all about LeBron, and all things LeBron are now tainted?

– Kaman’s value is that he’s a true center who can knock down a jump shot, which is important when the Cavs’ two best young frontcourt players who can’t knock down a jump shot, like at all. Kaman isn’t lights-out from midrange, but teams have to respect him from out there, which would free up Varejao and TT to attack the rim instead of being forced to fire up hopeless jumpers whilst paired alongside each other or play out-of-position defensively next to Antawn Jamison.

– The best deal we can figure (it works on Real GM’s trade checker): The Cavs deal Jamison and Hollins’ expiring, along with Sessions and a possible 2nd-rounder, for Kaman and Ariza’s ugly contract. The Ariza piece is the key for me: the Cavs desperately need a wing, and would get to talk themselves into Ariza as a potential above-average 3-and-D wing, just like Houston and New Orleans did, while New Orleans gets to get rid of a guy who’s still riding the high of one hot-shooting playoffs, wasn’t good offensively at all with CHRIS PAUL setting him up, and is currently enjoying a god-awful 44.7% True Shooting percentage.

The real issue here is Sessions — he’d clearly be backing up Jack, and is he really THAT much of an upgrade over the much cheaper Greivis Vasquez? I love Razor Ramon, but his PER is 14.92, and he doesn’t stretch the floor, isn’t much of a playmaker, and plays no defense. Vasquez’s PER is 14.67, and he’s better as a passer and a defender than Ramon, pretty much by default.

Anyways, that’s my run at a justification for this rumor. Have a good Thursday — I know everyone loves a good trade rumor. For the record, I put the chances of Kaman coming to Cleveland at 7%, and that might be generous. But, as always, stranger things have happened.

Links to the Present: February 1, 2012

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

“Varejao is just a pain in the butt with his offensive rebounding, the way he knocks down shots and keeps [loose] balls alive. He’s probably one of the more underrated players in the NBA with how much energy he gives this ball club. He has a knack of somehow coming up with the ball all the time. He’s a major factor out there.” [Paul Pierce via WFNY]

“Irving is pulling away from Ricky Rubio as the NBA’s top rookie. Irving has managed to play surprisingly efficient basketball for a first-year point guard because he finishes at the rim. This is impressive. Many NBA guards never figure out how to convert shots in the lane at a high rate; Irving, who is listed generously at 6-foot-3, seems to have a knack for getting to the basket and scoring there. According to Hoopdata.com, Irving shoots 63 percent at the rim. This puts him in similar territory with Derrick Rose (62.9 percent), Tony Parker (62.4 percent), and John Wall (58.6 percent). In fact, Irving scores 1.292 points per possession near the rim, which puts him in the top 20 percent of all NBA players, according to Synergy Sports.” [Sebastian Pruiti]

“All of the injuries at shooting guard have forced Scott to play Sessions and Kyrie Irving together, which neither guard looks very comfortable doing right now. Scott said he can’t practice the two together because they’re the only point guards on the team. That leaves them to learn on the fly during games.” [Jason Lloyd]

And the Cavs have recalled Luke “Amaretto Thunder” Harangody from Canton.