Archive for March, 2012

Recap: Cavs: Fail, Knicks: Win

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Colin, Kevin, John, Ryan and I are now in full fledged tank mode. Let’s hope we end up with John Hollinger with the #2 pick next year (assuming Bill Simmons goes 1.)

Here’s to the future!

Link to the present: 03/31/2012

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Kyrie Irving is questionable for tonight’s game due to the shoulder sprain suffered yesterday.

This is how I’ll feel if he misses much time.

Update: I suppose everyone knows this now, but Sloan started tonight.   It’s your big chance, Donald!  Bright lights, big city!!  Show ’em what you got!

Recap: Bucks 121, Cavs 84

Friday, March 30th, 2012

At the time of tip-off, there was a small black globule, kernel-sized, between the Cavalier bench and the three-point line. You would have thought it was a peppercorn or rat excrement, but then, the Q is a basketball arena, not a Burger King. By 6:53 in the second quarter, with the Cavs down to the visiting Milwaukee Bucks by double digits, this blackness had expanded to something the size of a softball. The type of thing even a large snake would have trouble wrapping its unhinged jaws around. As the haggard Cavaliers trotted out of the locker room for a brief shootaround before the start of the second half, Tristan Thompson almost mistook the obsidian-colored sphere for a basketball before remembering Right: basketballs are orange and seamed, not gleaming and the color of death. Silly Tristan. The ball grew throughout the second half, in concert with the mounting futility of the Cavaliers’ effort. First slowly, then fast, as if it were inhaling a winter’s worth of Lake Erie wind all at once. The Orb of Desolateness engulfed Luke Harangody, but absolutely no one noticed. I mean, Luke’s mom noticed, but even she was like Easy come, easy go. I guess my son is trapped in a Hell Sphere or whatever for eternity. I’m gonna go check on the pot roast. Then the orb exploded and now everyone who attended this game is blind, but also immortal.

Or something. The Cavs lost, I’m pretty sure. Did they demolish the concept of basketball in the process? Are they required to play more games, or can they just call it a season and hop in a tricked-out Delorean that transports them to draft day? I’ll be at the bar, you guys. Meet me there if you’re still breathing.

UPDATE: And apparently, Kyrie Irving sprained his right shoulder in the third quarter. So… woof.

Chris Grant and Draft Picks

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Part 1 – Reign of Construction

Chris Grant  became Cleveland Cavaliers GM on June, 4, 2010.  Due to his oversight, the Cavs plummeted from NBA contender to afterthought….    (sound of record screeching).  Just fooling around, the organization has been busy accumulating cap space and draft picks.  Given that essentially two years of decision making are in the books, let’s take a look back at his personnel moves to get a feel for how he’s doing.  I’ve rated them as follows:

  1. Traded Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis and the Clippers unprotected 2011 first round pick – February 2011 – A transformative move for the franchise.  Grant started blowing up the worst team in franchise history, taking on $30 million of salary in exchange for a probable mid-lottery pick.  Good fortune struck and along came Kyrie Irving. I don’t want to think about the parallel universe where there is no amnesty clause and the Cavs don’t win the lottery.
  2. Draft Day 2011 – This gets ranked second primarily based on acquiring, seemingly, a franchise cornerstone.  I still wish the Cavs had actually added players in round two, and don’t strive to re-open the debate about the fourth pick, but finding a new franchise player less than one year after losing the last one  qualifies as a solid day at the office.
  3. Won three draft picks from the Heat in a game of mahjong – July 2010 – I don’t recall the specifics of how this went down.
  4. Traded Hickson for Omri Casspi and a future first round draft pick – June 2011 – Along the same lines as the Williams & Moon trade;  jettisoning pieces of the “Lebron Cavs” was important towards moving the team forward.  Casspi hasn’t been anything to gloat about, but Hickson suits up for his third team in a year, and in the next few years, Cleveland ends up with something like the 12th pick in the draft.
  5. Signed Alonzo Gee to free agent contract – December 2010 – The Wizards waived AG and one week later the Cavs picked him up.  Pretty good value so far on this one.
  6. Traded Sessions & Eyenga for Luke Walton & 1st round draft pick(s) – March 2012 – no need rehashing this trade; I support it.
  7. Amnestied Baron Davis  – December 2011 – I wasn’t highly supportive on this at the time.  It’s not worth thinking about enough to decide if my opinion has changed.
  8. Acquire Sessions, Hollins & 2nd round pick for Delonte & Bassy Telfair – July 2010 – Nine months after a felony gun arrest and following an erratic season; the Cavs were done with Red.  He was turned into 1.5 years of Sessions, the unique comedy stylings of Ryan Hollins, a Lakers first round choice, and these guys…
  9. Minnesota 2013 2nd round pick traded for Semih Erden and Luke Harangody – Feb 2011 – I wonder what will be available at #48 in 2013?
  10. Waiving Ryan Hollins – This could fall in a “too early to call” category.  It’s probably wise to give it a few months and make sure Hollins doesn’t embark towards getting his jersey raised to the rafters of the Boston Garden, to hang alongside previous great Celtic centers like Russell, Cowens and Parish.
  11. Summer 2010 free agency bonanza – I’m talking about you: Joey Graham, Manny Harris and Samardo Samuels.  This is straight out of the instruction manual for “how to fill the void left when the game’s best player and your stalwart center leave”.
  12. Waived Danny Green in October 2010 – Speaking of a huge hole at SF, Cleveland sent Mr. Green packing prior to the start of the 2010 – 2011 season.   Now the playoffs beckon for him, as a valuable role player on one of the NBA’s best teams.   An Irving – Gee – Green backcourt surpasses any lineup the Cavs have fielded this year.
  13. Free agency bonanza of 2011 – Please stand up, Mr. Anthony Parker and Mychel Thompson!  Have I said anything about Danny Green in this post?

Those are the bulk of the moves the Cavs have made since Chris Grant took over as GM.  Despite the lack of any overwhelmingly shrewd move (winning the lottery doesn’t count), only one regrettable decision shows up (waiving Green).  The direction of the franchise appears to be very positive; clearing out the leftovers from the 2009 – 2010 team other than Varejao, while stockpiling draft picks and cap space.  The door should be open to a relatively quick turnaround.  This summer serves as Mr. Grant’s next crucial opportunity to transform the Cleveland Cavaliers into a winner of his making; with four decent draft selections and hoards of cap space, next season the Cavs need to be competitive in the East while maintaining room to grow.  We certainly hope he passes that test.

Part 2 – How many players can you roster in the NBA?

Cleveland has amassed so many draft picks, they almost literally can’t use them all.  One year after picking 1st and 4th, Cleveland is the only NBA team owning more than five first round draft picks over the next four drafts.  Cleveland’s eight 1st round draft picks far outpace anyone else.  Add those to seven second-round selections, and Cleveland has a roster’s worth of available options to add to Kyrie & TT.   What all these picks could facilitate is the subject of a different, speculative column.  Instead, I’ll just touch on how sneakily good most of their “extra” first round picks can be.  Currently owned draft picks from other teams include:

• Lakers’ pick in 2012.  Potentially the worst pick of the haul.

• Option of Lakers or Heat first round pick in 2013.  Assuming Ron Artest picks up his option, the Lakers have six players under contract next season for $75 million.  At the start of the season; Kobe and Pau will be 34 and 32, respectively, and coming off a hyper-aggressive NBA season and the summer Olympics.  Andrew Bynum is never a guarantee to play more than 50 games.  The other three players are Ron Artest, Steve Blake, and Christian Eyenga.  Implosion is not beyond the realm of possibilities.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers pick fell at 13 or 28 next year.

• The Kings pick will probably come in 2014 (top 12 protected) or 2015 (top 10 protected).  When the Cavs do get this pick, it is almost certain to be in the 12 – 15 range.

• In 2014 – 2015, Miami might be NBA champs, or their roster may be completely turned over; the entire range of possibilities exists there.  The six players currently under contract in 2014 – 2015 cost $76 million.  All of those players will lose some tread of their tires by then, and the Big 3 have contract options after next season.  Lebron will be 30 with 1000 career games, Wade starts the season at 33 and approaching 1000 punishing games, Bosh nears 1000 career games, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem hit 34, and Joel Anthony is 32.  Like next year’s Lakers, a huge range of outcomes seem feasible.

The next month looks dire, but with the likely rookie of the year, a trove of draft picks, and great cap flexibility; I keep painting a silver lining on the cloud cast by another month chockful of double digit defeats.

Henson, Barnes, and Marshall Declare for Draft

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

According to SLAM, Carolina’s triumvirate of talented underclassmen are going pro:

Many have predicted that the 2012 NBA Draft will be absolutely inundated with talent, and here’s one more piece of evidence that those forecasts will be correct: UNC starters Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall and John Henson are all officially on their way to the League. The three of them are projected to be first-round selections this June.

This news might not affect the Cavs directly. I think this team will be picking around 5th. That’s too high for Barnes and Henson, and, obviously, the Cavaliers don’t need a point guard. But more talent in the draft is always a good thing; it increases the chances of nabbing a rotation player with that late first-round pick from the Lakers.

Retraction: Scott, you’re totally right. Henson’s a junior. Fixed.

An Interview with Kyrie Irving

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Not a lot of news on tap today, but Five Star Basketball has a profile of Kyrie Irving, which is published here. It’s a little dry (Kyrie Irving works hard at basketball, it turns out), but there hasn’t been a lot of writing on Irving the person yet; articles like these are sort of the first step in getting to know a guy who will be the best basketball player in Cleveland for the foreseeable future.

Cavs: The Podcast 0003 – The Tourny

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Ep three is up!  Today we discussed the recent slide (including the abysmal game against the Pistons), the tourny, and who we might draft.

SoundCloud link is:

MediaFire is:

Still working on iTunes but I can’t find a good place to host the podcast that has a nice interface/is easy to use/will let me have an RSS Feed.  Hoping SoundCloud will give me one soon.

Links to the Present: March 28, 2012

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

“My less-quick thoughts would be that this season is about to get hard. I know that I’ve been calling for the Cavs to lose games to optimize their draft position, but watching crappy performances every night is going to wear on me/you. Nobody really performed all that well and since April is going to be an absolute nightmare schedule-wise, Byron Scott isn’t about to waste Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson in games that are well out of hand. When you have to save guys since you’re playing 16 games in 23 days, you end up with games like last night. You’ll have the bench playing even more extended minutes. You’ll have Luke Walton and Omri Casspi on the floor at the same time. It just becomes hard to watch, but I guess I brought it upon myself when I asked for the team to tank.” [Conrad Kaczmarek]

“The tape may be out. Forty-two games in to his NBA career, opposing defenses are starting to clamp down on rookie point guard Kyrie Irving. The result, at least if we are using ‘win total’ as a guage, has not been pretty with the team dropping four straight contests — seven of their last eight — with the most recent being a double-digit loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.” [Scott Sargent]

Jeremy Lamb is expected to declare for the draft soon.

Boobie Gibson is likely out for the year with a torn tendon. The backcourt grows thinner.

Yesterday, Bassy Pruiti released the 11th edition of his Rookie Rankings. Irving’s still at the top, and TT has managed to claw his way into the top 10.

Recap: Cavs 85, Sixers 103

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

The Sixers, who are currently trying to fend off the Boston Celtics for control of the Atlantic division, took care of business against a Cavs team that checked out at halftime.

–I think we’re watching a team in free fall. The Cavs look discombobulated on the offensive end and uninterested on defense. The Sixers are a team that likes to run their guards through screens, and it’s not like fighting through screens from Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand is easy, but the Cavalier guards just didn’t make the necessary effort to reach the Sixers’ shooters. This is part of the reason Jodie Meeks (Jodie Meeks!) posted 31 points. The other reason is that Jodie Meeks turned into a human torch at some point in the second quarter.

–I think it’s time to start examining the cause of all these Kyrie Irving turnovers. He had five tonight, and while my gut says it’s mostly his fault that he has been so sloppy with the ball lately (he sometimes tries to play a little faster than he should), I’m gonna take a look at some game tape and figure out precisely what he and/or his teammates are doing wrong. It’s an area of concern at this point.

–Lou Williams is one of the best bench scorers in the league. The Cavaliers played like they were completely unaware of this fact in the first half, when Williams scored 11 points.

–I might write about this at some point in the near future, but I have a strong affection for Alonzo Gee. Not because he’s a particularly great basketball player—he’s fine—but because of how hard he plays. Gee’s not a particularly skilled player, but he has a Varejaonian knack for doing things that don’t end up in the box score. How many times per game does he tip a rebound or a pass? How many offensive sets does he disrupt by running around a screen and clogging the passing lane? He just works so damn hard on the glass and the defensive end; my heart sings for dudes like that. He was the Cavs’ lone “bright” spot tonight, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, and three assists along with solid defense. (Those 13 points were on 12 shots, hence the air quotes.) It’s a shame he couldn’t matchup against his more talented doppelgänger, Andre Iguodala. But then, if Iggy had played, the Cavs might have lost by 30.

–Luke Walton is getting way more burn than I thought he would. But then I remember the alternative is Luke Harangody.

–I note that the Cavs might be in free fall in part because their schedule gets tougher from now until the end of the season. They will occasionally face sub-par competition—the Nets, the Bobcats, the Wizards—but for the most part, they will face pretty good basketball teams and the schedule is going to be incredibly compact. We might have seen the best the Cavs have to offer this year, especially since Ramon Sessions’s scoring off the bench is now absent.

The Cavs have a winnable game against Detroit tomorrow at the Q. Until then, friends.

On Madness

Monday, March 26th, 2012

I’ve spent the last pair of weekends watching almost every hour of the NCAA tournament. The one described by a Mountain Dew-blooded Greg Anthony as “the year’s most insanely exciting four weeks of hoops” before explaining to you, lover of great things, how visiting the Facebook page of a company that makes phones and refrigerators could, like, totally take your March Madness experience to the next level.

If my stomach is capable of grimacing, it does so frequently at this time of year. I like the NCAA tournament. I wouldn’t characterize it in terms normally reserved for children’s toys and breakfast cereals, but it’s a source of enjoyment that occasionally solicits from me yelps of excitement that startle my cat. It’s a reasonably good level of basketball played for high stakes and an excellent appetizer for the NBA playoffs that follow about a month later. But phrases like “this remarkable group of youngsters,” the ads trying to “persuade” you that college athletes aren’t functionally retarded, the way commentators talk about “collegiate athletics” like Draymond Green is picking up where Plato left off in his quest for The Metaphysical Good: it’s rhetoric that descends from the same tree of logic that equates purity with virginity, virtue with beauty, and the 1950s with an idyllic America. It’s stupid, is what I mean. While watching the tournament, you occasionally encounter moments of glee of which only a 19 year-old is capable—the way the Louisville players were deliriously chirping and bouncing around after their comeback against Florida is a good example— but those moments don’t require narration. And besides, the sight of Dirk Nowitzki retreating to the locker room, overwhelmed with emotion after finally winning an NBA title was pretty touching, too.

The idea that college basketball is supremely entertaining because it’s untainted by—I dunno, whatever abstract evil sullies a man’s soul once he shakes David Stern’s hand—misses the point. I nodded along with Kenny Smith after CBS played a clip of an inconsolable Brian Conklin following Saint Louis’s season-ending loss against Michigan State. I’m paraphrasing here: “In the NBA, you can always put that jersey back on next year. In college, you only get four seasons, and then that thing goes in a closet or up in the rafters.” That’s one of the most compelling aspects of the tourney: there are seniors on these teams who will never play in the NBA or Europe. They’re moving on to become high school teachers and accountants after their team is eliminated. Their team’s tournament run composes the final basketball games they will play on a big stage. They’re playing to keep a crucial element of their identities alive for another 48 hours.

That’s the human drama of the NCAA tournament. The other thing that makes March great is the frenetic spectacle of the games themselves. A good tournament game spasms like a good NBA game doesn’t. In the NBA playoffs, the pace of play slows down, focus tightens, and supremacy is determined via seven-game wars of attrition. Some of the best NCAA games are fast, haphazard, and unceasingly kinetic. Like watching a gaggle of over-caffeinated squirrels chasing a windblow acorn. There’s a lot of stuff happening—three-pointers, fast breaks, turnovers, Frank Martin rupturing a capillary, piles of limbs on the hardwood—until out of the chaos emerges an ill-advised final shot—23 feet out off one leg? What the hell are you doing, you stupid kid?—that finds nylon. Your breath returns, and you wonder where the hell is Weber State, anyway? And when the game ends, the losing team returns to their locker room, not to retool and adjust, but to cry. It’s brief and visceral; its poignancy is in spangling moments, not sustained brilliance.

It’s fun, is what I mean. It offers to you what nearly any sport does: its own idiosyncrasies and two teams trying to dominate one another. I don’t know why it turns some NBA fans into anthropomorphic globs of bile. In the same way college basketball fans get sanctimonious about the intrinsic purity of the NCAA tourney, NBA purists come off as snobs who can’t deign to watch a sub-professional basketball game without taking a Silkwood shower afterward. My Twitter timeline two Friday afternoons ago was split between all-caps GLEEFUL NONSENSE about Norfolk State and NBA bloggers having a haughty condescension fit. Even the most adamant microbrew snob wouldn’t camp outside a liquor store and subject every patron who exited with a six-pack of PBR to a series of groans and insults, but Twitter allows us to pipe our most grating, acidic thought-gunk into people’s phones and laptops. I was alone, half-heartedly cleaning my apartment when I realized Whoa, Norfolk State could actually win this thing, and it was kind of soul-rendering to experience that final half-hour of GLEEFUL NONSENSE in concert with a handful of people I follow on Twitter. The detractors: what were they gaining from being disruptive other than an empty sense of superiority? Get down or get off the dance floor, dudes.

As is my wont, I take my experience with the NCAA tourney back to my NBA corner and begin to deconstruct it. I couldn’t watch Harrison Barnes’s last two outings without seeing a plummeting draft position above his head. My first reaction to Kyle O’Quinn was that he was a remarkable young man; my second reaction sparked a Google search to see where he was projected in the upcoming draft. In that sense, watching college basketball, for an NBA fan, is a bit like watching portions of a schematic fight itself. Did you know Kentucky’s roster consists of three Cavaliers? That’s the reality in my head, at least. If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is wearing a Hornets jersey next season, I’ll feel like he has betrayed me.

The NCAA tournament is a lot of things that I’m not sure congeal into a whole. I think trying to make complete sense of March Madness—whether by marginalizing or extolling its virtues—is a fool’s errand. It’s more sensible to allow the tournament to be its fraught, fractured self. It’s hyperactive. It’s emotional. It’s an excuse for alumni to do that annoying alumni thing. It’s a Clark Kellog phrase-coining clinic. It’s a half-assed scouting expedition. (I’m completely smitten with Brad Beal after watching him play approximately 95 minutes of basketball.) This year, for me, it has been a convenient diversion from a Cavaliers team whose most pressing unanswered question is where they will finish in the lottery. Maybe high enough to put Brad Beal in a backcourt next to Kyrie Irving? I can dream. March is for dreams, too.