Archive for March, 2012

Links to the Present: March 26, 2012

Monday, March 26th, 2012

“We did a good job on Kyrie [Irving]. The guy ends up with 16 [points], six [rebounds] and four assists and we talk about what a good job we did on him. That’s a testament to the kind of player that he is because that is doing a good job on him. I thought we kept him out of the paint for the most part. That kid is a great player. He’s got a really, really, really bright future ahead of him.” [Alvin Gentry on yesterday's Suns/Cavs game via WFNY]

“[W]hen opposing teams swing the ball, Cleveland just doesn’t have the athletes to challenge shots on the perimeter. This also pulls the Cavs’ big men away from the paint to help, leading to lots of easy baskets inside. Basically, they’re getting killed when it comes to defending people.” [Sam Amico]

And there’s a debate taking place this morning about whether or not the Cavs should retain Antawn Jamison this offseason:

“It would not be outlandish to see Antawn Jamison return to the Cavaliers next year. First of all, the Cavs couldn’t break the bank paying him, even though they’ll be as much as $20 million under the salary cap. Jamison earned $15.1 million this season. If he would accept a contract in the $5 million or $6 million range, they might oblige. Since Tristan Thompson appears to be in line to start, Jamison might have to come off the bench. He has been a productive starter for most of his career. Even though the Wizards will have cap space, don’t expect them to sign a marquee free agent. They are committed to building the team through the draft. Jamison, 35, is a good mentor for young players like Thompson. It wouldn’t be totally outlandish for him to return.” [CBS Sports]

“Once Jamison’s $15 million contract comes off the books at season’s end, the Cavs will have about $20 million in cap space to work with. Antawn would have to agree to obviously come off the bench behind Tristan Thompson in order for this scenario to work, but I get the impression he’d be willing to do that. Outside of using that cap space to sign the two First Round Draft Picks the Cavaliers will add this June, and maybe one of the two Second Round Selections, I don’t see that money being spent anywhere else either. Byron Scott, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and the rest of next season’s Cavaliers team are already familiar with Jamison too, and that continuity would provide additional value in these early years of the rebuilding process as well.” [Brendan Bowers]

Jamison is, according to Byron Scott, “fine” after suffering a left ankle contusion in yesterday’s Suns/Cavs tilt.

Recap: Suns 108, Cavs 83

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The Suns transformed the Q into a smoldering crater.

–This will be a quick recap. The Cavs were absolutely slaughtered in nearly every aspect of the game.

–You know who had a pretty good game? Omri Casspi. He was 5-for-10 from the field with 5 rebounds. He only took three shots from beyond the arc, which is both an act of capitulation and a welcome acknowledgement that he has not been, for whatever reason, a mediocre three-point shooter this season. He’s still kind of a disaster defensively, but the Israeli has looked like an NBA rotation player of late.

–You know who was pretty awful? Everyone else. Antawn Jamison was 1-for-8. Kyrie Irving had five turnovers. Alonzo Gee was a minus-24. Tristan Thompson couldn’t handle Marcin Gortat, who hung 22 on the rookie.

–A few of you in the comment section mentioned this: TT is suddenly not an awful free throw shooter? He was 4-for-6 in this game, but his stroke looks much smoother. If he continues to put in the work and starts shooting something close to 70%, that would be a huge addition to his game, since he’s starting to figure out how to use his quickness and strength to get to the line, just like he did in college.

–Re: Donald Sloan Watch: I’m pretty sure he’s not good. He has his moments, but he turns the ball over too much and isn’t a particularly capable defender. I think if the Cavs are looking for a guy to make about $2-$3 mil per year to back up Irving for 12 minutes a game, they can do better than Donald Sloan.

The Cavs will travel to Philadelphia and take on the Sixers on Tuesday. Until tomorrow, friends.

Recap: Cavs 80, Magic 93

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

The Magic are a pretty good team. The Cavaliers are not. As logic would dictate, the Cavs lost this game handedly.

–Not a ton to break down in this one. The Cavs were just outplayed by a better basketball team. They were outshot 47% to 38%. They lost the rebounding battle by five boards. Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson each had seven assists; the Cavs had 10 assists total. The only time this was a basketball game was a brief stretch in the third quarter when the Cavs cut it to single digits. Other than that five-minute spell, the Magic dominated.

–Classic 8-for-18 performance from Antawn Jamison. He also had nine rebounds. I wouldn’t normally excoriate Jamison for a lackadaisical defensive performance (it’s whatever at this point), but on a night when Tristan Thompson started at center against Dwight Howard, Jamison did nothing to help the rookie. He didn’t rotate on drives; he didn’t help the helper when Thompson tried to protect the rim; and he didn’t close out on the Magic shooters. It was… frustrating, to say the least.

–Kyrie Irving was just okay. The Magic swarmed him on D, and he had trouble finishing around the rim because Dwight Howard is the best shot blocker of his generation. 13 points, six assists, and only one turnover. Ho-hum.

–A few things about TT: he tried really hard. I don’t mean for that comment to sound condescending. Faced with the challenge of starting out of position against the best center in the NBA, he could have easily decided, “Okay, I’ll just keep my head down, take my beating, and hope I don’t get embarrassed.” He seemed to embrace the challenge, posting 15 points, 11 rebounds, and a pair of blocks. He also turned the ball over three times, and, make no mistake, Howard beat him up a little. But Thompson never stopped. On a couple of occasions, he bricked a post shot, grabbed his own rebound, and converted the put-back. When he was caught out of position, he wrapped Howard up, and sent him to the line. It wasn’t always pretty, but TT didn’t play poorly by any stretch. He was decent, and he never got discouraged. I’m proud of him, in a way.

The Cavs travel home to face Phoenix on Sunday. Until then, friends.

Links to the Present: March 23, 2012

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

“As you may or may not know, it’s Kyrie Irving’s 20th birthday. Apparently, the rookie told the team that he wanted to celebrate his birthday at Disneyworld. Therefore, the Cavaliers will travel to Orlando to have a party and such. Oh, and they’ll also play a game against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.” [Conrad Kacmzarek]

“To compare and contrast LeBron James and Kyrie Irving is wholly unfair. The two couldn’t be more different in almost every way: as people, as basketball players, as ambassadors of the Cavaliers franchise. Well, we’ll get to that 3rd one in a minute. But certainly they are different men, different players, different backgrounds, different futures.” [Andrew Schnitkey]

“No team in the NBA is worse in the second quarter than the Cavs. They average the fewest points (21.8) and own the worst margin (-3.4). This isn’t a recent development and the sample size is now large enough that it cannot be dismissed.” [Tom Reed]

And Ryan Hollins is signing with the Celtics. Let’s hope Kevin Garnett doesn’t murder him.

Draft Profile: Thomas Robinson

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
After drafting a power forward with the fourth pick in 2011, draft day priorities do not start at power forward. Several will be drafted in the lottery however, so it’s folly to ignore them.  The top of my draft day wish list is a scoring wing.  Many NBA teams draft by tiers though; maybe they put Anthony Davis as the top tier, with MKG – Thomas Robinson – Beal – Barnes – Drummond as the next tier, etc.  If they’re picking seventh and there is one second tier player left, he gets picked, regardless of team need.  Also, Cleveland’s longterm front court is a blank slate besides Tristan Thompson…at some point, they need to land another two big guys, preferably with some range on their shot.  If they really like a power forward better than everyone else on the board, maybe the correct thing to do is pick him.

Having said all that, 90% of me wants Cleveland to draft a wing with their first pick.  The above paragraph primarily serves as my excuse to not ignore half the likely lottery.  Today, a quick look at Thomas Robinson, Kansas’ junior big man that both ESPN and draftexpress.com currently rate third in 2012.

AP Photo - Nati Harnik

Robinson encompasses the entire physical package of a prototype NBA four.  He’s 6’9″ (or 6’10″) with a large wingspan and carries a chiseled 240 lbs.  As a coordinated, explosive athlete that plays with non-stop motor, he racks up 18 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes per game . Grabbing 32% of available defensive rebounds ranks first in the NCAA, which is really impressive considering Kansas’ schedule.  He puts in the needed effort on defense and has the right tools, including physicality to bang down low and agility to defend the perimeter.  Despite making significant strides since last year, his offensive repertoire still has room to grow.  Exhibiting great effectiveness scoring on putbacks, cuts & in transition, his jump shot is a work in progress (35% this year according to draft express).   He did convert 6 of 13 threes though and shot 70% on foul shots, which are frequent for him, thanks to a quick first step and an aggressive offensive demeanor, both attacking off the dribble in isolation or after establishing deep position on the block.  The post move portfolio doesn’t always feature a feathery touch or perfect footwork, but he’ll shoot hook shots with both hands and flash dynamic spin moves and drop steps.   Turnovers pose a problem; struggles with double teams and the growing pains of developing a back-to-the-basket arsenal result in nearly three botched possessions a game.  Finally, he doesn’t appear to have the basket protection gene, registering less than one block per game.  As an integral part of the NCAA’s ninth ranked defense; he’s clearly not a liability though.

Notes from recent games include:

02/08 vs Baylor – Robinson’s good and bad were on full display in this 68 – 54 Jayhawk win, as he finished with 15 points on 61% true shooting with 11 rebounds and 5 turnovers.  Nine points came due to hustle and off-the-ball movement, scoring in transition and off cuts.  In addition, he stroked one long jumper and finished a strong drive for another basket. Great positioning and box-outs limited his lottery-bound counterpart Perry Jones III to three rebounds.  Despite only netting one assist, many solid passes by him from the post ended in open misses.  On the downside, perimeter players have little to fear on a drive when they find Robinson in their sights; he offered little resistance as Kansas’ last line of defense.  Last, and probably least, his tendency to lose the ball in the post was apparent.

03/18 vs Purdue – This was a peculiar game for Robinson.  He struggled offensively, finishing 2 of 12 from the field, but he visited the line frequently, drawing seven fouls and finishing with 11 points.  In addition to his thirteen rebounds, he was Varejao-esque in keeping offensive rebounds alive; four times in the first half, he battled to get a hand on the ball, resulting in continued Jayhawk possession.  His passing offered a glimpse of promise; one of his three assists was a nifty drive & kick, and several potential dimes were thwarted by open shooters hoisting bricks.

Not all news was positive though.  Frustrated by the Purdue defense, his touch in the paint and from the perimeter was poor; he air balled a hook shot, missed an accidental bank shot from the area of the foul line, etc.  Bad hands also presented themselves, though fortunately for Robinson on a few occasions, a bobbled ball bounced off Purdue and KU retained possession.  Basically the ratio of smooth offensive plays to clumsy possessions didn’t end in Robinson’s favor.

KU’s defense was the odd aspect of this game.  Robinson started by guarding Robbie Hummel, Purdue’s senior stretch 4, who couldn’t miss and scored 11 points in the first eight minutes.  I wasn’t concerned about T-Rob’s defense on Hummel; it looked like a player with 1800 career points making tough shots.  At some point in the first half, another Jayhawk switched onto Hummel.  Kansas’s halftime adjustments are when things got interesting though; Robinson’s primary defensive responsibility involved going man-to-man with a variety of small guards, including 5’9″ Lewis Jackson on a couple of possessions.  Kansas also intermittently switched to matchup zones, like a triangle-and-two.  The strategy provided a mixed bag of results for Robinson, but ultimatley it worked; in the second half, Kansas finished +13 with Robinson on the court and -4 when he sat.  On one pick and roll, it appeared he forgot that his man was the ball handler, and once in a zone setup, he wandered around like a concussion victim…I credited these poor showings to Kansas running defenses they had probably practiced for half an hour.  Generally, he displayed solid perimeter defensive fundamentals, keeping low to the ground, arms out, moving his feet well; his quickness was on full display.  I noted seven separate possessions where Purdue tried to attack Robinson with a guard in isolation or by running a pick-and-roll with Robinson as the on-ball defender; Purdue only scored on three.  It wasn’t always pretty, but given the assignment, he represented himself well.

Summary: Robinson’s size, strength & skills, combined with athleticism and intensity make him a can’t miss.  He’ll play hard, rebound, and provide some offense immediately, while ideally continuing to expand his post game and add range to his jumper.  If he can slightly improve his shot, he could look pretty good next to Tristan; a floor spacing, defensive rebounding machine next to an offensive board attacking, layup rejecting beast.

After seven players, my rankings, including stats from their ten most recent games are:

1. MKG –             31.4 m, 9.4 p, 7.1 r, 1.5 a, 0.9 s, 0.8 b, 1.7 to, 56% TS

2. Robinson -    32.3 m, 16.7 p, 11.2 r, 2.7 a, 1.1 s, 0.5 b, 3.0 to, 52% TS

3. Drummond – 30.4 m, 10.3 p, 7.7 r, 0.2 a, 0.7 s, 3.1 b, 0.8 to, 50% TS

4. Barnes -        32.4 m, 16.2 p, 5.6 r, 0.9 a, 1.1 s, 0.3 b, 2.1 to, 50% TS

5. Jones III -      29.1 m, 12.1 p, 7.9 r, 1.3 a, 0.5 s, 0.5 b, 1.1 to, 50% TS

6. Lamb –           37.8 m, 19 p, 5.7 r, 1.5 a, 0.7 s, 0.5 b, 1.3 to, 59% TS

7. Miller –           22.7 m, 7.3 p, 4.8 r, 1.0 a, 0.5 s, 0.4 b, 1.5 to, 44% TS

Tristan Thompson Interview

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Not a lot of Cavs-related news today, but Tristan Thompson did a Q+A with Slam yesterday. So if you’re interested in the inner life of the Cavalier rookie, head over to SLAM right quick.

Recap: Cavs 102, Hawks 103

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

The Cavs lost in overtime because Kyrie Irving didn’t score on every single shot he took.

–Okay, let me get this out of the way: Kyrie Irving turned the ball over way too much (seven times) and his defense on Jeff Teague was intermittently phantom-like. And he missed the last shot of the game because he’s a human being who misses shots sometimes.

–With those caveats out of the way: wow. This might have been Irving’s most impressive clutch performance of the season. He positively took over in the fourth quarter and overtime. From the time he re-entered the game in the fourth quarter with about seven minutes remaining in regulation to the final buzzer, he posted 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He converted buckets from all over, too: three-pointers, mid-range pull-ups, drives to the rim. Are we seeing one of the five or ten best clutch performers in the league? And is he 19 years old? It’s ridiculous. He missed a bank shot to win the game, and I don’t even care.

–Irving seems to be following the Chris Paul model of point guard-ing lately. He’s trying to get his teammates easy buckets in the early quarters, then shoulder the scoring load in crunch time. Personally, I think this is great. I’m of the opinion that the role of a star point guard is to keep everyone involved for three-and-a-half quarters, then take over when the game is in the balance. It’s just a matter of personal preference, really. The Derrick Rose/Chauncey Billups model works just fine, too. This new approach has had implications upon Irving’s performances, though. He has occasionally forced passes and is turning the ball over too much. A few times in this game, he Euro-stepped toward the basket with the intention to pass, got caught with no options, and threw the ball into traffic. But he’s working the kinks out. I think this mentality will be incredibly beneficial in the coming years as the players around Irving improve.

–John Hollinger made a really salient point on Twitter after Tristan Thompson got fouled on a dunk attempt in overtime: a handful of times, Irving drove into the lane and deposited the ball in TT’s hands for what should have been an easy dunk or lay-in, but Thompson took way too long to gather before he jumped. Irving could have had a double-double if Thompson didn’t have such a long wind-up motion for his dunks. Someone needs to work with TT as far as being prepared to catch the ball and going up with it right after it hits his hands. He’s too good of an athlete to get fouled or blocked on easy buckets as much as he does.

–I know Alonzo Gee had a bad shooting game (it happens), but someone needs to get in his ear about three-pointers: namely that he shouldn’t take them unless he’s got a rack of flames emanating from his shoulders. It’s disconcerting that Gee thinks he’s the type of player that can knock down threes when he totally isn’t. Dude needs to throw a pump fake at the defender and attack the rim.

–I have no thoughts on Donald Sloan. He made no impression upon me. I’m going to need some more time to figure out whether or not this guy is a backup point guard.

–Manny Harris looked like an NBA player. Not a particularly good NBA player (he got lost on defense a lot) but decent. I will continue to pull for Manny Harris until he’s averaging 13 points a game for Real Madrid in the the Euroleague.

–Old Man Jamison was great for the most part, but the late-game sequence in which he took a wild scoop shot from 10 feet out, then fouled Josh Smith on the ensuing fast break was really, really ugly.

–Speaking of Josh Smith, he was 10-for-29 in this game, and I enjoyed every minute he was on the floor.

The Cavs travel to Orlando to face the Magic on Friday. Until tomorrow, friends.

Link to the Present: Thompson goes #2 in ESPN re-draft

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

ESPN’s David Thorpe posted a re-drafting of the 2011 NBA draft, based on what we know today. No surprise at #1, but guess who ends up at #2?

It’s ESPN insider content, so some may not be able to read it, but the answer is Tristan Thompson

What do you think, Cavs fans?

Links to the Present: March 21, 2012

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

“Cavaliers guard Donald Sloan learned the jab step in two distinctly different types of gyms. The strapping 6-foot-3, 203-pound Sloan has used it to beat opponents off the dribble and to the punch. On his way to earning a scholarship at Texas A&M, he spent four years in a Dallas boxing club learning the finer points of pugilism from his kin. The NBA is filled with fight fans and includes a few players like Cavs’ guard Daniel Gibson who have sparred as part of their basketball training.” [Tom Reed]

“In the first game of the post-Ryan Hollins era, the Cleveland Cavaliers will travel to Atlanta to play the Hawks. It was merely a couple days ago when the Hawks stomped on the Cavs at home, and this time, the game will be played in HOTlanta. This does not bode well for the Cavaliers. However, after Hollins was waived, I’m slightly more inclined to believe in miracles.” [Conrad Kaczmarek]

“Coon grouped the Cavs in the ‘If cap space is king, then fit me for a crown’ section. There were plenty of other teams in this category as well and obviously the Cavaliers and the rest won’t all be able to bring in any big name free agents this summer. With $26 million in cap space this summer the team certainly could make some massive move.” [John of FTS]

And the Kings waived J.J. Hickson. I know the Cavs are thin in the frontcourt, but for the sake of my sanity, I would prefer they not re-acquire Hickson. He and Byron Scott did nothing but bicker at one another all of last season, and I think we’ve all figured out at this point that Hickson is never going to be very good.

Ryan Hollins Tries to Acquire Coffee

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Ryan Hollins wiped the sleep from his eyes; slapped the alarm clock against the wall, shattering it; and rose from his bed. Ugh, I hate Mondays, Hollins thought. He did not know he was channeling Garfield. He ambled into his bathroom, which had tile made of Venetian marble. The tiles were very expensive, but Ryan Hollins was able to purchase them with a portion of the millions of dollars he had made playing professional basketball. These were the type of tiles a very rich man bought for his bathroom.

Ryan Hollins stepped into his shower, adjusted his faucet to a temperature that was either way too hot or way too cold, and began his daily ritual of dropping the soap an impossible number of times. As he sort of feebly pinned the soap—which looked like a large pill in comparison to his gigantic frame—between his right wrist and his bellybutton, it occurred to him that he, like all primates, possessed thumbs. Ryan Hollins had no clue what to do with this revelation, but it caused him to drop the soap again. He resolved, as he did every day, that he was “clean enough.” He reached for a towel, and the towel disintegrated.

After drying himself off with eight rolls of toilet paper—macerated bits of tissue were stuck to his back and inner thighs, but what are you gonna do—Ryan Hollins decided to brew a pot of coffee. The crucial flaw in Ryan Hollins’s plan was that he did not own a coffee maker. He had, at one point, owned thousands of coffee makers. You see, Ryan Hollins is no dummy: he knows he is Ryan Hollins and that he breaks things almost literally all the time. So Ryan Hollins had planned ahead. A few months ago, he had filled a spacious walk-in closet with coffee makers. Coffee makers to the ceiling. A meerkat colony of coffee makers. But, being Ryan Hollins, he had steadily depleted this massive reserve of coffee makers—I really can’t emphasize enough how large a quantity of coffee makers Ryan Hollins had burned through; we’re talking enough coffee makers to keep the entire population of Scandinavia awake for three months straight—by breaking coffee makers at a rate that took statistics into a headlock and gave it a noogie until its skull bled. This morning Ryan Hollins had no coffee makers. He had broken every single one. His walk-in closet was now a coffee maker mass grave, a room that reeked of melted plastic and had a floor composed of several layers of fragmented glass. Ryan Hollins would have to leave his home if he wanted to satisfy his caffeine fix.

The first five cars Ryan Hollins attempted to start sputtered and made a sort of laughing sound as Ryan Hollins turned the key in the ignition. The sixth car, an old box Chevy that Ryan Hollins had refurbished with the exorbitant amount of money he had accumulated playing professional basketball, started smoothly, and Ryan Hollins pulled out of his driveway, killing three pedestrians while making a simple K-turn.

Ryan Hollins parked atop a pair of Toyota sedans outside a Starbucks. He opened his car door, which came off its hinges and fell to the curb, and walked through the coffee shop’s entrance. The smell of mediocre coffee infiltrated his nostrils, and Ryan Hollins experienced a sense of wonder. I’m in the mood for something different, thought Ryan Hollins. He then flagged down a pretty barista with auburn hair pulled back in a bun and asked for a grandé house blend, assuming she would know that he meant he wanted a venti iced latté. Ryan Hollins did this all the time, forgetting that in order to express an idea, one needs to use words that correspond to that idea. Ryan Hollins sometimes did not understand the fundamental concept of language, is what I mean.

After a few minutes, the barista motioned Ryan Hollins to the counter and handed him a cup of coffee. She put it, literally, like, right in the palm of his hand, allowing Ryan Hollins sufficient time to wrap the pads of his fingers around the coffee cup, so as to prevent it from falling to the floor. The moment the barista let go of the coffee cup, it exploded. It exploded in a way that a coffee cup should not explode. Coffee is a liquid, and the cup was made of cardboard. Neither of those things are fire.

(Maybe this was one of those freak quantum physics things? Like how, if you stand against a wall for trillions and trillions of years, the atoms will, um, do something weird, and you will pass through the wall? I didn’t really pay attention in my high school physics class, but I think that’s a thing? Whatever, I’m just a guy narrating a very true story about human anomaly Ryan Hollins, not Carl Sagan.)

Anyway, Ryan Hollins somehow made a coffee cup explode just by touching it. The heat from the explosion shot upward like a bottle rocket, burning through the plaster ceiling tiles and melting the electrical wiring. The Wynton Marsalis album that had been playing in the background immediately ceased, and yellow flames danced on the ceiling like a marionette artist’s hands. Ryan Hollins had started an electrical fire.

As he stood outside the blazing Starbucks, apologizing profusely to the small, frightened crowd of college students, old ladies, and wannabe novelists, Ryan Hollins felt his phone vibrate in his shirt pocket. He pulled out his phone with cat-like reflexes, not even dropping it on the pavement and cracking its screen, and read a short message from his boss, Chris Grant: We’ve decided to cut you. Sorry, buddy.

Aw man, Ryan Hollins thought to himself, I was just getting good at flagrant fouling.

And then his phone turned into a zebra and kicked him in the face.