Archive for April, 2012

Recap: Cavs 98, Wizards 89

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

I'm tanking so badly, that re-using Colin's "tank fail" picture seems excusable.

Trying to figure out what to say about a game like this gives me an understanding for why Colin is so sick right now.  These games do not feature a very high level of basketball.  The Cavs won though, and I scribbled some notes and researched some trivial facts; what type of blogger would I be to not share them with you?

Onto some bullets:

  • Antawn Jamison got a night of rest.  Nene, Trevor Booker and Rashard Lewis did not play for the Wizards.  Based on some quick math, the combined salaries of the twenty players that saw time tonight is approximately $34 million.  This is less than Rashard Lewis and Antawn Jamison’s combined salaries.
  • Luke Harangody notched his first career start and tallied a double-double!  I am in disbelief over this!  What does it mean?!?!  The answer is nothing.
  • Of Cleveland’s top seven players; one was a rookie, one is 36 years old and the other 5 were either undrafted or picked in the last few picks of the second round.  Employing this rotation, the Cavs won an NBA road game.
  • Back to Harangody; this was actually his second career double-double.  Last year, he stuffed the box score with a 16 & 11 when with the Celtics.  Again last night, he finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds & 3 steals , playing hard and knocking down jumpers.  Good for you, Luke!!  He also played in the playoffs for the Canton Charge on Friday night and apparently will again on Sunday (tonight).  He’s an ironman!!  As a footnote, he only had 24 NBA points this season prior to this game.
  • The Cavs knocked down a lot of long twos; 17 of 30 on two’s outside the paint.  Sloan, Manny, Harangody and Parker all were effective from this non-ideal court area.  Harangody was 5 of 8 on jumpers and 1 of 3 at the basket.
  • Despite the jump shooting, the Cavs shot 33 foul shots and made 27.  Anthony Parker  registered 42 free throw attempts in 42 games before last night, but took 8 trips to the charity stripe against the Wizards yesterday.
  • Tristan Thompson made all four of his free throws and has been converting around 60% over the last six weeks.  That’s positive.  He was aggressive tonight, facing up and putting the ball on the floor early, but had an underwhelming game.  Four turnovers and three rebounds needs work.
  • Lester Hudson keeps working harder than the opponent, clearly playing for his NBA meal ticket.  It’s not always good enough though.  Tonight  he finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist.  Following his three games averaging 25, 5 & 5; over the last three, that’s regressed to 12 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 4 turnovers per game on 13 – 33 from the field.  Such is life for a recent veteran of the Chinese League; the Cavs will let him finish the season with the team and should invite him to camp next year.
  • There was an excellent Luke Walton to Omri Casspi fast break: sweet pass, fancy finish, nice job by both players.  Did you see the Kevin Durant to Russell Westbrook alley-oop on Friday night?  This was different.
  • Tristan Thompson is #2 of all rookies in dunks this year.  Washington’s Jan Vesely is #3.  I learned that from the Washington broadcast team.  TV can be fun and informative!
  • There was some talk of the Cavs drafting Jan Vesely at #4 last year, and I was not a supporter. Instead, the Wizards took him at #6.  He finished with a double-double last night, including one soaring slam dunk.  Of course, he was going head-to-head with Luke Harangody (and tossed up a couple of air-balls for good measure).  Turning 22 next week and with a 10 PER, it appears he is an energy player and not a hybrid of Dirk Nowitzki and Blake Griffin.  So, early returns are that I got one draft day call from last year correct.  At the end of this season, I’ll revisit the 2011 draft and discuss the players where one season in the books points towards me being right…and the opinions that call into question my “draft experting”.  That should be fun.
  • John Wall finished with 19 points, 9 assists and 2 turnovers.  Getting rid of Nick Young and Javale McGee should be positive for his development.  Andray Blatche isn’t playing at this time…that can’t be bad, right?  A lot of analysts expected a huge leap for Wall this year; he’s fast and a freak athlete.  Maybe next year for Mr. Wall.

That’s all I’ve got for last night.  This was a setback in the race for ping pong balls; the Cavs officially cannot finish worse than the Wizards now.  Also, the Nets lost last night and are only 1/2 game ahead (behind?) of Cleveland now.  On Sunday night, Cleveland draws Orlando sans Dwight Howard, with the Cavs playing their fifth game in six days.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Have an enjoyable Sunday everyone, and we’ll be back tomorrow!

Recap: Cavs 83, Pacers 102

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Hey, you guys. I’m keeping the recap brief tonight because A.) this was a complete and utter drubbing (at least in the second half) and B.) I’m a little woozy from the healthy dose of cough medicine I’ve taken to subdue the angry hedgehog that’s been living in my throat for the last few days.

–The Pacers and Cavs have played twice in the past 72 hours, and, with the exception of the overtime period on Wednesday and the last two quarters of tonight’s game, the Pacers have basically played the Cavs to a stalemate. It’s not like the Pacers have a Carmelo or D-Wade-caliber scorer on their team, but it’s weird that a team that’s probably going to finish third in the East can have so much trouble scoring for quarters at a time, even against lousy competition.

–This doesn’t mean much, but Donald Sloan was a staggering negative-29 tonight. It doesn’t mean much because he actually played pretty well. His matchup, George Hill, didn’t torch him or anything (4-for-11, seven assists), and Sloan had a decent game (5-for-9, five dimes) aside from coughing the ball up four times. Yet he watched the Pacers outscore the Cavs by almost thirty points when he was on the floor. What I’m saying is, if you see Donald on the street, tell him it’s not his fault.

–Samardo Samuels was 2-for-7 with 10 points, 10 rebounds. He also fouled out late in the fourth. We’ll obviously have this conversation after the season is over, but is Samardo a part of the team moving forward? Is he a tenth man—the type of guy who gets burn when you’re playing Dwight Howard and need some extra fouls to throw at the best center in the league? I know he’s had some weight and attitude issues; that might factor into the Cavaliers’ decision to keep him on board during the Kyrie Irving Era. I dunno. Just something to think about.

–A man named Lester Hudson only played 15 minutes in this one, shooting 2-for-6 and turning the ball over five times. It’s strangely comforting to know he’s not a poor man’s version of Mitch Richmond in his prime.

This Pacers game was the first of a back-to-back-to-back. The Cavs take on the Wiz tomorrow night at the Phone Booth. (Do they still call it the Phone Booth?) Kevin will be covering that game while I try to get my throat to downgrade itself from “cardinal” to “cadmium red.” Until tomorrow, friends.

Draft Profile: Austin Rivers and Dion Waiters

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

This week, we’ll embark on a different style of draft profile; a tale of the tape between similar players.  Austin Rivers and Dion Waiters are highly confident & aggressive shooting guards with sweet handles and deep shooting range.  Both declared for the draft; Rivers currently resides around 17th on most boards, while Waiters sits in the early twenties.  Weighing their strengths and weaknesses will serve as the basis for “who is the better prospect?”

Size: According to draftexpress, Waiters is 6′ 3.5″ with a 6’6.5″ wingspan.  He features a highly muscular physique, tipping the scales at 210 pounds.  Rivers is 6′ 5″ and carries a 6′ 7″ wingspan.  He needs to add strength.  I’m going to call this a tie.  Outcome: Rivers 0.5, Waiters 0.5

Austin Rivers drives & kicks against Lehigh - Picture by Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

Age / Experience: Turning 20 in August, Rivers is an old freshman.  Waiters reached 20 in December though and completed two years of NCAA ball.  In this battle, youth proves advantageous; Outcome: Rivers 1.5, Waiters 0.5

Scoring: In 33 minutes per game, Rivers averaged 15.5 points on 43 / 37 / 66 shooting (53.8% true shooting).  In 24 minutes, Waiters tallied 12.6 points on 48 / 36 / 73 (56.5% TS).  Both can extend the floor and attack the basket; Rivers heads to the free throw line more regularly, but makes fewer while there.  Thanks to higher efficiency, Waiters tallied more points per minute despite Syracuse playing at a a slower pace.  Outcome: Rivers 1.5, Waiters 1.5

Distribution: As a quality pick and roll ball handler; Waiters’ 2.5 assists per game bests Rivers, despite A-Riv playing ten more minutes at a faster pace.  Also committing fewer turnovers, Waiters ranks 8th of 83 shooting guards (draftexpress.com database) for the advanced passing stat of Pure Point Rating, while Rivers lags at 64th.  Outcome: Rivers 1.5, Waiters 2.5

Rebounding: Neither rebounds well.  Fortunately with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Varejao and TT in tow; it won’t matter.

Intangibles: I recall reading or hearing that Waiters butts heads with Jim Boeheim.  Austin Rivers is the son of a 13 year NBA vet and the current coach of the Boston Celtics.  Both play with a bit of an edge, but the point goes to the NBA lifer.  Outcome: Rivers 2.5, Waiters 2.5

Dion Waiters soars for an and-one in the NCAA tournament - Picture by Jim Rogash / Getty Images

Defense: One sentence from draftexpress can summarize Rivers defensively; “he was not an impact player.”  Watching him, I didn’t note a lot good or bad; he gives decent effort and typically stays in front of his man, but doesn’t possess high-end strength, length or athleticism to be a real stopper.  For an informative article on the impact of various players in the Syracuse zone, check out this Sports Illustrated Piece.  Waiters is strong & aggressive, ranking 13th in the NCAA by ending 4.6% of defensive possessions with a steal.  Outcome: River 2.5, Waiters 3.5

Impact on team: Duke struggled during Rivers’ limited time off the court, outscoring opponents by 0.5 points per forty minutes, compared to +11.2 per 40 when he played.  Syracuse played approximately 8 points better per forty minutes with Waiters (+17.7 compared to +9.9), but featured the third most talented roster in the NCAA.  Duke relied on Rivers a lot more than ‘Cuse lived or died by their sixth man; the edge here goes to Rivers.  Outcome: Rivers 3.5, Waiters 3.5

Last 10 games & Game notes: Over the final ten games, Rivers limped into the season’s finish line, converting only 39% of his field goals and 30% of his long distance shots. Duke lost in the semifinals of the ACC tournament and the first round of the NCAA tournament.  Waiters’ shooting improved as the season wore on, connecting on 42% from three down the homestretch.  For more details, let’s look at game recaps:

In Lehigh’s March Madness kick-off victory over Duke, Rivers scored 19 points, on inefficient 49% True Shooting.  He only had 1 assist against 2 turnovers, as Lehigh’s big men effectively hedged on pick-and-roll defense all game (a skill sorely lacking in the college game).  In addition to frequently impeding his forays to the basket, the Mountain Hawk bigs caused defensive problems at the basket, too.  On 9 possessions amongst the trees, Rivers only scored on three, finishing two of seven field goals at the basket.  If a lack of elite athleticism creates finishing problems against a #15 seed in the NCAA tournament; it’s probably something to work on as you head to the NBA .  Occasional over-aggressiveness in the passing lanes resulted in a Lehigh three and a non-existent block-out allowed his six-foot tall counterpart to snag an easy putback.

Against Florida State in Duke’s 59 – 62 ACC tournament loss, Rivers again was a volume scorer, tallying 17 points on 50% true shooting.  He exhibited slick ball handling and got to the basket moving left and right.  He finished better at the rim (4 of 7) & showed skill drawing contact at the basket, but turned the ball over three times while driving; once on a travel and twice trying to collect the ball going up for a shot.  Even when dribbling left handed, he tried to switch to his right hand to finish, losing control of the ball in the process.  His shooting abandoned him, converting only 1 of 5 three point attempts.  Effort and positioning on defense were solid, but another missed boxout resulted in an FSU offensive rebound, which forced Rivers into his 3rd foul.  If Rivers exhibited more physicality when rebounding, maybe he would grab more than 9% of the available defensive boards.

In Cuse’s Big East tourney loss to Cincinnati, Waiters unleashed the highest scoring game of his career.  His 28 points came thanks to seven made three pointers, several of which were behind the NBA line and one that was waaaaay behind it (the game was at MSG).  Three of his four assists were drive-and-kicks for three and the other an alley-oop to Fab Melo.  He scored or assisted on 57% of the Orangmen’s points.  Ultimately they lost though, as the Bearcats carved up the Syracuse zone in the first half.  UC made eight first-half threes, half of which Waiters was at least partially accountable for; either closing out too hard & jumping past a pump fake, making a lazy zone rotation, or simply mis-communicating on a zone assignment.  Not sure this means anything from the perspective of NBA defense; in the second half, he was much more focused and snagged a couple of steals.

Against Ohio State on 03/24, Waiters battled foul trouble, only playing 20 minutes and scoring 9 points of 2 – 8 shooting.  Whereas he flashed deep shooting range against Cincinnati, this day his speedy and elusive driving ability was featured.  In limited time, he put the ball on the floor and got to the basket nine times.  Results were mixed though; twice he shape-shifted for spectacular and-ones, but several times he hoisted out-of-control shots or turned the ball over.  I counted 9 points on his 9 possessions used off of dribble penetration, so overall, not horrible results.  There was also a baseline drive ending with a hanging, wrap-around pass to his big for an open dunk.  His shot selection and poor finishing left something lacking (mainly points), but he showed off an array of ball-handling and body control maneuvers to continually get to the rim.

Watching the two play, there is something dynamic and exciting about Waiters that lacks with Rivers.  Advantage and 4.5 to 3.5 victory to Waiters!

Summary: The combination of Waiters’ efficient scoring and his low turnover rates allow him to best Rivers in offensive rating while also being more used.  D-Wait produced 116 points per 100 possessions and was relied upon for over one-fourth of the Orangmen’s trips down the court.  Despite using 1.5 less possessions per 100; Rivers only tallies an offensive rating of 105.  PER tells a similar story, with the Syracuse sixth man at 26.1, compared to the Duke star at 16.8.  Combining Waiters’ current edge offensively, defensively & as an athlete, at only 8 months older, I think he’s a better prospect and would provide a suitable backup to Kyrie and at the two-guard.  If the Cavs can luck into Anthony Davis or MKG with their first pick, then trade up and nab Waiters; I’ll call that a huge draft day success.

Semih Erden Injury Update

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

From WFNY’s Scott Sargent:

Erden will not travel with the team today to Indiana and will be listed as OUT for the Cavaliers Friday (Ind) and on Saturday (Was)

Semih, if you remember, took a nasty-looking spill last night and appeared to injure his knee. It looked pretty bad when it happened: the 7-footer tried to plant going to a for a loose ball and bent his knee awkwardly. I’ll keep you guys posted on the extent of the injury, but this is all the info I have right now.

Update: I just re-watched the play, and, yes, it was his ankle. This is the last time I try to remember something off two hours sleep with a head cold. Anyway, Erden’s got a bum wheel, and I’m taking a nap.

Important Mascot News!

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

From Tom Reed at the Plain Dealer:

Moondog needed to be taken to a local hospital after suffering an eye injury during a pre-game play fight with Indiana Pacers forward David West at The Q on Wednesday night. The Cavalier canine was later released and a team spokesman said he should be fine.

David West apparently thinks the Pacers can just come into the Q, almost allow the Cavaliers to win a game that they desperately needed to lose, and leave their beloved mascot with a bag of frozen peas pressed over his right eye? Not cool, David West.

Quick Recap: Pacers 104, Cavs 98 (Or, of dashed hopes and Lester Hudson)

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

MVP: Danny Granger. Granger did his thing from all over the court on Wednesday night, taking the ball to the post for some easy baskets while hitting his jumpers whenever he got a look at them. He finished with a game-high 23 points, and his contributions in overtime sealed the game for the Pacers.

LVP: Anthony Parker is just returning from an injury, and playing 37 minutes on the latter half of a back-to-back clearly didn’t agree with him — after a great game on Tuesday, Parker managed just 7 points on 2-8 shooting from the field.

X Factor: The Cavaliers had absolutely zero success keeping the Pacers off the free throw line. David West, Tyler Hansborough, and Danny Granger are all great foul-drawers, and they got the Cavs to fall for their tricks time and time again, leading to the Pacers getting 9 more points from the free throw line than the Cavs did.

Turning point: With the Pacers up two and just over two minutes remaining in overtime, Danny Granger nailed a 3-pointer to put Indiana up by 5, then hit an 18-footer less than a minute later to seal the game for Indiana. The Cavaliers gave the Pacers much more of a fight than they must have been expecting, but the Pacers’ execution on both ends of the floor was simply too much for the Cavs in overtime.

That was…sad: Lester Hudson made a game-tying 3 at the end of regulation against the Nets on Sunday. only to watch his team lose in overtime. On Wednesday, Hudson hit a game-tying floater at the end of regulation, only to watch the Cavs lose in overtime yet again. Hopefully Hudson’s next clutch shot will actually lead to a Cavalier victory.

Some Additional Thoughts on Cavs-Bobcats

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

–What a scrappy tank job by this Bobcats team! They somehow managed to lose a close game by 13 points. The Cavs ran the ‘Cats out of the building in the final period, outscoring them 31-to-19, nailing six shots from beyond the arc, and nabbing three steals. For much of the game, the teams alternately built and relinquished single-digit leads, but you can never underestimate the heart of a team that needs Anthony Davis or it will recede into the earth, never to be heard from again.

–A man named Lester Hudson is a man who absolutely dominates bad teams. This was 27 year-old guard’s third consecutive 20-point game, and he was the main reason the Cavs buried the Bobcats toward the end of the game. Chris Grant elected to re-sign Hudson to a new ten-day contract yesterday, and I assume he’ll be on the team for the remainder of the season. I wonder—with Anthony Parker probably retiring in the offseason, Boobie Gibson a perennially-injured buyout or trade candidate, and whether or not the Cavs draft a 2-guard depending entirely upon where they end up in the draft—if we might see Lester Hudson on the Cavaliers’ bench next season. I can’t take anything substantive away from three pretty good performances against celler dwellers, but he’s at least worth a look in training camp, right? I love Manny Harris (irrationally) and all, but Hudson’s been better.

–This leads me to another thought: I’m against throwing too much cash at O.J. Mayo or Courtney Lee or [insert decent to pretty good NBA shooting guard here], but wouldn’t it be nice if, next season, the Cavaliers can start the year with a starting lineup full of competent NBA players? If you could look at their starting lineup and go “Oh, that’s not bad. They’ll win some games with those guys.” Is there a way to do without breaking the bank? I’m just asking for someone 20% than Anthony Parker at the starting shooting guard spot. Which: Lester Hudson is not that man. If he’s starting in the backcourt next to Irving next year, the Cavs better have a bench that rivals the ’86 Celtics.

–By the way, AP was terrific last night. He posted 19 points and was 4-for-6 from behind the stripe. He wasn’t able to stay in front of Charlotte’s athletic guards, but then, his attire of choice is a high-waisted khaki, his favorite candy is butterscotch, and his favorite childhood toy was hoop-and-stick.

–Has the “Donald Sloan is perhaps a suitable backup for Irving” talk died yet? He was largely ineffectual in the 29 minutes he played tonight; I’m almost positive at this point that he’s not good. The quest for Irving’s understudy might have to resume this offseason. Regardless, you can still tell your grandchildren you were a starting point guard in the best basketball league in the world, Donald. You seem like a good dude, and I’m happy for you.

–Alonzo Gee is a rock, and he’s going to be an awesome role player if the Cavs put better players in front of and around him. He went for 13 tonight on 5-for-9 shooting with six rebounds. And, as always, he was the best defensive player on the floor.

–Tristan Thompson: see me in my office. We need to talk about this one.

Recap: Cavs 103, Bobcats 90 (Or, the time the Cavs won the most winnable game)

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

MVP: Lester Hudson was the feel-good story of the game for the Cavaliers. The little-known player out of Tennessee-Martin contributed 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists on Tuesday night, and was huge in the 4th quarter.

LVP: Byron Mullens somehow managed to play 22 minutes and go scoreless while matched up against Antawn Jamison, which I didn’t even know was possible. The once-promising Mullens was 0-3 from the field on the night, and didn’t manage to shoot a single free throw.
X Factor: With Anthony Parker back in the lineup, the Cavaliers were on fire from behind the arc. Parker swished four of his six 3-point attempts on the night, and the Cavaliers went 11-17 from deep in the game. When you consider that the Bobcats only shot 3-11 on 3s, the Cavs’ impressive marksmanship from 3 looks that much more important.
Turning Point: The Cavs were down by a point after the 1st possession of the 4th quarter, but took control of the game with a quick 10-0 fueled by a pair of three-pointers by Luke Walton and Omri Casspi. Yes, you know your team is no longer playing meaningful basketball when Luke Walton is hitting key shots in the 4th quarter.
That was…interesting: The Bobcats’ bigs didn’t score much, and the team couldn’t find the rim from deep, but Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker both did a good job of getting into the teeth of the Cavalier defense and punishing them inside — both players lived in the paint, and combined to score 41 points on just 27 shots from the field. There’s not much the Bobcats have done well this season, but two of their young players were able to get to the rim with some consistency on Tuesday.

Your Stupid Town

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Epigram the 1st:

“Have you noticed how their stuff is s— and your s— is stuff?”
–George Carlin

Epigram the 2nd:

“Do me like the woman from my town would.”
–Drake

I traveled to Portland a couple years ago to spend a long weekend with a friend. Portland, if you’re unfamiliar, is like if NPR built a city, which is exactly as wonderful and horrifying as it sounds. We didn’t attend a Blazers game while we were there—I had just paid to fly 2,100 miles; NBA tickets weren’t happening—but Blazers paraphernalia is something you can’t miss in Portland. Or at least I couldn’t. As an NBA junkie, I’m sort of preconditioned to spot Blazers flags in bar windows, but I suppose you could miss such signage while spending hours in the city block-sized Powell’s Books, grabbing a food cart burrito downtown, or while resisting the urge to propose to a pretty twentysomething in a sundress. (You’re a very attractive city, Portland.) But one of the most interesting things about the city of Portland, at least to me, are the pockets of direly committed Blazers fans scattered across the city like so many snowy clumps of powdered sugar on a piece of artisan french toast. (You do breakfast correctly, Portland.)

Being a fan of a sports team is an identity marker for a lot of people—note how many Facebook and Twitter profiles mention a person’s allegiance to a specific team—but in Portland, being a Blazers fan is an especially unique identity marker because A.) Portland isn’t a sports town in the vein of Boston or St. Louis or Cleveland and B.) Portland doesn’t have a professional baseball, football, or hockey team. (Here I note the existence and rabid fanbase of the Portland Timbers, but being an American soccer fan is an identity marker all its own.)

Being a Blazers fan is, I think, being both a part of the city and apart from the city. It’s like being a fan of Z-Ro, but not Jay-Z. Sure, a lot of people like Z-Ro—they compose a not-insignificant portion of the rap nerd landscape—but it’s not like you could fill Madison Square Garden ten times over with Z-Ro fans. To be a Z-Ro or Blazers acolyte is to be part of a sizable subculture. Blazers fans are a proud subculture. They rep Portland as adamantly as anyone. Their identity is held in being both a minority within their city’s larger culture and an advocate of it.

I’m speaking in broad strokes, and, of course, cities aren’t monoliths. In fact, their unmonolithicness is sort of the point of them, but for the purposes of not having to describe the idiosyncrasies of every person within their borders, we try to define them with a handful of descriptors. We peg towns with an identity. Think Pittsburgh and industry, Los Angeles and Hollywood, Miami and strip clubs. There are filmmakers in Pittsburgh, blue collar workers in Los Angeles, and strippers everywhere, but we assign certain traits to cities because it’s convenient shorthand and not altogether false. It’s not like Pittsburgh is Mecca for avant-garde visual artists, and we’ve just been lying about it for decades.

I have lived in Chicago, a parochial city in its own right, for the past four years. Despite being a city with manifold cuisine, a theater district. a phenomenal downtown, myriad diverse neighborhoods—a rich cultural identity, is what I mean—some of its residents—natives, mostly; Chicago is kind of a midwestern LA in that it houses a lot of transplants—have a strange inferiority complex toward the coasts. They bristle at the mention of New York or Boston or Los Angeles. No city shall be as great as the one that invented the pickle-adornèd hot dog! It’s weird. Because Chicago’s an immense, sometimes beguiling city. I sometimes wonder why its residents—its advocates, really—can’t be satisfied with being a wonderful town in the middle of the country.

Because there exists no objectively great city or town. Where you live is a matter of fit, and where you’re from is a matter of what city your mother was in when her water broke. It’s sort of an arranged marriage: it will affect you, but you don’t have to develop affection for it. I’m from a smallish city in upstate New York, and I kind of hate where I’m from. It’s too small for my liking (both in terms of population and worldview) and most of its citizens would build a giant metal dome over the town if they could. They deserve to suffocate beneath a physical manifestation of their own insularity. Most of them, anyway.

I’m a Cleveland Cavaliers fan because of this town. There were no local sports teams, so I decided to root for my cousin’s favorite team. So here I am: a Cavs fan, but not a Clevelander. I’m trying to figure out whether or not this is important. Ostensibly, it’s not. I’m about as devoted to the Cavaliers as any fan of the team, and I’ve been to Cleveland a handful of times. If I had grown up on the shores of Lake Erie, I don’t think I would be extolling Cleveland’s virtues to non-residents at parties. I’m also just not wired that way. Some people like to define themselves by the groups they are a part of—fanbases, cities, country clubs—but I’m not one of them. One of my favorite things about living in a colossal city is the anonymity it affords me. I can go days without being recognized on the street by a friend or acquaintance. I can just a be a dude on the corner, waiting for the light to change; that recession into nothingness is comforting to me.

But this strong city-team-self triangle—I’m from Cleveland, I love my hometown, and I’m a huge Cavaliers fan—is a crucial part of fanhood for some people. It’s not something that can be easily dismissed. I’m trying to understand it from the outside. Cities—though they’re really just a mass of flesh, concrete, and steel—breathe. They are frighteningly organism-like. And what better way to celebrate that almost-organism than by watching your favorite sports team— ambassadors of your favorite city—assert their dominance over another city’s athletic ambassadors while in the company of fellow residents of your beloved metropolis. You can do this in places all over the country: they’re called sports bars and arenas.

The point at which this native-sports-fan-as-identity-marker thing becomes problematic is when people indulge in the fallacy that to truly understand their passion, you have to be from Sports Town X. I have heard some misguided Clevelanders engage in this nonsense. Which: I get it. People like exclusivity when they’re on the right side of the velvet rope. Clevelanders are almost never on the right side of the velvet rope. Their city is economically depressed; their sports teams have a history of futility; and they’re often on the wrong end of hacky jokes from Sportscenter anchors. My friend from Alliance once deadpanned “Surely, there is nothing worse than being from Cleveland.” What can you say to someone who condescends to you? You don’t understand. You’re not from here. Erect the ol’ giant metal dome over the Mistake by the Lake and embrace your antipathy for outsiders.

I’m not saying most Cleveland Cavaliers fans are like that. Nor are most Bobcats, Blazers, Thunder, Kings, T’Wolves, Grizzlies, or Pacers fans. But those angry, defensive thoughts happen; I’m perplexed by the people who think them. From what I can tell, one of the aspects of The Decision that most angered Clevelanders was the perception that LeBron had turned his back on Northeast Ohio. In deciding to play in Miami, he had not only abandoned the Cavs, but he had yanked his roots from Cleveland’s soil. He would rather live in South Beach, nestled against the bosom of a glitter-pocked stripper! absolutely no one thought after watching The Decision. But you see my point. Clevelanders didn’t just lose a great player: a native son spurned them. We can find the inverse of that sentiment in columns about the extension Russell Westbrook signed this winter with the Thunder. Sure, Sam Presti wanted to lock down one of the best young players in the league, but mentioned in almost every story about the signing: Russell Westbrook actually likes playing in Oklahoma City. The implication is that a player preferring to play in a small market is rare, which it is.

In a season that’s all over except for the crying and the Anthony Davis-related prayers, Cavaliers fans are tempted to look toward free agency, which I know will invoke some sore feelings from Clevelanders. Why should the Cavs have to overpay to lure free agents to their city? It’s where they live, after all; they like it. Regardless, all money being equal, O.J. Mayo would rather play in LA than Cleveland. As someone who moved from small town upstate New York to Chicago, I empathize, and if you don’t understand here’s a tautology: if more people wanted to live in Cleveland, more people would live in Cleveland. More people prefer Chicago, Boston, Phoenix, Dallas, etc. Why would NBA players be any different? There is the odd Russell Westbrook type, but most NBA players would prefer a swank apartment in SoHo to a McMansion on the outskirts of Sacramento. They don’t hate your stupid town. They just found one they like better. It’s got killer Indian food, and they can live near the ocean. Around such criteria do people make a stupid town a home.

Links to the Present: April 9, 2012

Monday, April 9th, 2012

“A driveway dream, personified. Hudson, a well-traveled D-League call-up went from NCAA record books — the owner of Division I’s only quadruple-double — to playing in front of a few hundred locals in stops like Fort Wayne, Sioux Falls, and Rio Grande. And now, with that opportunity once again presented, Hudson appears to be grabbing it firmly with both hands, one converted field goal at a time.” [Scott Sargent]

“If Cavaliers coach Byron Scott insists that Anderson Varejao must practice first before returning to the floor, he is quickly running out of time. The Cavaliers projected Varejao would return to practice from a fractured right wrist in the first two weeks of April, but today’s practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts is the only one this week and Scott didn’t sound as if Varejao was ready to return Sunday.” [Jason Lloyd]

“In a lockout-shortened season Jamison has started all 53 games. He is one of just three Cavs — Gee and Omri Casspi are the others — to appear in every contest. At a time when many are either injured or playing hurt Jamison continues to deliver. He has never been a big winner or considered a clutch performer as evidenced by his 2010 playoff flameout. But Jamison is averaging 17.6 points and 6.5 rebounds. His one-on-one defending notwithstanding, he hasn’t checked out on the season or the team.” [Tom Reed]