Archive for October, 2012

Waivers and Waiters Abound

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Remember when these guys were important to the Cavs?

The Cavaliers waived Kevin Anderson and Justin Holiday today, in a less-than-shocking personnel move. There are now three spots left. Samardo Samuels seems to have all but locked up one of the spots, so we’ll see how the other two fall out. Here\’s the link. 

Another game recap from last night’s debacle againsst Milwaukee, this time from the Plain Dealer. Byron Scott on benching Dion Waiters:  “I took him out in the second half because I drew up a play, guard ran the play, he messed it up. To me that was a lack of focus so I figured he didn’t need to play the rest of the game.” Classic. Here’s the link.

Recap: Cavs 80, Bucks 97 (Or Cavalier first looks in the home of the Charge)

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

So the Cavs played their first televised game of the season… In the Hall of Fame City.

In preseason, no one wins.

The city of Canton acquitted itself well with a near sellout in pre-season, and it was a beautiful 60 degree fall evening in the hometown of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ D-League affiliate, The Canton Charge.  I took my daughter to her first Cavs game.  Jackson High School’s Jacks and Jills choir sang the national anthem, and the boys in tuxes and the girls in gowns sat in my section and made it the social event of the season.  I covered my daughter’s ears a lot.

There are no luxury boxes in Canton, and the Cavaliers Brain Trust was courtside, down with us littles, to take in the spectacle.  They looked as bored as me by the late third quarter.

The Cavs Brain trust hard at work.

We were all reminded of why we love pre-season basketball for 7 minutes, and hate it for the next month.  Cavs starters played well through most of the first half, though sloppy towards its end.  Then the second half was a mess full of turnovers and bad bad offense, especially after the starters left.  Midway through the 4th, the Cavs subs gave a token effort at coming back and did not succeed.  My daughter was groaning to leave and I finally caved with a minute left.  Let me know if I missed anything.

Highlights:

The best play in the game came early.  Miles stole the ball on an entry pass, threw it ahead to Kyrie, who waited till the perfect moment to return it with a behind the back bounce pass right before getting fouled, leading to a Miles slam, and a freethrow for Kyrie.

CJ Miles looked every bit a starting NBA player with a really nice line: 22 minutes, 18 points, 4/7 from 3, 3 boards, 3 steals, and no turnovers.  His three point shooting was impressive, especially because they came from the wing and the top of the key.  He definitely had a nice matchup against Tobias Harris and the undersized Monta Ellis, and he took advantage of it.  His movement without the ball was excellent.  I’m hoping he was a steal.

Miles Jams after a sweet cut off the high post. Rub screen and feed courtesy of Wild Thing.

Jon Leuer is a keeper, despite his game low -10 plus/minus, which was more a reflection of his many minutes on the floor without Kyrie.  A 3/3 first quarter kept the Cavs in the game early, and he seemed to know where to be on the floor all the time.  He had a couple decent moments putting the ball on the floor off the pump fake, and has a nice handle for a 6’ 10” power forward.  His defensive rotations were solid, though he picked up some fouls that he shouldn’t have, and needs to work on keeping his arms straight up when he’s going after a shot.  His six D-boards were the result of good positioning and strength.  Given that defensive rebounding was a weakness of his last year, it was nice to see.

Kyrie was Kyrie.  It looked like he played a pedestrian game, until I looked at the box score: 16, 5 boards, and 3 dimes on 5/11 and 6/7 from the line in 22 minutes.  Sloppy with the ball, all 3 of his turnovers were due to dribbling errors.  You know a guy’s elite when his ho-hum games beat everyone else’s best.

A fan aproves of Tristan's offseason weight gain.

Aside from his funny bits on “Access Cavaliers,” TT was forgettable, but he definitely looks thicker.  7 boards and 1-5 and 2 blocks, but defensively, he got burned by Ilyasova a couple times, and gave up some buckets that were way too easy, but his board work was nice.  With a bigger bum and broader shoulders, he should definitely pick up more D-boards.

Andy looks the same, and it was nice to see him scrapping with Drew Gooden who looks ready to braid his goatee into another Johnny.  Despite rumors of Andy having “lost a step,” he looks the same to me, and when the games start I think he’ll be fine.

For Milwaukee, 3rd year power forward Larry Sanders was beastly on the boards and around the basket.  He had several memorable putbacks.  Tobias Harris looked solid, though his defense on Miles wasn’t very good.  Dunleavy and Marquis Daniels give Milwaukee a couple of very solid options off the bench.  Between them, Gooden, and Mbah a Moute, they can easily go ten deep.  They look hard to get past for the playoff race in the East.

Kelenna Azubuike looked like an NBA player, and didn’t seem to be showing any ill effects of the knee injury that kept him out of the last two seasons.  He scored with nice elevation on pull up bank shot and jumped pretty high for few high rebounds to go along with a 6 point first half.

(left to right) Justin Holiday, Michael Eric, & Kevin Jones

Justin Holiday played some decent defense, hit a nice shot, made a nice dish, and looked like he was worthy of more run.  He certainly played exactly like the book on him: defensive wing stopper with a passable 3 point game and a good midrange game.  But we already have an Alonzo Gee.  Speaking of…

Lowlights:

Alonzo Gee’s line in 2 games: 39 minutes, 6 points.  That is not getting it done for a starting guard.  He doesn’t seem to be looking for his shot at all, and why he’s not getting post up looks (or even trying to) against Monta Ellis is either a coaching error or a player error.

Dion Waiters did not look good, and that’s being nice.  His one field goal was on a sweet alley oop feed from Miles that he almost blew.  On the ball, Saint Weirdo was 0-6 and his 4 turnovers were ugly.  His 2nd quarter contested 3 with 20 seconds left on the clock was the kind of play that loses games.  Such is the life of a rookie.

The options at the backup guard spot in general don’t look good.  The offense fell apart when Kyrie wasn’t on the floor, and there seemed to be a general inability to feed the bigs at all, or get any shots off the ball when Pargo, Waiters, or Anderson were running the point.  38.5% field goal percentage for the game was evidence of this.  By the end of the game, Eddie Gill was pressing every guard in the back court, and the good guys couldn’t get into their offense at all.  I guess it’s Sloan’s turn again.

Tyler Zeller looked like a rookie: some decent plays, some bad ones, but he really looks like he’s lost out there sometimes, and that he needs to add some weight.  The second half was underwhelming for him.

Boobie had some shooting woes and missed several wide open looks.

Milwaukee’s guards combined for 55 points.  Tobias Harris had 11.  To say that the on the ball defense, screen defense, and perimeter rotations were bad would be polite.

Benoh Udrih took a nasty fall in the 2nd off of a Pargo charge, and probably got a concussion.  Hope he’s ok.

Nolights:

No Lukes, Smardo, Sloan, or Casspi. DNPs happen on a 20 man roster.

Michael Eric is very tall.  Kevin Anderson is not.  That is all I could discern from watching them.

Kevin Jones has an NBA body with a decent frame and some long arms despite being 6’7”.  He also pitched an o-fer: no stats in 5 minutes.

I counted four turnovers coming out of timeouts or to begin quarters.  No es bueno.

There's a lot to love here.

This is of course one game: over-analyzed because it’s the first time we’ve seen these guys since summer league and tankapalooza 2012.  It is a ridiculous word count for a preseason game recap.  But it’s been eight months since we’ve seen real basketball, and we’ve another month to go.  We are hungry.  Boxes of “Your Pizza” will not satisfy us (they had no DiGiornos at the Memorial Civic center).  Until then it’s pre-season.  We must find succor in the first five minutes of games,  watch “Access Cavaliers,” play NBA 2K13, and pine for the days when third string point guards Do Not Play.

CtB on the Radio

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

At 5 pm EST today, check out the “808′s and Fastbreaks” show on the Long Island University – CW Post campus radio station.  It’s 88.1 FM in Long Island (wcwp.org for online streaming), and I will be talking Cavs with the hosts, Max & Matt.  Topics include Kyrie’s development, Cleveland’s new additions, and predictions for the upcoming season.

Recap: Cavs 91, Montepaschi Siena 85

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Well, the Cavs played a game against an external opponent tonight – an Italian Euroleague team.  It was not on TV.  Samardo Samuels lead the team in minutes and scoring, tallying 14 points.  In the final five minutes, Dion Waiters scored nine points and doled out an assist to put the victory on ice.  Kyrie shot 1 of 7 and is clearly mired in a hellacious sophomore slump, while Tristan converted 6 of 9, which certainly can not be viewed as a negative.

I did not see the game and will not pretend to understand much about what happened.  Here’s a link to the box score. Discuss, especially if you were one of the fortunate attendees.

Omri Casspi Regained His Confidence

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Jason Lloyd at the Akron Beacon Journal authored an encouraging article about Omri Casspi today. Hopefully Casspi finds the shooting touch and aggressiveness he displayed in Sacramento.

Ten Things to Like About… Anderson Varejao

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Remember the game last year, when Varejao got the ball on a fast break, and he lasered a spinning, over-the-shoulder pass to a spotted-up shooter? I mean, he charged, but that was awesome.

Fan favorite Anderson Varejao hits the court today.  I stand entrenched in the “do not trade Andy” group.  Detractors point to his age and injury history, but neither should be a huge concern.  He turned thirty on September 28th (Happy Birthday!!); interestingly, within two weeks of Nene and Tyson Chandler, the two $60 million centers from last off-season. Those guys have played 50% and 100% more career minutes than Andy; Varejao still sports lots of tread on his tires.

Prior to injury last year, his performance reached career peak levels. Averaging eleven points and eleven rebounds; a halfway-legitimate all-star debate existed.  Remember this game?  A man possessed last year, these specific 20 points and 20 boards stand as one of the most single-mindedly determined efforts I recall seeing.

Regarding propensity for missed time, from 2006 – 2007 through 2010 – 2011, Andy averaged 63 games per season.  He never missed a playoff game (also interesting; Nene stands at 63 and Chandler at 64 games a year during this time).  Ignore last season for a few reasons.  First, it was accelerated and shortened.  The season stretched two months shorter and sixteen games less than normal.  Second, the Cavs arguably tanked.  When Drew Gooden karate-chopped Varejao on the wrist, the announced timeline for return was four-to-six weeks.  The team exhibited no urgency though, and stretched it to eleven weeks.  Under normal circumstances, would he return?  During a typical season, six weeks amounts to 20 games…which leaves him at approximately 63.

So including the playoffs, Andy suited up for 80% of games over the last five full seasons.  He was better than ever last year.  What’s not to like?  For eight years, Andy hustled his way into Cavs fans hearts.  Now it is time to climb the record books.  The seasons described above cover Andy’s ascent towards his prime.  The next three seasons constitute the slow start of the slide down the career parabola.  A reasonable assumption is similar production for the two timeframes.  From 2006 – 2007 through 2010 – 2011, those numbers include, per game: 2.45 offensive rebounds, 5.13 defensive boards, 0.90 steals, and 0.79 blocks.  If Andy played 63 games per season for the Cavs for three more seasons at those levels, he will:

  1. Have played the sixth most games ever for the Cavaliers; sitting only one game short of Austin Carr and 27 shy of Hot Rod Williams.
  2. Rise to third in Cavs history with 1539 offensive rebounds, sitting only 81 behind Hot Rod Williams for second.
  3. Move to fourth all time in defensive rebounds; less than one-hundred behind Lebron.
  4. He would rank fourth for total rebounds; only 45 short of Hot Rod.
  5. Climb to sixth on the franchise leaderboards for steals.
  6. Ascend to fifth all time in blocks, and positioned a handful of swats from moving past Lebron.
  7. Accumulate the seventh-highest total win shares over the Cavs’s forty years, including fourth in defensive win shares.  If Andy maintains his recent rate of 3.1 defensive WS for five more seasons, he overtakes LBJ at the zenith of that list.
  8. Did you know that Andy, Zydrunas and Lebron currently stand tied at 71 career playoff games wearing the Wine & Gold?  Next playoff game for Varejao places him alone on top.
  9. Currently, he ranks fourth in career playoff rebounds for Cleveland, resting four shy of Brad Daugherty and 193 from Lebron.  Can Varejao play twenty-five more playoff games for the Cavs?  If so, wrestling the top spot from the reigning-MVP appears likely.
  10. Objectively and subjectively, during the Cavs most-recent playoff season, Anderson Varejao surpassed Jim Chones to find his place as the fifth big man on the All-Time Cavs Team.   With three more seasons, I move him above Hot Rod Williams, and only behind Big Z, Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance.

Don’t you want to see your favorite floppy-haired Brazilian further stake his claim as a Cavalier All-Timer?  How about moving LBJ down a few team leader-boards?  Andy will only be 32 years old at the end of this contract.  He brings much needed maturity and hard-working attitude to a young and impressionable team; a squad appearing poised to make noise by 2014 – 2015.  With twelve more picks in the next three drafts and $25 million of cap space, plenty of opportunity exists to add a high-level small forward, a back-up point guard, and additional depth…without trading Andy.

So, in parting, the only reason to trade Andy remains through a James Harden sign-and-trade.  I could live with that.

Andy Here to Stay? Long Live Waltonia!

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Ladies love him, and so does Byron Scott, apparently.

Anderson Varejao is virtually always the subject of some trade rumors. But he isn’t worried, saying he’ll play as he always does. It speaks well for Andy’s trade value that he’s always rumored to be part of a trade- he is really a valuable asset. Wild Thing has always been a fan favorite, but if the Cavs aren’t in playoff contention and Grant can get a draft pick or two, a trade involving  Varejao could be a great thing. Here’s the link.

Apparently Byron Scott is pleased with Luke Walton’s practice performance. Interesting. It’s hard to believe he’ll have any sort of impact this year, but it’s always nice to hear about Cavs doing well. Here’s the link.

Wine v. Gold Scrimmage

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Dion to the hoop!

The Cavaliers played an intra-squad scrimmage Saturday, pitting Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Jeremy Pargo, Omri Casspi and C.J. Miles on the Gold team against Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, Alonzo Gee and Jon Leuer on the Wine team. The Gold team won 52-44, despite a combined 25 points on 9-22 shooting from Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. But it’s nice to see the young guns going at it in practice. Here’s the link.

Azubuike and Some Leuer

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Welcome to the gun show.

Jodie Valade wrote a nice piece for the Plain Dealer on Kelenna Azubuike and his NBA comeback. If he can stay aggressive, I see no reason why Azubuike shouldn’t be able to play decent backup minutes at the small forward position. Also: how do you pronounce his name? I can’t wait to hear Austin Carr mangle that one. Here’s the link.

Mary Schmitt Boyer, also of the Plain Dealer, put together a good read about Jon Leuer. The Bucks were very clogged at power forward last year, and Byron Scott’s a big fan of Leuer. Here’s the link.

Mailbag Time! Vol. 1: The Mailbagening

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Don’t think for a second that I wouldn’t have used WordArt if it was available to me in the off-brand Microsoft Paint program I used to create the Mailbag Time! logo. I would have used a giant drop shadow and one of those preset gradients. You could be looking at the red-brown hues of “desert sunset” right now. I live in your nightmares, visual communications majors.

Now, your emails:

Aksel:

Lack of faith in Chris Grant is keeping me from going all-in on this
iteration of the Cavs.  Help me let go of the Valančiūnas/Thompson and
Barnes/Waiters decisions.  This team is going to succeed or fail based
on the outcome of Top Five picks and that is ultimately one man’s
decision: Grant.  Let’s just say that I’m not impressed so far.

We’re in accord about the Valančiūnas/Thompson selection, which I’ve groused about both publically and privately. I think it was a mistake, which is to some degree absurd considering Thompson is entering his second season, and we haven’t even had the opportunity to see what Jonas Valančiūnas can do in the NBA. But yet I’ve talked in wistful tones with fellow Cavs fans about about an alternate universe in which the team is built around Kyrie Irving and Jonas. (I even call him Jonas as a term of affection, as if he’s on my favorite team and I’m already acclimated to watching him play basketball three times a week.) I’m sure, if Dion Waiters struggles and/or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is great, that I’ll have similar fantasies about what the Cavs would look like if the Bobcats passed on MKG.

I thought Chris Grant made the right decision taking Waiters over Barnes, but this is perhaps more to your point: we’re all a bunch of amateur meteorologists, in a sense, and we get upset when the forecast the GM puts forth doesn’t match our own. In this early stage of team-building, when no one is definitively right or wrong yet, we want the team to take our guys, when in fact that doesn’t much matter. You’ll love (or at least grow to accept) Dion Waiters if, at age 25, he’s a three-time all-star regardless of whether, at this point in time, you like him or dislike him; think he’s going to be a great player or a bust. But it’s always an added jolt to see your guys succeed. See, I always liked Thomas Robinson and now he’s averaging 18-and-10!

I don’t think this is foolish at all. It feels good to be right or to see a ballplayer you have an affinity for figure out how to best utilize his talents. But I think the question of going all-in might be moot. Chris Grant went all-in for you, and the next five years of the team is going to be determined, not just by the decisions he might make in the future, but by the ones he’s already made. We won’t really know if those decisions were right or wrong for a few more years, and by the time that has happened, if Grant has been wrong this whole time, the Cavs will be demolishing the team and starting over again for the second time in a decade.

In sum, embrace fatalism. Try to love the team you have, because the team that’s going to exist in three or four years is going to look a lot like this one, just sharper, not as shrouded in haze that obscures precisely how good Tristan Thompson will be.

Shawn:

As a Cavs fan in New Orleans, I’ve been having to deal with a lot of AD hype, but I’m steadfast the Cavs will have a better record and make the playoffs this year. Agree?

Well, the Hornets blew up their team in the offseason, and it seems clear to me that they’re doing more or less the same thing the Cavs did in Irving’s rookie season. They have their franchise cornerstone (Davis is perceived as more of a surefire future star than Irving was coming out of Duke), and they plan to flank him with Eric Gordon, an assortment of raw youngsters, and little else. They’ll suck for another season, nab a top five draft pick, and then start making an earnest push toward significant improvement.

In a lot of ways, the Hornets underwent a more radical roster purge in the offseason than did the Cavs, who at least kept Antawn Jamison, Andy Varejao, and Anthony Parker around. I’d make a dubious claim that they’re more talented because Gordon (when healthy, which is obviously a gigantic issue for him) is a much better player than either Jamison or Varejao and because Austin Rivers at least has some NBA-ready skills (he’s a great one-on-one player) whereas Tristan Thompson often looked like he’d recently woken up from a chloroform nap for the first half of last season. Will Davis have a better rookie season than Irving? Probably not, but I think he’ll be immediately effective on the defensive end and the glass.

All of this is to say that, yeah, the Cavs are almost definitely better than the Hornets right now because the Hornets are working off a similar schematic but are a year behind. Anyway, your friend is totally justified in being excited for the Anthony Davis Era. Who wouldn’t be? Here’s to a Cavs-Hornets finals in 2018.

Kris:

Do you think the Cavs are playoff contenders this year? If so, what makes you believe such a thing? If not, what changes do you think need to be made for us to get there? I understand a lot of this team is relying on potential so this question could really go either way.

Yeah, it’s tough. My hunch is to say that the Cavs won’t be very good, but I wouldn’t break into hysterics if they were pushing for the eighth seed in April. John Hollinger recently recorded little 3-minute interviews in which he projected how well teams were going to perform, and while he’s very optimistic (more optimistic than me) about what the Cavs are in the process of building, he also thinks the team will be mildly competent playoff longshots.

I think I agree with him because, well, here: The Cavs lost an inefficient but still useful scorer in Jamison. If they hang onto Varejao for the whole season, and he stays healthy, that’ll be good for them. C.J. Miles is a decent backup, but that’s really all he is. Irving will be better, but teams will also have more film on him and be able to build their defensive strategy around stopping him. Saint Weirdo is Saint Weirdo, whatever that will come to mean. Tyler Zeller is the plain yogurt of basketball players. There’s a lot of minute plusses and minuses at play in the equation, and I think it adds up cumulatively to a positive: I would be shocked if this team isn’t noticeably better than it was last year, but finishing with something like 38-to-42 wins seems like a stretch.

Fortunately, the team needs to improve in ways it is completely capable of improving. They’ll have a decent-to-great selection in next year’s draft (I don’t want to talk about the “weak draft” thing eight months out; we’ll think about crossing that bridge when we’re within 500 miles of it) and plenty of cap space to add free agents or absorb contracts in a trade. And obviously they have young talent that’s going to get better over the next half-decade. The Cavs aren’t close to where they want to be yet, but I don’t think they’re lagging behind schedule.

Adam:

What player would you compare Tyler Zeller’s ceiling too? I liked him in college but I feel like everyone became a little down on him towards the end of the season?

Lemme flesh out this plain yogurt analogy. You know what plain yogurt goes with? Everything. You can dunk apples in it, pair it with granola, use it in a sauce. It’s an exceedingly useful dairy product. But anyone who would consume plain yogurt by itself and call it a meal is living a life of poverty and/or delusion. You have to use it in concert with other foods and spices in order to get the most out of what it has to offer. Plain yogurt asks of you: How can you fully realize my potential? What is plain yogurt’s ceiling? When you admire its best traits (its creaminess, its slightly bitter taste) while its less desirable traits (it being barely a thing) are overwhelmed by the other ingredients you fold into it. It’s at its best when you’re underappreciating it. Get my meaning?

Also, Tyler Zeller is white.

This was fun, you guys. If you want to keep doing this, feel free to hit me up at colinsilasmcgowan [at] gmail [dot] com or @cs_mcgowan on Twitter. If and when I get a few good questions, I’ll post another installment.