Archive for January, 2014

Links to the Present: MLK Day edition

Monday, January 20th, 2014 brings us video of Cavs players reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The follow-up interviews with current Cavs players on what they think of the  speech are equally moving. The Cavaliers have some impressively well-spoken young men on their roster.

I was supposed to be come up with an article for today, and I was planning on it being about Martin Luther King Jr. and race relations in our post-modern age, but I couldn’t come up with anything that I didn’t feel was patronizing or overly-simplistic. Suffice it to say, that even though the Cavs don’t always play well, it is a pleasure to cover this NBA team. The Cavaliers and the NBA embody the spirit of Dr. King’s dream: men from all different backgrounds and races from around the world working together, striving for excellence, and supporting the communities they work in and the communities they come from. The spirit of the NBA is an example of how sport can help lift us out of unjust ways of thinking, and how we can come to identify with people who might be from incredibly different walks of life than ourselves. From Jackie Robinson, Mohammed Ali, and Jesse Owens, to Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Bill Russell, Campy Russell, David Stern, Jason Collins, and Hakeem Olajuwan: sports figures have been at the forefront of changing Americans’ opinions and breaking the cycle of racism in this country and around the world. That is one of the biggest reason’s I’m a fan.

Because racism’s evil is predicated not just on what it does to its victims — violence, lack of opportunity, injustice, and oppression — but also what it does to to the perpetrators — blinding them with hate and irrationality, corrupting their minds and their souls, and not letting them see the beauty in other peoples and their cultures. I always refer to Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” as an example of how racism and institutional colonialism can trap the oppressor into an inescapable cycle.

Legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it. Among the Europeans opinion was divided. The older men said I was right, the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie. And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.

Dr. King and so many people that came before and after him have helped to break the institution of racism in this country. And though the struggle seems never to be fully won, to me, that is his greatest contribution. It is a pleasure to live in a country where a group of mostly white bloggers can analyze the on-court actions of a group of mostly African-American young men, and have that analysis be strictly about basketball, and not about skin color. Dr. King’s message to me was that we do not have to echo the unjust opinions and practices of our forefathers, our society, even some family and friends. Freeing ourselves from the chains of racism allows us to be better, more empathetic people. We can see the grace in a pass, a dunk, a well executed give-and-go, or a basketball clinic in sub-Saharan Africa — regardless of the race, creed, or religion of the athlete performing it. For that, we thank you, Dr. King.

Recaps: Cavs 117, Nuggets 109 (or, CLE is the greatest team in the world!!)

Friday, January 17th, 2014


Remember that five wins in six games stretch in late November and early December?  The Cavs beat the Nuggets by double-digits then, in one of the best games of Cleveland’s season.  Those two weeks were fun, and included a win over the Clippers, too.  Everything else this season?  Not much fun, including zero wins against teams with records better than five-hundred.  While maybe over dramatic, tonight’s game defines the difference between this West Coast trip being a success, or a bit of a disaster.  With a victory, the Wine & Gold emerge from their longest road trip of the season with three wins and two losses, a very nice result on any West Coast trip.  Fans can revel in the exciting addition of Luol Deng, and what it means for the season’s second half.  With a loss though, the trip features a double-digit, negative per game point differential, and another frustrating move towards 30 or fewer wins.  With the season reaching the halfway point Monday against Dallas, there will be relatively little to be optimistic about.  It is pretty stark how different the “narrative” of this road trip and season could be, depending on win or lose tonight.

So, what happened? (more…)

30 Years Under the Wheel: An Oral History Pt.2 (1995-Present)

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Click here for Part 1.

The Cavaliers came into the 1995-96 season with plenty of good feelings. Larry Johnson seemed fully recovered from his nagging back troubles, there was still hope within the organization that center, Sean Rooks, could regain his promising rookie form and the addition of point guard Damon Stoudamire, while continuing the team’s trend toward the undersized, had just wrapped up a stellar senior year at Arizona and finally gave the team some “out” in their attack to balance out the “in.”

Stoudamire did not disappoint, logging 19 points and over nine assists a game as a rookie in a staggering 40.9 minutes a game. Johnson had a bounce back year going 20.5/8.4 while, more importantly, playing in 81 games that year, and the Cavs, despite Rooks continued decline into the doldrums, grabbed the seventh seed in the East. They lost in six games to the Penny Hardaway-led Boston Celtics, but were slotted for another high pick, number six overall, in 1996 and, after all, LJ was back. Stoudamire was legit. Things looked good…

And didn’t look much worse after that sixth pick became Antoine Walker, the multi-talented power forward out of Kentucky. A team with a core of Stoudamire, Johnson and Walker could be a real threat come playoff time, it seemed. And it probably would have. It just didn’t work out that way.


Recap: Trailblazers 108, Cavaliers 96 (Or, There’s the Other Shoe).

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014


The game was tied at 96 with 2:31 left. The Blazers were looking forward to the start of a road trip and the Cavs were eager to end theirs. It felt like the game had set the table for another classic finish between these two odd rivals, but then the other shoe, which had been levitating conspicuously near the Moda center’s jumobtron fell with a thud. LaMarcus Aldridge went off and the Blazers ended the game on a 12-0 run, a run which the Cavs were powerless to stop. The Blazers seemed stifled the whole game, more by themselves than by Cleveland, but after the official timeout when it was tied, they played like their mental block had been lifted and they torched the Cavs.


Recap: Cavaliers 120, Lakers 118 (Or, Mike Brown Gets Revenge).

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014


Tristan Thompson splits a pair of free throws with 9.3 seconds left. The Lakers charge down the court, miss a three, but it’s straight into the waiting hands of Pau Gasol! Gasol only has to dunk to beat the buzzer, which he does! What an ending!

Fortunately for Cavs fans, the buzzer beater was inconsequential and only served to make the win look tighter than it was. Despite playing silly basketball on the defensive end for much of the night, the Cavaliers were just good enough down the stretch to beat the Lakers to move to 2-1 on this road trip. Anderson Varejao was the player of the game for the Cavs, grabbing 18 rebounds to go along with 18 points and six assists. He also kept the Cavs in the game during a horrible second quarter with facilitation and timely thumps on a few Lakers big men. Luol Deng shot 5-5 from three to punctuate his efficient 27 points, by far his best game as a Cavalier thus far. The team shot 13-17 overall, good for 77%.


What does Adjusted Plus Minus say about the 2013 – 2014 Cavs?

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014


Editor’s Note: Comments were accidentally turned off for this article, earlier.  They’ve been re-enabled.

As gets mentioned around here a tad, Nate, Tom and I, in addition to the esteemed Randall Cooper (@laughingcavs), started another website, gotbuckets, largely devoted to Adjusted Plus Minus (APM) and Regularized APM (RAPM).  For a brief discussion of APM, check here. Yesterday, the first update of 2-year APM to incorporate 2013 – 2014 play was posted.  With that, let’s discuss what the results may mean for the 2013 – 2014 Cavs.  Keep in mind that these results include all games from 02/14/2012 through 01/06/2014 (not exactly two years due to strike shortened season), so it’s much more than just this season.  Using reasonably large sample sizes is important for APM though.


Recap: Kings 124, Cavaliers 80 (Or, EVENT HORIZON).

Sunday, January 12th, 2014


The game clock wasn’t functioning for the first four seconds of this afternoon’s game. The refs quickly stopped the game and basically started over from scratch, running the elapsed time off the clock. Maybe, in the alternate universe where that Kings possession continues uninterrupted, the Cavs play coherent basketball and push hard for longer than a quarter and change. Maybe the stoppage dammed their energy and they were unable to get it flowing again. Maybe the team was swapped out for very convincing lookalikes in the first quarter when my TV died for five minutes, because Cleveland was run out of the worst gym in the NBA by one of the worst teams in the NBA.


Recap: Cleveland 113, Utah 102 (A Deng nice win)

Saturday, January 11th, 2014


O.K., so we know the Jazz are the second worst team in the league, and we know they were missing their best player, but they did beat the Thunder the other night. Earlier this season, the Cavs would have played down to Utah’s level, but not tonight. Riding C.J. Miles’ coattails, the Cavs kind of coasted in the first half, and ended up three points behind the Jazz at the intermission.  Then Cleveland exploded in the third, outscoring the Jazz 39-21. They put their foot on Utah’s throat the fourth, by pushing out to a 20 point lead with three minutes left.


Cavs the Duels: Was the Deng trade a good move for the Cavaliers?

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Tom and I have been going back and forth all week about whether the Deng trade is a good one for Cleveland. With neither of us willing to concede to the other, we decided to step inside the textual octagon, and let you be the judge.  In the wine colored trunks, I argued “yes.” In the gold trunks, Tom Pestak argued “no.” This went the distance.


This trade was a win/win/win. It’s a great trade from a GM’s standpoint, a coach’s standpoint, a team culture standpoint, and even a fan’s standpoint.  That’s actually four “wins.”


30 Years Under the Wheel: An Oral History Pt.1 (1985-95)

Thursday, January 9th, 2014


[Note: In the waning days of 2013, Grantland’s Zach Lowe delivered mankind The Wheel. Well, a discussion of it, anyway. The Wheel is the first replacement to the NBA’s draft lottery system that the league has been using since 1985 to receive, as Lowe says, high level support. The basics are simple: over a 30-year span, every team will receive each of the 30 picks in the first round once and only once. The article goes into more depth, so read it if you haven’t already. Since Lowe’s article, several “fixes” to the NBA’s tanking “problem” have been bandied about (including Lowe and Bill Simmons, who discuss tweaks to The Wheel on the B.S. Report). I have my tweaks. You probably have yours. But, instead of more of the same, I thought it would be fun — however terribly unscientific — to look at what the Cavs drafts would have been like had the league instituted The Wheel in 1985 instead of the lottery. I took the Cavs’ actual 1985 draft pick (number nine) and then let The Wheel take it from there, using the players actually chosen in the slots where the Cavs would be picking. Just like the real Cavs, the Bizarro Cavs of Wheel World had their ups and downs. Curious who you’d have spent your days rooting for? Take a look, true believers…]

Cleveland kicked off its new era choosing hometown boy Charles Oakley at number nine. Oak, while never an all-star caliber player, provided defense, rebounding and toughness. Scoring was addressed the following year when the Cavs, with the number four overall selection, took “The Rifleman,” Chuck Person. The 27th pick in 1987 yielded  only Nate Blackwell, whose rookie season in the league proved to be his last. But the Cavs were able to find something in the lower part of the first round the next year, drafting combo guard Brian Shaw out of UC-Santa Barbara with the 24th pick. Oakley’s toughness rubbed off on his teammates; the Cavs were Oakley’s team. By 1990-91, Person’s scoring was down slightly, but he was still firing it in at an 18.4 PPG clip, Shaw, building on a solid rookie year, put up nearly 14/8 in his second go-around, and Oak was Oak, going for 11.2 points and 12.1 rebounds a game. The Cavs, though, while balanced, continued to just miss out on the playoffs, as the team whiffed on the 13th and 12th picks in back-to-back drafts, trying to help Oakley up front with PF Michael Smith and PF/C Alec Kessler, both of whom were not long for the league.