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November 28th, 2012 by Tom Pestak

Five Cavs questions for the writers – all in one place.

1. Explain your game-time experience in full.

Dani: It usually begins with dinner. Once I’ve cooked up whatever cheese-related dish (I’m a vegetarian, so it’ll usually be a noodle-cheese combo of some type) I’ll be eating the night of the game, I sit down to watch the game on Fox Sports Ohio. Oh, and I always have iced green tea with the game. Two and a half hours later, the Cavs are usually down by double-digits in the 4th, my dishes are getting crusty, my nails have been bitten to the point of causing intense pain, and my family is wondering why I’m so angry at people named Byron Scott and Tristan Thompson. And I’m too angry at the Cavs to do any of my homework.

Tom: Varies.  I sort of loathe the idea of tweeting during games but I love doing it.  Fun to watch someone catch fire or throw down a dunk and see how everyone else is reacting.  I keep a box score, usually yahoo’s (a habit I started when I played fantasy bball there years ago) open while I watch.  I send texts to buddies when crazy stuff happens or when the game is tight.  I am more intense than I’m comfortable reflecting on afterwards.  I generally watch by myself since I got married and the Cavs started sucking.  None of my casual-fan friends are much interested in watching with me anymore.  Back in the day I’d have a much more extensive game day ritual/music/clothing/location thing.  Now it’s me in front of a laptop.  Last game was the first time I tried to watch with my newborn and she threw a fit after Tristan’s 4th missed shot, so I was sort of watching peripherally between pat-a-cakes (the advanced +/- lullaby didn’t soothe her).

Kevin: I have two little kids, so typically game-watching doesn’t start until their bed time.  I record the game and watch it.  Most of the time, I catch up by the end.  This works out really well actually, because viewing time gets halved.  Often times, my wife is there and asks questions like, “They play again?”  Is my life as glamorous as everyone imagined it?

Nate: Ideally, I like to Tivo every game and start them about an hour late.  This way I can fast forward through every commercial, but catch up to the game by crunch time.  I can avoid the BS, but don’t have to ignore my phone until after the game is over.  I’m usually on my couch, and ideally have a cup of coffee or a beer in hand while I’m arguing with every call and coaching decision.

Mallory: Step 1 – couch.  Step 2 – Beer, preferably something Ohio made (Fat Head IPA anyone?!) Step 3 – eyes glued to TV and twitter simultaneously.  Step 4 – in the fourth quarter, go on gchat and bitch about immanent loss to Tom, Nate, and/or Colin.  Step 5 – Cry myself to sleep.  Sigh…I’m not negative!

2. What’s the biggest pleasant surprise of the Cavaliers 2012-2013 season thus far?

Dani: Anderson Varejao turning into an All-Star center. Cavs fans are acting like he’s always been this good, but that’s simply not the case. Andy used to be an eight and eight type of guy. Now he’s averaging fourteen, boards and points alike, and shutting down opposing centers regularly. Basketball writers all around have started to notice this remarkable season Wild Thing’s putting together, and I love it.

Tom: The otherworldly play of Anderson Varejao.  A no-stats all-star is in the top-10 in player efficiency rating.  On most nights he has been the best player on the court and his career arc in general is remarkable.  I love the way he plays the game and he’s taking it to an entirely new level.  I hope he retires a Cavalier.

Kevin: Anderson Varejao peaking at age 30.  It is really amazing.  I mean; 15 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.5 steals?  That is complete beast mode, like he has a cheat code.  I don’t think anyone foresaw dominance for Andy this season, but he is a constant factor in all aspects of the game through the early part of the season.

Nate: The biggest surprise of the 2012-2013 season is Omri Casspi.  Tied for 5th in the league in 3 point percentage, and a 15 PER, he’s also been one of the Cavs better defenders (which isn’t saying much), and passable at putting the ball on the floor.  After starting out slow, he is one of the Cavs best bench players.  I think his and Boobie’s Numbers have been dragged down because of the extended time early on sharing the floor with Sloan and Walton: possibly the two worst players in the NBA.  When Casspi gets consistent minutes he’s been even better. The other surprise?  …Scott’s inability to see this and the fact that he often plays Miles in front of him.

Mallory: It’s gotta be Andy right?  I mean, we knew he was good, but did anyone see this coming?  Dude has a PER of 23.9, is averaging 15 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals a game, and has his hand in almost any good thing that happens to this team.  Andy has been unstoppable and unbelievable.  God bless this man for playing out of his mind.

3. Do you make anything of all the little Byron Scott / Dion Waiters (non?)stories?

Dani: Not really. There have, admittedly, been a profligacy of stories about Dion and Coach Scott. But I don’t think any of them hold much meaning or previously unknown knowledge about coach or player. The stories pretty much always confirm two things we already knew: Dion Waiters is a rookie, and Byron Scott is a hard-ass.

Tom: I found it interesting that the Coach was willing to go out on a limb and say that Waiters was the guy he wanted after the selection.  He took a lot of pressure off Chris Grant at least among some people when that information was made public.  Since then he seems to hold Waiters to a different standard than Irving, and he seems to be giving him the rookie treatment.  I like how Waiters is responding – I think he is mentally tough and hopefully B Scott will get the most out of him.

Kevin: If anything, I just hope that Coach Scott treats Kyrie similarly about his defense, because Kyrie is definitely a larger liability at that end that Waiters.  No special treatment for superstars was the mantra after Lebron left…

Nate: Not quite sure what the stories/non-stories are supposed to be, but I could definitely see them butting heads. I think that Byron is trying to do some tough love at times, and trying not to let Dion Develop bad habits, especially when it comes to getting on the bad side of refs, and with shot selection. What worries me, and what annoys me is how much of this is because Dion’s “a rookie” and how much of it is because Byron is singling him out.  Kyrie, whose defense is atrocious at times, seems to get a pass from Byron, as does Thompson whose offense is atrocious.  I’m wondering how much teaching is going on and how much scolding is going on.  I don’t mind being tough on players, but I want fairness.

Mallory: Scott was/is a disciplinarian right?  Dion is a young hot shot (at least that’s probably what he thinks) who has some bad habits (jacking threes, lapsing on D once and a while) and a stained past (issues with Boeheim) – that sounds like a recipe for butting heads.  Now, do I think Scott is really that hard on anyone?  I doubt it – have you ever seen him get after a player during a TO or a stupid play?  I haven’t.  (He mostly just stands there with his arms crossed)  I assume this is just largely a media creation.  But we’ll see.

4.  Have we learned anything meaningful, or is all the rejoicing and hand-wringing silly given the small sample size?

Dani: I think we’ve learned that the Cavs’ bench simply is not good enough to make the playoffs, no matter how well Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao play. No team in the NBA can survive and succeed with a bench that hemorrhages leads like this second unit. They are truly an eyesore.

Tom: I think I’ve learned that individual player analysis for role players can be a fools errand.  I had high expectations for CJ Miles, Jon Leuer, and Omri Casspi last season.  I’ve had high hopes for so many players the Cavs have gone after in the Dan Gilbert era.  So often they look promising and then come to Cleveland.  In a lot of ways I think how a team fits together can make a huge difference.  The ’09 Cavs team won 66 games despite lots of injuries because they just fit so well together.  Many of those players weren’t nearly as effective without [insert any high usage shot creator that draws attention] .  Some guys like Larry Hughes were WORSE with LeBron and just needed an uptempo system to flourish.  Some guys like Lamar Odom need a beach.  I don’t know what Miles needs, maybe a trip to Africa with Dave Chappelle to clear his mind or something.   Unfortunately, we haven’t learned anything new about Kyrie or Tristan.

Kevin: As far as sample size; Cleveland has battled a tough schedule.  Through Tuesday, they were tied for most games played and most road games. The combined winning percentage of their opponent’s is ninth-highest in the league.  They already made one of two west-coast trips for the season. This has not been a fortuitous schedule for the NBA’s fourth-youngest team, who have now played without their starting point guard for one-third of the season. With all that said; Dion is going to be good.  He gets to the rim alot, he’s a good passer, and he takes care of the ball well.  He collects quite a few steals, with minimal fouls.  He turns 21 next month.  Eventually, his shots at the rim will start to fall, the schedule will lighten up, and he will mature, and he and Kyrie will form an awesome backcourt.

Nate: Have we learned anything?  Yes.  The Cavs are not going to be a playoff team.  Their bench is not good enough and they don’t have enough veterans.  The question now, is are they going to improve measurably?  The only Cavs who’ve done that so far are Casspi, Andy, and Gee.  Gee’s numbers on offense aren’t great, but he’s expanded his game, especially from the freethrow line.  The handwringing?  That’s on Tristan Thompson.  I think he needs another offseason to get rid of his bad habits with the ball around the basket.  In addition to stopping his habit of keeping the ball to low and mechanically gathering, he needs to learn to keep his shoulders parallel with the backboard and to shield off defenders.  He also needs to learn how to dunk with one hand.  One of the biggest reasons he has his shot blocked so much is that he opens up to the defender way too much.  This is coachable.

Mallory: Honestly, and I know I’ll be attacked for this, I think we have.  First, Scott is definitely not the guy we thought he was.  Kyrie, in a VERY small sample size, seemed to have modestly regressed (PER, FT%) while not improving his D (his biggest flaw, obviously).  Don’t even get me started on Tristan.  The only player who has improved under Scott is Andy – you really think that’s because of him?  Second, so far at least, I’ve come to believe that Chris Grant either 1. Intentionally built a bench that would be sub-par so he could have us tank or 2. He’s not a great evaluator of known talent.  Either way, that’s a cause for concern.  Other than that?  Jury is still out.

5. What’s the Cavs’ biggest “storyline” going forward?

Dani: What, exactly, is Anderson Varejao worth? I can’t imagine any team will offer the kind of value we would need in return for such a unique, talented player, but what if? What would do it? A top-3 pick? Rudy Gay? Regardless of what Andy’s trade value is, it’ll be fascinating to find out, come trade deadline time.

Tom: If the Cavs are going to win (or even compete for) an NBA championship in the next decade, Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving are both going to have to become all-stars.  We’ll watch them progress and overanalyze the hell out of them.  In 2 years’ time we’ll know if this core has the potential to get it done. That’s the “biggest” story. The most interesting is going to be the organization’s dedication to patience. I get the sense that Dan Gilbert believes in the formula. I also think he’s an emotional guy that takes losing as hard as we do. This next FA class is not very good or deep, how much patience does the organization really have? Meanwhile, we will be busy debating how much they should have.

Kevin: Easily, the growth of the young guys.  When will Kyrie start showing the necessary effort on defense?  When will he play 50 games in a row?  When do Dion’s shots start falling in the paint?  Where does Tristan peak?  That question has a huge range of possibilities.  Will taking off the mask help Tyler start hitting more than 48% of his freebies and 20% of his jumpers?  Part of his allure was his skilled shooting, but so far it has been a complete liability.  Can he add 10 pounds of muscle and play with some fire?  Also, I guess, “what will the Cavs do with $20 million of cap space?”.  That’s a pretty big storyline, too.

Nate: The Cavs biggest storyline?  Anderson Varejao being one of the best players in the league.  It isn’t just the hustle, the crazy finishes around the basket, and the drawing charges, it’s the overall brilliance of his floor game.  He passes brilliantly, puts the ball on the floor as well as any big man in the league, and is among the greatest pick and roll forwards I’ve ever seen.  His jump shooting and post moves have been a pleasure to watch.  He hit a buzzer beater and had a Hakeem-esque dream shake against Memphis the other night.  Unbelievably, he’s playing the best ball of his career at age 30.  He’s also in the perfect offense for him.  Also amazingly?  The Cavs don’t give him the ball enough.  If Carlos Boozer hadn’t screwed us, I’d say rip up his contract and give him a new one.  He’s so good right now that we owe it to him to put a great team around him to compete as soon as possible — hopefully starting in 2013.  Will it be the spring or the fall?

Mallory: Winning.  Honestly, despite what the pro-tank collective thinks, the Cavaliers organization is at a dangerous point of potentially losing fans long term – that means fewer season tickets sold, fewer jerseys sold, etc. etc. etc.   All that means less money for the Cavs and trouble for the future.  Remember, we’re all hard core fans who wont stop watching just because of a few bad years.  But most people don’t see the game like we do; unless we’re at least competing – and I don’t mean winning a ton, just more than 3/15 games (which by the way means ~16 wins this year) – I think the organization may be in for some trouble.  Of course, we’ve had a hard schedule – if we can at least start to get things back on track, we’ll be fine.  But that’s asking for a lot considering what we’ve seen so far.

Commentariat, how would you answer these?