CtB 2013, The Year in Review (Part I)

January 1st, 2014 by Kevin Hetrick


Happy 2014, everyone… Here’s hoping the coming year is great for you, and for our favorite team.  We thought we’d offer up a CtB year in review on the Cavs’ roller coaster of a 2013.

As January 2013 rolled around, the Cleveland Cavaliers were mired in a funk.  Starting the season 7 and 25, Nate offered up New Year’s resolutions for the entire squad, and I took a look at the questionable resume of Byron Scott.  The season’s focus was primarily about hoping for growth from the youngsters, and in a short series, I took a deeper look at Kyrie and Dion.  The season eventually started turning around, including a three game winning streak with an awesome win over Boston.  In that one, Kyrie scored 40, Tristan posted 21 & 9, and Luke Walton doled out seven dimes; it was definitely a foretaste of what the next month had to offer.

The best story of January though was the trade of Jon Leuer, resulting in the formation of the unlikeliest of superb bench units. Nate affectionately dubbed them the Herculoids: Shaun Livingston, waiver wire fodder from the lowly Wizards; CJ Miles, a free agent so highly regarded that his best offer was one guaranteed year in Cleveland; Luke Walton, a complete afterthought in the Ramon Sessions for a first rounder trade to LAL; and Wayne Ellington / Marreese Speights, salary cap casualties there former employer gave away.  With their powers combined though, they offered a potent, highly effective offense.  Livingston, and particularly Walton, offered great court vision and poise, finding Miles, Ellington and Speights for open looks, while each of these veteran afterthoughts showed the off-ball savvy to cut to open spots.  The ultimate result was a bevy of bewildered foes, as the Cavs finished 6 and 8 in January, nearly equaling the win total from their first 32 games.

Nate: February saw more of the Cavs’ off again/on again style, as they stumbled out of the gate against the Pistons, and then improbably beating the Thunder in Oklahoma City. The Cavs ping ponged with losses to Denver and Minnesota, and wins against Orlando and San Antonio.  The highlight of the month came when the Cavs placed three players in the all-star weekend. KI, TT, and TZ played in the Rising Stars rookie/sophomore game.  Kyrie announced his arrival with a win in the three point shoot-out, an all-star game appearance, and these two highlights in the Rising Stars game. Mallory gave us an entertaining running diary of All-Star saturday’s events.

February continued with the first trade talk.  Mallory Factor took Shabazz Muhammad at No. 4 in a mock draft. Muhammad responded by promptly destroying his draft stock. No. 3 in that mock draft was Anthony Bennett, a pick I called “a colossal whiff.”  The vibe around the Cavs was electric after the all-star game, and their victory over New Orleans spawned this massive recap by Tom. Much of our trade deadline kvetching ended with a whimper and not a sigh.  Cleveland chose to make no further moves, keeping the excelling Herculoids in tact for the remainder of the season. Colin also penned an entertaining summation of the Cavs as they were at that moment. February ended with wins over Chicago, Orlando, Toronto, and a character defining loss to Miami entitled, The Trials of Saint Weirdo.

Tom: March included many in-depth looks at the Cavs bench, the Herculoids, as their inspired play and surprising offensive chemistry gave the Cavalier faithful some much-needed entertainment.  In late March, Tom penned a comparison between the styles and strengths of “the core” and the Herculoids, focusing on the synergistic play of the latter and providing lessons for “the core” to emulate to become more than the sum of their parts.  Mallory, Nate, and Tom recorded a marathon podcast that was well-received by the commentariet and included a healthy sprinkling of Aaron Craft conjecture.  Tom predicted the Cavs would take Anthony Bennett in the comments, so he was on the radar as early as March.  Near the end of the month, the Cavs began to unravel and suffered a brutal loss to the basketball incarnation of pure evil after building a 26 point lead.  Poor Nate was tasked with churning out a recap in a heart-wrenching game that will probably only be remembered as the game a misguided fan ran onto the court in a homemade T-shirt, asking LeBron to come back.  Nate realized this game was less about the game and more about the effect on the psyche of the fans watching the game and provided an entertaining “oral history” recap.

Nate: April began with a Krolik recap of one of last season’s worst losses, an 18 point effort-deficient loss to New Jersey, that blew up water coolers around northeast Ohio. (remember when 18 point losses seemed unacceptable?) April also started the demise of Byron Scott with the Cavs, when Kyrie Irving didn’t exactly stick up for his coach.   Tristan responded with his best game of his career with a 29 point 17 rebound monster performance against Boston. Nate penned an extensive piece, “On Tanking,” examining the ethics of tanking and whether tanking really was happening in the NBA, or whether it was just observational bias. The losing continued, and CtB countered with an extensive 1 through 5 referendum on Byron Scott.  Colin said in the referendum what he wanted for this current season.

The team needs to stay motivated, and that burden falls on the coaches. I’m sure the inertia of failure and the ever-mounting injuries this year made that task near-impossible, but if we’re to surmise the Cavs will actually make an earnest run at the playoffs next season, the coaches are going to have to keep everyone’s heads on straight, so as to avoid eight-game losing streaks and more than a couple bafflingly uninterested games against bad teams.

Ouch. Colin penned a missive comparing the season to the unassembled clips of a movie. The Cavs losing kept continuing, and inexplicably, the Lakers made the playoffs, thus ensuring that Cleveland ended up with their first round draft pick instead of Miami’s.  After the season closed, and Byron Scott was fired, Nate penned possibly the longest piece in the history of CtB, a 5700 word Coaching Search Almanac.  In that Almanac, I wrote nothing of Mike Brown.  I just posted a video of Bradley Cooper saying, “yeah, that’s not gonna happen.”  Still, it was an epic undertaking. After Brown was hired, we countered with this podcast recorded in the belly of a tramp steamer.

Kevin: With May, the NBA Playoffs began.  For Cavs fans, this meant dreams of free agency and the draft.  Nate scouted the first round of the West playoffs, really liking Jarrett Jack, while dismissing Earl Clark.  Along with springtime, also came the introduction of Robert Attenweiler to Cavs:the Blog.  A great free agent signing, he discussed the art of general manager-ing, and how Chris Grant was now officially “on the clock”.  In hindsight, a very prescient piece.  But so too, was Nate’s inner dialogue-y article on whether Kyrie  was primed for great things, or was he potentially already reaching his peak?

As a whole though, May was about the draft.  On the 21st, the Cavaliers again won the NBA lottery, and I closed the month looking at the players most likely to be selected number one, including:

  • Ben McLemore – a mix between Wayne Ellington and non-trouble Rashad McCants.  Probably better than it sounds, but certainly not high praise.
  • Victor Oladipo – Tony Allen But Better On Offense
  • Otto Porter – Evolutionary Tayshaun Prince
  • Nerlens Noel – Better than Larry Sanders and Javale McGee at same age, but concerned about two knee surgeries.

Surely you notice that in this first round of articles, there was no Anthony Bennett.  Initially he wasn’t on my radar at number one, but due to popular demand, that came in…

Robert: June stories focused mostly on the draft and the Cavs’ second number one overall pick in the last three years. Eventually, as we all might be trying to wipe from our minds with glass after glass of spiked holiday nog, Chris Grant selected Anthony Bennett, undersized power forward three-point chucker from UNLV. So, even though he actually takes pains to mention how this is not his best work, Kevin’s comparison of Bennett to previous potential number one picks wins for relevance, as does the most unpopular podcast in the history of the blog.

I got to cover the draft in person this year, which was a crazy experience. Much of the actual draft night was spent finding authorized places to stand so I wouldn’t have to watch the proceedings from the dreaded media room. But, more interesting than draft night itself, was the time I got to spend interviewing/watching the projected top picks be interviewed in a hotel conference room in Midtown Manhattan. Unless you’re that young, it’s tough to explain just how young these soon-to-be millionaires look up close and in person. I mean, I’m not a big dude. But Nerlens Noel can still fit inside of one of my thighs. Of course, if you are that young, just put on a very fancy suit, look in the mirror and talk a lot about “team fit” and doing “whatever it takes to win” … then you’ll get the idea. But it’s just a tad bit surreal to look these guys in the eye on the cusp of this moment in their lives. You kinda hold back the urge to say, “Hey, I’ll probably be writing about how much you suck in a few months. Congrats!”Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow…