From Distance: Different Man, Different Time

four point play….

1. I recently started a gig in a small town near(ish) Leipzig, Germany. Really, this town is about two hours from everywhere, deep in the heart of what used to be East Germany.

Rehearsals began on a Wednesday. Thankfully, I wasn’t called for the Saturday rehearsal, so I took that opportunity to head back to my home in Berlin for the weekend.

My friend joked about how sad I had been to leave her and Berlin for the six week rehearsal period before coming back home only hours later. For her, the two days seemed a few hours. For me, those two days were the longest three months of my life.

The job is fine. The colleagues are lovely. The town is simply dull. Toss in a lack of functioning wifi, and the ole’ hour glass was stuck on pause.

Some guy named Al talked about the relativity of time a while back. I don’t remember the specifics, but basically, not only do we not experience time in the same way at, well, all times, but time itself isn’t an absolute.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity frequently comes to mind when watching LeBron James play basketball. His mastery is a less violent, albeit similarly destructive version of Sherlock Holmes in a prize fight.

It’s not only that LeBron knows the opponents’ set plays. That’s cool, but ultimately isn’t really a big deal. Any bright kid could learn a bunch of playbooks by heart. No, it’s that James uses that knowledge to manipulate and dictate the opponents’ action. In his real time.

He tosses the proverbial towel to distract high-level athletes with one action before pouncing on the ultimate goal. LeBron reads tendencies and angles like most of us read children’s books. Ya know, with funny voices and general glee.

Yes, for LeBron James, the game hasn’t just “slowed down” like it does for most veterans. The game is essentially his on demand, paused, sped up, or reversed, seemingly according to his will.

2. With smart players around him, LeBron is able to unlock his full arsenal. Zach Lowe did a great piece on the elegant freestyle between Kyle Korver and Kevin Love.

Lowe goes into detail over the things we have talked about at length here the C:tB. The Korver/Love action is essentially unstoppable against any defense that doesn’t feature two players who can both chase Korver and Love around ball screens, and also bang with Love in the post in switch action.

Additionally that defense is tasked with playing smart weakside defense against good to great shooters and cutters in J.R. Smith and George Hill.

And of course, the defense must have an additional guy who can pretend to hang with LeBron in one-on-one situations. It’s easy to look at the Indiana series and conclude that they must have had that combination of guys.

It’s true that Thaddeus Young abused a slightly injured Kevin Love and that Domantas Sabonis and Bojan Bogdanovic defended The King surprisingly well in isolation situations.

Still, the Cavs hadn’t really unlocked their best unit at that point with Love’s thumb injury and Hill’s back spasms. When Hill came back against the Pacers, his Pick and Roll game with Love and Bron put to rest any thoughts of a series upset.

In the Raptors series, Hill’s off-ball shooting and defensive presence were just as crucial to the Cavalier’s success as his underrated Pick and Roll game.

At full strength, this Cavs team is only now finding its flow. It’s hard to remember that Kevin Love and George Hill really haven’t played together much this season. Love was out with his broken hand when Koby Altman saved the season.

The Cavs current starting unit has already played more minutes together in the playoffs than they did in all of the regular season. And that’s with Hill missing about three games of the Pacers series.

Pet play action from this unit:

-Hill/Love PnR on the left side of the floor with LeBron threatening at the top of the arc.

-Hill/Bron PnR on the left side with Love ready to drill.

-LeBron/Korver high PnR to get switch or three.

-LeBron reigning post switch in the middle of the floor with the Kevin/Kyle ballet on the left side and Hill and JR ready to fire from the right wing and corner.

None of that requires a real play call. Each situation can happen on the fly with every player recognizing how to actively dictate a defensive switch to gain an advantage.

Love and LeBron’s post game unlocks much of the success. Few guys outside of Draymond Green are able to guard face up, chase and recover, and sturdily defend the post.

With Love’s invigorated post touch and LeBron’s dominance at all levels, this all shooting, all IQ lineup, is not going to be stopped. It will have to be outscored.

3. Awesome. What happens when Ty Lue has to go to the bench? 

For the first time in weeks, I don’t have to beg Coach Lue to put in Cedi Osman! He did it! Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a Santa Clause. Replacing Rodney Hood with Cedi Osman was a great move, if a little disappointing. Obviously, I’m for the Cedi part of the equation, but it is rather discouraging to see Rodney Hood disintegrate in front of our eyes.

His reported refusal to take the floor in garbage time of Game 4 wasn’t particularly encouraging, but was probably made into a far bigger deal than it warranted. Clearly, his teammates’ laughter upon receiving his apology indicates their level of outrage.

At this point, Hood’s defense has been consistently poor enough for me to contentedly drop him from the rotation. The Cavs have enough guys who can get hot from deep. They don’t have defensive possessions to waste.

Cedi Osman is the better choice going forward. If Lue were to switch up the lineup enough to replace Clarkson’s minutes with some mild Hood burn, I’d be fine with that. Jordan has been at least as detrimental to the teams efficacy as Hood.

4. Who will be in the rotation, whether we like it or not, are Jeff Green and Tristan Thompson. With the Celtics’ size on the wing, it does make sense to give Green a chance to continue his hot shooting and mostly ok work on the other end. Still, his defense is prone to incredible lapses.

It could be argued that Korver should have dropped with Anunoby on the wing. Except, clearly Korver was Miles’s primary defender off the free throw as Korver saw Green was back in time, got into position to pick up Miles slightly past half-court assuming Green was going to claim Anunoby as he was assigned. Nope.

Green gets burned on this kind of stuff too frequently. It doesn’t matter. At this point, we know Lue thinks Green is worthy of big minutes off the bench. Fine. I’ll deal.

As far as Tristan Thompson is concerned, I’m ALL-IN on Tristan playing big minutes this series for one reason and one reason only.

He owns Al HorfordTT owned him when Horford was in Atlanta. He owned him last year. Much of the reason it is hard for Cavs fans to believe in the national media opinion that Al Horford is a great player stems from the fact he is incapable of handling Tristan Thompson.

It will be very interesting to see how Brad Stevens works his rotation against the Cavs. Last year, Stevens mostly used Al Horford on Kevin Love. It allowed TT run wild against the Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson.

On the other end, Horford has no speed advantage against Tristan, short circuiting Horford’s supreme short roll game.

Aron Baynes has been fantastic for the Celtics this postseason. He has shot the ball well from the outside and is a brick wall in the paint.

That being said, starting Baynes is death against Love at center. Baynes is an absolute force, but Stevens can’t afford to put Horford on LeBron and isn’t dumb enough to expect Baynes to chase J.R. Smith.

I’d expect Stevens to go to his small lineup starting Marcus Smart or Semi Ojeleye and playing Marcus Morris heavy minutes off the bench.

There is a chance that Stevens doesn’t even go to Baynes in this series, despite the big Aussie’s success. There really isn’t a place for him to hide against the Cavs.

In that case, Tristan’s bulk might not be as necessary if Love is prominently matched up against Horford. Larry Nance is probably the better matchup to guard Marcus Morris.

See, I’ve already talked myself out of playing Tristan again. In all likelihood, we will see all versions. Stevens isn’t one to sit on an ineffective lineup. Considering how dangerous the Cavs’ starters are, Stevens is going to have quite the challenge.

I say Cavs in six. Time will tell.

 

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James
Guest
James
5 months 8 days ago

I’m in Halle all the time for work as Leipzig is a DHL Hub for Europe. Need to have a Cavs watch party out here!

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
5 months 9 days ago

I could see Lue applying the same defensive tactics they used against Oladipo, of trapping/not trapping, with Terry Rozier. Lue may even stick LeBron on him or Smart at times.

Right Down Euclid
Guest
Right Down Euclid
5 months 8 days ago

Not sure that helps with Tatum and Brown out there. Three guys that can out the ball on the floor.and can make plays. Will need something a bit more.complex

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
5 months 9 days ago

Let’s all hope that Hill, Korver, and Love spent some time in LeBron’s Hyberbaric Oxygen Chamber the past few days.

believeLAND
Guest
believeLAND
5 months 9 days ago

Man, if KD didn’t go to Warriors, Lebron would be on his way to a 5th ring.

JB225
Guest
JB225
5 months 8 days ago

Yep, that’s a bit unfair IMO.
Maybe the Celtics can dethrone the Warriors next year…. Maybe.

Joeyb
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Joeyb
5 months 9 days ago

Yep

RightDownEuclid (the first)
Guest
RightDownEuclid (the first)
5 months 9 days ago

Apparently Brad Stevens wife went to Rocky River and Case Law. Might have to hate him a bit less…

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
5 months 9 days ago

Yeah, I thought that was known. Also Scary Terry Rozier played Basketball for Shaker Heights.

Rick in Boise
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Rick in Boise
5 months 9 days ago

Halle? Magdeburg? I enjoyed Leipzig but only visited the universities and incubators in Halle & Magdeburg.

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 months 9 days ago

Very good piece.

On the Cs lineups: if Larkin is out then Stevens cannot really start Smart becuase there are no ball-handlers on the bench.

With Baynes: Rozier, Tatum, Brown, Horford, Baynes. Expect Stevens to copy Indy & hide Al or Baynes on JR. If TT starts it is Al.

Without Baynes: Rozier, Tatum, Brown, Morris, Horford. Now you are hiding Morris/Al on JR.

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
5 months 9 days ago

They won’t hide Morris. Quite the opposite. He will likely guard lbj with Brown. He has been very physical with him in the past, has the physical tools to body him up, and has done things to make him work.

Jason
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Jason
5 months 9 days ago

I think you are spot on on that.

I would hope we just spread 5 out & Bron blows by him all the time.

John B
Guest
John B
5 months 9 days ago

I am sure that will be the plan. I think the key for us is love having a good series and continuing to punish mismatches. My one fear for this series is that Boston stifles love and/or the role players are blanketed or shoot poorly. If that happens it will be a very difficult series similar to Indy.

Raoul
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Raoul
5 months 9 days ago
John B
Guest
John B
5 months 9 days ago

Yeesh. Not a good look, and potentially a very damaging situation for the Cavs. If they violated the American Disability Act and then tried to cover it up they could be in for a civil rights lawsuit.

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 months 9 days ago

This is how businesses rum by a-holes act. And yes, Gilbert qualifies.

Joeyb
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Joeyb
5 months 9 days ago

If lebron leaves the reason will be Gilbert. He’s like model and jim Brown.

Scotch
Guest
Scotch
5 months 9 days ago

you realize he wasn’t named in the lawsuit as a defendent right?

Vintage
Guest
Vintage
5 months 9 days ago

Organizational culture

JRL
Guest
JRL
5 months 9 days ago

Although not named in the lawsuit, I’m with Jason on this one.

\"new\"nomad
Guest
\"new\"nomad
5 months 9 days ago

love the “soup analytics ” for JR—-so go get HOOD a cup / bowl of soup —have DAMON be the ‘victim’ again and –life is good in believeland “——— mentioned the other day HOOD needs to spend / go golfing with JR

Scotch
Guest
Scotch
5 months 9 days ago
Man…to me this series has 5 games written all over it. And I think, Ben, you outlined why right at the end there. Not only does TT own Al Horford (even when not playing his best ball otherwise like last year), but we might not even need him to own Al Horford this series. We are such a terrible matchup nightmare for this version of the celtics because if Smart can’t guard George Hill and is tasked with Lebron, we win both those matchups at the 1 and 3/4. If Marcus Morris is on Bron, that means Horford is on Love at the 5 most likely, meaning we have all shooters on the floor and Lebron likely goes to the post and tears them to shreds over and over and over. I’ll give us one poor shooting game to lose. But the celtics aren’t that deep of a team if Baynes isn’t playing. This will be another case of commentators saying “this year is different” right up until game 1, and then you’ll start to see the excuses made about how weak the east is and how boston is injured or it would be a real series…on and on. Lebron… Read more »
Tim
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Tim
5 months 9 days ago

Nice write up. This series will be fun on many levels. Reading ESPN’S worshipful article on Steven’s and the podcast by Simmons on Lebron made me think of a baseball analogy. Tony Gwyenn vs Greg Maddux. Greg’s most powerful weapon was location and knowledge to win the chess match knowing exactly how to get a hitter out. He was a genius. Gwynn was also a genius at out thinking the enemy a master of cat and mouse with the pitcher. Greg struggled to get Gwynn out in his career, mainly because you can’t predict the unpredictable. I think of Lebron at this stage of his career as Tony and Stevens as Greg. Should be fun to see the schemes and counter schemes that result between them.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
5 months 9 days ago

The Orlando Magic should pursue Casey.

Mike Podracky
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Mike Podracky
5 months 9 days ago

Nice analysis, Ben. FYI, Woj bomb just confirmed Dwayne Casey was fired by the Raps

JOHN B
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JOHN B
5 months 9 days ago

Casey is an ok coach but he made some pretty egregious mistakes in the cavs series.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
5 months 9 days ago

Sounds like the Raptors are interested in Coach Bud.

MikeO
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MikeO
5 months 9 days ago

Kind of ridiculous, but I suppose they had to do something. Wouldn’t be surprised if they deal Lowry or Derozan, too…

ChrisKorvalier
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ChrisKorvalier
5 months 9 days ago

Are we allowed to hire him now…or…?

Sim
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Sim
5 months 9 days ago

Tt should only be played in select specialty sitiuations , the cavs r the best version and unstoppable when they have the love at the 5 with only shooters around lebron, there’s gotta be some serius issues to warrant going away from that, (which I admit there was a few times lately and he did a good job addressing those prob )

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
5 months 9 days ago

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
5 months 9 days ago

Matt from Mentor
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Matt from Mentor
5 months 9 days ago

“He owns Al Horford. TT owned him when Horford was in Atlanta. He owned him last year. Much of the reason it is hard for Cavs fans to believe in the national media opinion that Al Horford is a great player stems from the fact he is incapable of handling Tristan Thompson.”

Yep! Gawd, to hear the announcers fawn over Horford in the Celtics/76ers series was too much!

danz
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danz
5 months 9 days ago

Al Horford is the modern day Antawn Jamison.

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
5 months 9 days ago

He was very good. He has weaknesses that can be exploited but he is a pretty good big overall. Not a superstar and barely an all star but a decent piece on the right team. Hopefully TT continues to own him. He actually may do better with love if love stays at the five. Much more mobile than Baynes and as stout or maybe stouter than love these days.

JMay
Editor
5 months 9 days ago

Not as psychical a defender as Thad Young though, so hopefully something Love can handle.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
5 months 9 days ago

I could see Boston putting Morris on Love.

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
5 months 9 days ago

Yeah, definitely a possibility, but I suspect he will be on LBJ almost all of the time he is in.

JMay
Editor
5 months 9 days ago

And risk Horford on Bron? I doubt that. Morris will be part of the platoon that guards Bron for the most part. I could see a change of pace if they have Morris and Ojeleye on the court at the same time. The fact is that none of them will be successful at stopping Bron so they will be constantly rotating out bodies on him. That’s what the Pistons did last year and the Pacers this year.

John B
Guest
John B
5 months 9 days ago

So if Tatum keeps improving like he has been at what point does he become better than Hayward? Brown has a longer way to go, but he has made some strides and defensively….

Kyrie, Brown, Hayward, Tatum, and Horford now looks like it could be a pretty nutso small ball starting 5 sooner rather than later offensively. They will slip on d though without Rozier starting. But with Rozier, Smart, and Baynes their bench lineup could be pretty great defensively next year.

Cjef
Guest
Cjef
5 months 9 days ago

Tatum is more creative than Hayward already. Hayward was very very efficient in his last year with the Jazz though. I looked up Hayward‘s stats because I was wondering if Mitchell was actually better than him but Hayward still had way better stats than Mitchell and Tatum.

JB225
Guest
JB225
5 months 9 days ago

They have too many players at Brown’s, Tatum’s position. They are going to have to trade one of them at least and if they could bring AD or KL it’s going to be over for the whole league. AD, KI, Hayward, Tatum/Brown and Morris would be pretty hard to beat.

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 months 9 days ago

No way. Let Hayward play the 2 on offense. Both he & Brown are sturdy enough to guard forwards & Tatum will be soon. One of those guys can handle most two guards.

If a team goes small at guard it could cause problems. But all those guys can post smalls.

Or bring Bown off the bench. If you want to package 1 guy plus a pick for another stud, that is doable.

JB225
Guest
JB225
5 months 9 days ago

That team is going to be really scary next season. They have too many options and they attack as a team. To me they are going to be a real threat to the Warriors next season.

John B
Guest
John B
5 months 9 days ago

If they resign smart that is.

JMay
Editor
5 months 9 days ago

Excellent, as always Ben. I’m on the Cavs in six train as well.

Simmo
Guest
Simmo
5 months 9 days ago

Excellent read! Reminds me of a sports panel asking Oladipo last week when he felt that the game slowed down for him, the premise of the question being that it slows down for all top players. Oladipo nodded knowingly & said “last year”.

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