Recap: Cavs 117, Rockets 108 (Or, Phoenix Rising)

When I wrote the Live Thread for this game I didn’t hold a whole heck of a lot of hope that it would end positively. It was the second night of a back to back. They were playing a tough Western Conference team who had been playing well lately. They had just notched their third win of the season on the previous night. I’m sure all of these were things the Rockets were counting on coming in to Quicken Loans. But boy were we both wrong. The Cleveland Cavaliers showed some real fight and came away with a convincing win and rookie PG Collin Sexton looked pretty dang good doing it. Granted, the Rockets were without their own star point guard, Chris Paul, who was sitting due to rest, but Sexton to great advantage of his absence.

The first quarter started out well as the Cavaliers jumped out to a quick 10-4 lead on the back of three Sexton makes. It was pretty clear from the get-go that the Young Bull wasn’t feeling very many ill effects from the previous night’s endeavors. In addition, Coach Drew’s new propensity to start defensive-minded SG David Nwaba along side the score first rookie is earning dividends already. It’s been a while since Cleveland could put a defense first guard on the court and the difference is refreshing. Nwaba, despite the occasional travel call, managed to make his own impact felt immediately as he got a steal off an ill-advised Ennis III pass and finished it off with a dunk. Just seconds later, Nwaba blocked a turnaround mid-ranger from Harden. Nwaba would finish the night with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. It’s not a particularly flashy state line, but it’s the kind of “a little bit of everything” line the Cavs need.

After the first round of reserves entered for the Cavs, the Rockets managed to tighten things back up and then take the lead. Resident sharpshooter Kyle Korver managed to bait PJ Tucker into fouling on a three attempt and Cleveland was able to keep it close for the remainder of the quarters. One of the biggest reasons they were able to do that was because of the phoenix of Tristan Thompson who’s risen out of the ashes of LeBron’s scorched earth exodus. Thompson was doing serious work throughout the game and did so from the opening frame. TT was really making the Rockets regret losing Montrezl Harrell in the offseason as he pulled down 7 rebounds in the first, three of them of the offensive variety. His activity mucked up passing lanes and earned extra shot attempts all evening and it propelled the Cavaliers to a good win. Thompson would finish the night with 16 points, 20 rebounds (9 offensive), 4 steals, and even a couple of assists. I knew things were going well tonight when even Jordan Clarkson managed to drive and kick to a wide open three from the Korner for Korver. The quarter ended with the Rockets up 30-29.

The second quarter deficit didn’t slow the Cavaliers any, however, as Korver made two threes in a row around the 9:00 minute mark. If the veteran shooter is feeling irritated about not being traded as promised, his shot isn’t showing any ill-effects after going 3 for 3 from distance on the evening and looking like he’s having fun doing it. His shooting is also rubbing off on other Cavaliers, clearly shown by the three Larry Nance Jr put in to put the Cavs up 48-43 with 5:30 to in the second. Sexton would reenter the game for the remainder of the half and he did not cool off, earning four more buckets and propelling Cleveland to a halftime lead of 63-58. Check out the video below as Jordan Clarkson provides us more evidence that he knows what a pass actually is with this nifty pass from the quarter.

Every game I live in fear of the third quarter because for the past five years, the Cavaliers have utterly failed to come out with the required intensity and adjustments they needed to make a statement at the beginning of the second half. Fortunately, that phoenix I mentioned earlier was still rising. Thompson was back to his menacing rebounding and showed some rare drive and finish ability as he turned the corner off of Capela’s hip for a dribble drive dunk. The rest of the damage for the quarter came primarily from Collin Sexton mid-range jumpers and free throws. The Cavaliers were able to get to the charity stripe nine times, making six of them. Cleveland withstood five three point makes for Houston to extend their lead and end the third up 93-83.

Thompson got a breather for a couple minutes to start the fourth quarter but Collin Sexton stayed in the game, playing the final 12:00 minutes. The Young Bull started off with another deep two. Not to be outdone, Jordan Clarkson put in three more mid range twos to get Cleveland over the century mark. The Cavs owned the Rockets on the boards in the final set. While Houston was busy trying to (unsuccessfully) contain the flaming undead avian flying around the court in a black uniform, the Cavaliers were able to corral some more offensive boards, earning additional tries at the rim, which they often needed.

Cleveland was able to keep the Rockets at arm’s length for the rest of the game as Sexton or Clarkson always managed to answer Houston makes with their own made twos. With about 2:45 to go, Rodney Hood made a dagger step back three that got all of Cleveland’s bench up and cheering. The three was about all the Cavs needed to finish this one out and ended the game with a final tally of 117-108.

Some Notes:

1) I have been particularly hard on Tristan Thompson. I’ll admit it. I didn’t care for his behavior and his game much at all last year. Unfortunately, TT isn’t the dynamic player we wish he was. He’s rather one dimensional. And when that one dimension of your game isn’t working all that well, as it was last season and began to taper off the season before, there isn’t many positives to find in the big man’s game. However, it definitely appears that Thompson has risen from the ashes in a way most of us find completely unexpected. He is clearly much healthier this season and it killing teams with his constant energy and movement, as well as his relentless nose for offensive rebounds. Regardless of if Cleveland decides to trade or keep Tristan, it’s good to see him contributing again.

2) This was a bit of a-coming-out-party for Collin Sexton as he put up a career high 29 points. He is starting to show progress in some of the areas that need serious work for the Young Bull and its great to see some youth development actually occurring. He’s still launching so many long twos but the threes he is taking are going in. He’s getting to the hoop more successfully and keeping his dribble deeper into the paint. He needs to eliminate the turnover every game that happens when he drives down the court with a defender on his back who strips it from behind when they get to the other end of the court, but he’s getting there. Sexton ended the night with 29 points 14-21 from the field, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. Progress is good.

3) I love Austin Carr. I truly think he’s one of the best in the biz for adding that much needed flair throughout the game. He’s made me burst out laughing more times than I can count. And for the four seasons we had LeBron, AC was one of the few willing to point out all of the bad habits. But he’s become infatuated with the long two makes with which Cleveland is currently obsessed. He’s stuck in a different era and it stinks to have to watch all of these games on mute now so I don’t have to listen to him praise what should be remedied. If Collin were to take five of those deep twos a game and step back a couple feet and make the shot at the same clip, he would be much more prolific. The Cavs have started to take more threes as a whole, but with Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton leading much of the scoring, we are destined to see more mid-rangers than many of us would like. Still, at least they are making them.

4) The past couple games have shown that Cleveland is actually starting to develop a bit of an identity. The four days off clearly showed some improvements made during practice sessions. When LeBron left, he flew over Cleveland basketball like a fire-breathing dragon. We may as well call him Drogon. The fires caused by his departure burned bright and hot. But if Tristan Thompson and the improved performances we’ve seen of late are any indication, there might be a few more phoenixes rising.

This is the first pair of wins Cleveland has been able to tie together all season and it felt good watching each of them. The Cavaliers played with energy and purpose and put on a good show. This is more along the lines of what we were all hoping to witness this season. They’ve got a day’s rest before going up against another Western Conference foe in the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jimmy Butler and his new ‘6ers team didn’t scare them. Here’s to hoping the new look Timberwolves won’t scare them either. As always, Go Cavs!

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Jason
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Jason
1 month 27 days ago

Just a word on gambles & cap situations. Big picture, taking on some salary for this/next year is no problem. We will have some room, but not a ton. And should not pay tax.

Our 7 signed guys (Love, Sexton, TT, Cedi, Nance, Clarkson, & Zizic) put us at $83.6 million. Cap is $109. Cap holds for Nwaba ($1.9), Hood ($6.6), Dekker ($3.9), and Frye will add some. Some combo of re-signing Nwaba to a QO will put us over $86 even if we let the others walk.

Buying out Korver/Hill/JR would add $8 million more. Leaves us $15 mil in space taking on nothing back and we have 8 guys signed. Even if we kept Hill/JR/Korver on for next year, will are still under the tax threshold.

After next year, TT ($18.5 mil) and Clarkson ($13.4 mil) come off the books. If there is a time to play in FA, that is it.

JOHN B
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JOHN B
1 month 27 days ago

Good info. Won’t likely be ready to seriously compete until 2020-2021 anyway.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
1 month 27 days ago

AGREE WITH ARCH—-WORTH THE GAMBLE

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
1 month 27 days ago

I’d be willing to do a Korver-Fultz swap.

Jason
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Jason
1 month 27 days ago

OK, let us look at each category.

1) Contender/PO team & need shooting (Korver). Philly, OKC, Boston, Milwaukee, Lakers.

2) Durant sweepstakes salary dump (Hill or JR). Lakers, Knicks, Clippers, Philly.

3) PO team needs PG/backup PG. Pelicans, Spurs, maybe Utah or Orlando.

I am sure I missed some.

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 27 days ago

Minnesota has Teague/Jones/Rose at PG, but only Rose has not been awful.

Teague has a PO for $19 million next year & then is a UFA. If they want out of that contract pronto perhaps we pry a first. Teague as a backup for a year, albeit an expensive one, is not horrid. And he perhaps could have value as an expiring next year. We need a first in that deal.

JOHN B
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JOHN B
1 month 27 days ago

Utah could definitely use more playmaking off the bench I think. Minny is interesting as is NO. You think Orlando is in win now enough to give a first for Hill?

Didn’t think about the bucks for Korver. Bucks have seemingly a bunch of decent to good shooters now, but maybe they could use another even with Lopez and Ersan stretching. OKC really really needs shooting. Philly, Boston, and LA likely will want legit help in that department down the stretch.

John B
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John B
1 month 27 days ago

Anyone think Hill could pull a late first rounder from a playoff desperate for a backup point or a team looking for cap space for the Durant sweepstakes?

Guessing JR and his expiring is either untradeable or at most gets back a second or an extremely raw and underachieving young guy with mild potential + bad contracts.

Think KK could pull a pick destined for the late first if you find a wannabe contender desperate enough for shooting.

Jason
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Jason
1 month 27 days ago

Dream scenarios:
1. Korver for Fultz (if no chronic injury)
2. Hill plays well as the #2 PG while we get Fultz healthy/his head on straight.
3. We get a late first + a bad contract (this year + maybe 1 more) for Hill.
4. Fultz gets to play the remainder of the year and looks half decent as the #2 PG.
5. We get a 2nd and a bad contract expiring in 2020 for JR.
6. We improve but still end up top 3 after the ping pong balls settle.

JOHN B
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JOHN B
1 month 27 days ago

Yeah all of those combined would be ideal. Or somehow two firsts and Fultz between Korver and Hill. Though that may be a pipe dream.

NO and San Antonio would be interesting targets for Hill. Though I wonder if SA would give a first for him. Somehow I expect they won’t be desperate enough to trade a first. Maybe depends on Pop wanting back one of his faves and/or his retirement plans.

Jason
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Jason
1 month 27 days ago

With Payton out, NO could use a PG. Ditto SA, who have Toronto’s first.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 27 days ago

At least one depending in how bad the cingract you take back is.

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
1 month 27 days ago

Two firsts for one of Hill or Korver plus another first for the other would be a haul. Expect a first for Korver and hill each or Fultz for Korver and a first for Hill from someone else they go the Fultz route with Korver.

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 27 days ago

FWIW, Cavs contract statuses for 2019/20:

1) Signed = 8. Sexton, Love, Cedi, LNJ, TT, Clarkson, Zizic, Preston (2 way).
2) RFA = 2. Nwaba, Harrison (2 way)
———
3) UFA = 3. Hood, Dekker, Frye.
4) Signed with oartial guaranteed $$ = 3. Korver, Hill, JR.
——————

Completely sold on bringing the top 10 guys back, save for Zizic & Harrison. And even those two I am fine keeping & they cost little and nothing, respectively.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
1 month 27 days ago

JASON –SAW THAT AMICO REPORT ALSO—( ALTHOUGH LIKE MOST GM’S BRAND IS DENYING—MEANING HE WILL BE TRADED WITHIN THE WEEK : ) )——-IF THEY AREN’T ASKING TOO MUCH —THEN YEAH I GUESS I COULD JUMP ON BOARD WITH FULTZ—-BUT AM SURE OTHER TEAMS MIGHT BE WILLING TO “ROLL THE DICE ‘ AND OFFER MORE THAN WHAT THE CAVS WANT / CAN OFFER ——OK EITHER WAY

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 27 days ago

Oh yeah. I would want our MDs to look at Fultz. And other teams could likely beat our offer (Korver). But Philly does need shooting, among other things (PF, backup C). And on a team with Embiid, Butler, Simmons, & Redick, Korver could really thrive.

Just dreaming about a possible home run.

John B
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John B
1 month 27 days ago

How does Fultz fit with Sexton though? I mean if you could get him for really cheap, maybe. I would almost rather a late first rounder for KK though. Fultz’s progress or lack thereof this season is worrisome to me.

Obviously the shoulder issue could be a factor. I don’t remember, do they think the shoulder issue was caused by him changing his shot? Or was changing his shot a product of having shoulder issues after he was drafted? I thought it was the former. Both are worrisome I suppose.

I guess it comes down to fit and if they think Fultz isn’t busting. If you place fit with Sexton higher you ask for the late round first they will have. If you think Fultz lives up to the potential he showed in college and will fit okay with Sexton I suppose you go for it.

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 27 days ago

Out ill today. Time to ponder Cavs. Amico reports Cavs have talked to Philly about Fultz. While I have my doubts on the kid, I think it is a low-risk, high-reward swing worth taking. Dig if you will a picture of next year’s Cavs:

ST: Sexton, Nwaba, rookie wing, Love, TT.
B: Fultz, Clarkson, Cedi, Nance
Plus: FA vet PG, Hood/FA wing, FA Fwd, Zizic
2 way: Harrison, Preston
Still have 2 spots open for whatever we can get from Hill/JR deals or Canton development.

Or we could land Zion. But it is nice to see a path out of the darkness.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
1 month 27 days ago

WITH THE SUCCESS OF THE OHIO SPORTS TEAMS THIS WEEKEND / BUCKS / BROWNS / CAVS / CHARGE —-IT HAS TO BE A SIGN OF ” THE APOCALYPSE “

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 27 days ago

Tribe gonna win the WS next year.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 27 days ago

Nice cap, Jmay

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 28 days ago

Alright, time to start the weekly ping pong ball watch. Rooting for Cavs improvement/wins, wins for teams at the bottom, wins for teams that likely iwe Boston a first (Clips, Grizz, Kings), and losses for teams that might overpay/panic trade for one of KK, Hill, or JR (Philly, Boston, LAL, OKC, SA, NO).

Wins (if pick owed/protected)
4: ATL, PHX, Cavs (1-10 ATL)
5: CHI
7: NY, MIA, Wash
8: BRK
9: Utah, Minny, SA, HOU, DAL (1-5 ATL)
10: SAC (1 prot, BOS)

Lotto rules changes: odds are flatter and they draw 4 spots instead of 3 so teams can move down 4 if they are unlucky.

Bottom 3 = 14%
4th = 12.5%
5th = 10.5%
6th = 9%
7th = 7.5%
8th = 6%
9th = 4.5%
10th = 3%
11th = 2%
12th = 1.5%
13th = 1%
14th = 0.5%

CLF
Guest
CLF
1 month 28 days ago

I like how TT’s playing hard, but I’m still not against trading him especially now that he’s playing well. He’s the 12th highest paid center in the NBA, and he’s ranked 48th in RPM and 20th in PER.

I’m fine if they want to keep him, but I’m gonna be mad if they re-sign him after next year. It’s better if they try to trade him for something now…. get a pick and dump that salary. Getting rid of TT puts the Cavs in a much better position financially in 2019-2020.

IMO, Zizic gives them 75% of what TT gives them and there’s more upside with Zizic…. and he costs 17 million dollars less than TT this year, and 34 million dollars less the next two years.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 27 days ago

RPM is heavily influenced by prior years. It wont do a great job of measuring him unless he keeps this up for a while.

John B
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John B
1 month 27 days ago

Yeah it takes like 15 games to seemingly calibrate RPM for the current season. Wasn’t posted for this year until last week. Bball ref BPM is similar I think, but there is a difference between BPM and RPM. Anyone know the difference? Dunno how BPM is calibrated or adjusted.

Chris K
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Chris K
1 month 28 days ago

JMay, thanks for the recap. I am glad someone else will admit in print their premature burial of TT. Sometimes we know so little about the extent of a player’s injury or off-the-court issues, and our frustration overlooks the human element in sports. No doubt Thompson has been physically limited the past year; his best asset is his motor, and his legs were struggling to provide the lift and quickness he needed to defend and rebound. What a welcome return. He isn’t quite the game plan wrecker Anderson was, but he still kills some opponents’ fast break opportunities all by himself.

Given the team’s recent success (!), does the long-term plan stay the same? Back-to-back wins versus the Sixers and Rockets cannot be taken lightly, can they?

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 28 days ago

Good point on JMay and TT. I should also raise my hand. I will admit I was ready to look for trade partners (though not optimistic on finding one) and play Nance & Zizic.

But TT has been great. Not just in terms of having some bounce back & defending, but also finishing over smalls when teams hide them on him. Hooks with either hand. And the leadership stuff. He is BETTER than two years ago, not just back. Glad no one listened to me.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 27 days ago

I’ll agree. He’s now actually got a couple finishing moves.

Joeyb
Guest
Joeyb
1 month 27 days ago

I’m shocked at his play this year. Still need to trade him. Especially now that he’s playing well. We might be able to dump his contract AND grab a pick.

John B
Guest
John B
1 month 27 days ago

His current play is worth more than a second, but likely not enough for any team to give up a first for his remaining contract. Maybe a really really late first. But I suspect he is worth more to the Cavs than to most contenders.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
1 month 28 days ago

EVIL—DO YOU FEEL “DANGEROUS ” WEARING YOUR MAYFIELD SHIRT : )

EvilGenius
Admin
1 month 28 days ago

Always!

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 28 days ago

Butler makes a 3 pointer with 0.4 to put Philly up 2 in Brooklyn. That guy is such a money player.

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 28 days ago

Lakers lost to the Magic again tonight. Brooklyn is hammering Philly. Those are the two FOs I deem most likely to make a panic Korver trade.

If Charlotte beats Atlanta, Boston will be down to 8th. With potentially 4 firsts this year (if Clips make POs & Memphis does not stink) we might could peel off one if they do not make a big move (Wall/Beal/Porter). Irving apparently raves about Korver.

NOMAD
Guest
NOMAD
1 month 28 days ago

NOT MUCH SAID / LOVE FROM MAYFIELD IN HIS EXCHANGE WITH HUE AFTER THE GAME ……………SOMETHING TO THAT ?

GreekCavsFan
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GreekCavsFan
1 month 28 days ago

Considering Cedi some people on this blog suggested he could be an all-star. I find that ludicrous and I have always thought his ceiling is a 3 and D role player who can put it on the floor occasionally. A Reggie Bullock type a little better on D, a little worse three point shooter. Bullock is fine and he is going to get paid, but nobody will mistake him for an all-star. Being 24 doesn’t help either, maybe this is who he is.

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 28 days ago

Cedi has more bounce & playmaking ability than Bullock. Better handles. Bit better athlete. Not as good a shooter.

IF Osman improves his shot, I think he could become a very good role player. All-star might be a tad rich. He probably is not good enough of a scorer to ever be a #1 option. Perhaps he could make the team as the #3 or #4 guy on a VERY good team. Or in a 1 year scenario (Zx2 and Mo Williams made all-star teams).

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 28 days ago

This is his first real season getting minutes. I’m not too worried about it. He was still +14. Look at Nikola Mirotic from when he came in the league to now.

GreekCavsFan
Guest
GreekCavsFan
1 month 28 days ago

That’s true, but Mirotic was a MONSTER in Europe. He was the MVP of the ACB, the Spanish League, by far the best domestic league in Europe. Cedi was not the best player on his own team. And still, despite all his improvement, Mirotic while a pretty good player, doesn’t really move the needle.

GreekCavsFan
Guest
GreekCavsFan
1 month 28 days ago
Greetings to everyone in the community! This was the first whole game I watched this season due to family obligations. I have to say I came away impressed with TT and Sexton. TT looks like a completely different player, but many a player have looked much more competent out of LBJ’s shadow. He sets a good example to the young players with his constant energy and hustle. If he keeps it up he will become somewhat tradable. As far as Sexton is concerned, he is very talented and can get anywhere he wants to on the floor, although his decision making leaves a lot to be desired. That is expected from a rookie though. My biggest fear with him is being influenced by Clarkson, the same way Jarrett Jack influenced Kyrie his rookie year. Some of you can recall, and I think it was mentioned in this blog, Kyrie picked up some bad habits from Jack, esp running the p’n’r and that was one of the reasons he was constantly snaking the p’n’r and looking for his own shot. I am afraid Clarkson’s terrible decision making is starting to rub off on Sexton thus all the long 2s early in… Read more »
NOMAD
Guest
NOMAD
1 month 28 days ago

ROWNS KEEPING THE ‘WEEKEND VIBES ‘ GOING —WOW —-MAYFIELD ‘ FEELING DANGEROUS ” AGAIN—-GOTA GET ME 1 OF THOSE SHIRTS !!!

EvilGenius
Admin
1 month 28 days ago

I got one… they’re really comfortable!

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
1 month 28 days ago

Go Browns! Complete the weekend winning!

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 28 days ago

Great cap. Great win.

I am not as much a mid-range hater as some (JMay, Ben, etc). I get where they are coming from, but if you have a guy who is effecient enough from mid-range to open up driving lanes (but not from deep), then have at it.

NOMAD
Guest
NOMAD
1 month 28 days ago

NICE RECAP ON A GREAT GAME –(WEEKEND )—-DID T.T.’S PLAY FALL OFF DUE TO LEBRON AND TY ——-JUST GOOD TO SEE HIMRETURN TO THE ENERGY WE HAVE BEEN ACUSTOMED TO AND ENJOY ———–LARRY DREW’S POST GAME INTERVIEWS ARE SO MUCH MORE REFRESHING / ENLIGHTENING THAN TY’S —–DREW HAS SO MUCH MORE ABILITY TO REVIEW / BREAK DOWN / ANALYZE / COMMENT ON THE GAME THAN TY’S —” GOTTA LOOK AT THE FILM “———-HAVE CIRCLED THE CELTS GAME THIS WEEK AS THE GAME I HOPE CAVS WIN / SEXTON “TAKE IT TO KYRIE “—————SIMMO –LEGITIMATE CONCERN / HE WILL BE THE ONE THAT HAS TO MAKE THE ADJUSTMENT

Simmo
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Simmo
1 month 28 days ago

Great job JMay!

Not sure if I am being totally serious with this thought, but putting it out there anyway: when KLove returns to the team….will he be able to keep up?

Chris K
Guest
Chris K
1 month 28 days ago

True–if this team’s vision is getting a high draft pick, doesn’t Love’s return make that more likely? How stupid does that sound?

JRL
Guest
JRL
1 month 28 days ago

That’s actually a legitimate concern. He’s extremely slow when compared to Nance and current TT. It will be interesting to see how Drew deals with that.

Tv63
Guest
Tv63
1 month 28 days ago

Enjoyed the write up. Thank you! I loved the accurate analogy of the dragon. So true. Give AC another chance. He is just remembering how good it feels to win. He’s a little slap silly 😜 like some of us are. Sexton has surprised me on the learning curve. I found myself yelling pass it and it drains a basket to much of our delight. I hope these young Cavs can keep it up!!

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