Today at Waiting for Next Year, Scott Sargent moves #CavsRank into the Top Ten. World B. Free served up high scoring for the Cavs from the early to mid-198o’s.
Dion Waiters returned tonight, and Cleveland played a solid defensive first quarter. Then, the Spurs scored 109 points over the next 36 minutes, to slice and dice the Cavs into julienne silvers. When you play the Spurs, openings lead to reactions. The Spurs use those reactions against you and seem to instantly know the best way to exploit the tiniest mistake or overplay, and it doesn’t matter how many passes, cuts, or screens it takes to exploit that mistake. When you compound the precision of the SAS brand basketball-omatic with poor defensive discipline, weak rebounding, and ungenerous officials, victory can seem like an impossible task. It’s even harder when your franchise player plays looks clueless on defense.
Apologies to Ryan Mourton over at Fear the Sword. We are a little late linking to his piece on Campy Russell, this afternoon, and due to some scheduling conflicts, Campy appears slightly out of order in the #Cavsrank countdown. It seems indicative of Campy’s career: greatness combined with unfortunate timing (through no fault of his own).
Compared to the other #CavsRankers, my criteria skewed towards players who did the “dirty work”. I ranked Jim Brewer 16th, higher than anyone else. I tabbed Andy as 7th, of whom only two people were more fond. And I placed John Williams as the sixth best Cavalier of all-time, the highest such spot that “Hot Rod” received. Maybe I was giving bonus points for great hair, too. Varejao and Williams certainly qualify.
If there’s one thing that’s become clear in this majestic quilting circle that is #CavsRank, it’s how much we rankers are beholden to memory, whether we are willing to admit to it or not. Sure, we have the stats-spray in our utility belt when we really need to argue for one particular player’s value over another and we can even concede the bump one of the cogs on the Miracle of Richfield team a couple of notches higher than was our first impulse just to prove to ourselves that we are, after all, objective – that we don’t believe that professional basketball in Cleveland was invented in 1985. Or 1997. Or 2003.
But it’s just… so… difficult. We all have the memories of when NBA basketball started to matter to us – when we popped the poison pill of Cavaliers fandom that cast everything after that in its soft-focus haze. Ultimately, we will remember Zydrunas Ilagauskas the way we remember Big Z, we’ll remember Larry Nance the way we remember Larry Nance and we will remember Mike Mitchell the way we remember Mike Mitchell – or, just as possibly, the way we do not. We can learn about players from different eras, but the very fact that we have been passionate about this team at some point makes any complete washing away of the players that incited that passion an extremely difficult exercise, but not one that doesn’t tell us a thing or two about ourselves.
Which brings us to Shawn Kemp.
No player in this ranking has so benefited from our collective memory as Kemp and, the kicker of it all is this: we continue to remember Kemp so powerfully because we remember two completely different versions of the same player. Our ranking is supposed to focus solely on a player’s time as a Cavalier, but it’s impossible to separate what Kemp’s time as a Cavalier was from what he was before and the promise that brought to Cleveland. He was his era’s Blake Griffin: a physical marvel and adept posterizer of defenders who, along with Gary Payton, led the charge for the Seattle Supersonics during their reign (yes, pun intended) as one of the most entertaining teams of the 1990s.
Just so you know, the first draft of this article was written in comic sans. When I first read Brian Windhorst’s article from last Tuesday, “Could the Cavaliers Lose Kyrie Irving?“, I had to email my editors to discover the guidelines for responding. To say that I was irritated was an understatement. This was followed up by Amin Elhassan’s insider piece on Kyrie Irving’s options for leaving Cleveland. All that was running through my head after these was a Pacino-esque, “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! This whole trial is out of order!” knee-jerk response. Fortunately, several days has given me a little more perspective, and I think I’m capable of respectfully taking issue with Mr. Windhorst as if I was writing a non-Antonin Scalia Supreme Court dissent.
And it’s not as if I disagree with anything in the article, per se. Mr. Windhorst is undoubtedly one of the most respected NBA writers in the country, and even more undoubtedly, his knowledge of the inner workings of the Cavaliers and Kyrie Inc. surpasses ours. But the article raises three important questions. Why now? Why us? And is this even news?
A tale of two halves again. Tonight, the Cavs put together an offensive masterpiece in the 1st half. In the second, they only managed 31 points. The Grizzlies pounded the Cavs inside – they finished with 50 points in the paint. The Cavs had a chance late, but Zach Randolph was too much to handle. He was kinda like Darth Vader tonight – where you expect the brute strength but forget that he can use the force to do all sorts of clever moves. I guess that makes Mike Brown the Admiral Ackbar of this game, as I imagine he worried that the Cavs’ offensive outburst had them feeling a little too good about their chances. His half-time speech was about as effective as Ackbar’s too-late proclamation, as the Cavs continued to defend poorly in the third quarter, when the game swung out of their favor.
Utah heads to Cleveland, and the Cavs bench keeps looking more and more sparse. Tonight Anthony Bennett sits with a sore right knee. There is still no sign of Andy, Dion or Miles. All three could play Sunday, or may never play again; both things seem like possibilities.