In this episode we discuss the Spurs game, the Cavs upcoming schedule, and the early returns on the 2014-2015 season.
In this episode we discuss the Spurs game, the Cavs upcoming schedule, and the early returns on the 2014-2015 season.
Almost immediately after the Spurs celebrated the conclusion of their ethereal basketball symphony I found myself between flights in Philly – a three hour layover of infinite possibilities. I searched frantically for uninterrupted charging stations to calm my insatiable device hunger. When the juice finally started flowing, I decided to write the
most passive aggressive knock on LeBron James definitive eulogy for the “Big 3” era of pro basketball. I shelved it long enough for the Cavs to sign Kyrie to the Pepsi MAX, LeBron to make peace with NEOhio, and the KLove #WojBomb to detonate. So now what?
Well, Howard Bryant wrote a similar piece in ESPN The Magazine (although he arrived at a much different conclusion) and I have not the fortitude to polish a hot mess while reconciling the central claim with the current situation.
But I’m skeptical about the Cavs dedication to patience. And what the Spurs did was instructive to every team in the NBA. So I’m going to prune and pick from the autosaved “Document 1” that’s been open for months on my laptop and briefly describe what the Cavs should learn from all this.
[I’m] excited. Motivated. Any word that explains, that expresses my joy and the way I feel about getting back on the floor, that’s the word I’d use. These past four years I’ve wanted to play, I’ve wanted the opportunity to get out there but it just hasn’t been my time. But I feel like now is my time and I’m ready for it.
— Daniel Gibson on Cavs media day.
The last time I posted on Cavs: The Blog, I gave my take on Daniel Gibson’s shot at redemption this season as he enters his fifth year with the Cavaliers. Exactly one week later, several Cavs players, including Gibson himself, echoed similar sentiments in front of dozens of reporters.
For those of you who missed it, yesterday was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ annual media day in Independence, Ohio. The stage was used by a handful of the team’s veterans and new coach Byron Scott to talk about how motivated they are this season, on a mission to prove many of the naysayers wrong.
“We’re gonna come in and work hard and we’re gonna shock some people this year,” J.J. Hickson told reporters at the Cavaliers’ practice facility. Antawn Jamison showed similar determination, telling the media, “We’ve still got enough talent to win and perform at a very high level.”
However, while many of the media day player quotes revolved around the idea of being doubted this season, quite a few Cavaliers touched upon the importance of new coach Byron Scott’s offense. Second year guard Danny Green stressed that he likes Scott’s mentality, stating that he’s “all about running and getting up and down the floor” like he did in college. Similarly, two of Cleveland’s more athletic players, J.J. Hickson and Christian Eyenga, both acknowledged that running is a big part of their game and that they believe Coach Scott’s offense will complement those abilities, which is worth noting since they both got a taste of what to expect this year in Las Vegas Summer League action.
As the quotes about what to expect in a new up-tempo offense kept surfacing, Cleveland’s guards continually mentioned one another and how they thought they could do big things this season. Anthony Parker noted his high expectations for Daniel Gibson this year, telling reporters, “He’s been in an unfortunate circumstance the last couple years, but we all know his talent level and what he can contribute, and I look forward to him really having a big year this year.”
On the other hand, Mo Williams expressed some lofty goals for his old teammate, yet new Cleveland addition, Ramon Sessions. “I expect a lot out of [Ramon],” Williams told the media on Monday. “I expect him to play big minutes, I expect him to play a big part,” he elaborated.
Despite the fact that Daniel Gibson saw very limited action late in the season and in the post-season last year and that Ramon Sessions was with a different team altogether, it seems that last season’s starting backcourt tandem has already warmed up to the idea of playing extended minutes alongside the two guards. And why not? If Cleveland can throw out a team that includes at least two guards capable of pushing the basketball as Byron Scott envisions, the Cavaliers could have many of the league’s more traditional teams on their heels this season.
With this idea of exploiting potential mismatches in the back of his mind, it will be interesting to see how Coach Scott uses his trio of quick and talented, yet undersized, guards. Perhaps he will spend a small chunk of each game using a three guard set, something common amongst the college ranks yet rarely used in the NBA.
When asked if he had any doubts on whether or not the trio of Mo Williams, Ramon Sessions, and himself could be successful on the court this year, Daniel Gibson told Cavs announcer Fred McLeod, “Not at all… You can think about us having to guard [bigger guards], but at the same token those guys have to come on the other end and guard us.” Gibson followed this up by stating that in a faster offense it will be more difficult for larger guards to chase him around, assuring Fred “I definitely think that we can be successful with us three, because we go hard.”
Ramon Sessions echoed similar sentiments, stating that, “Me, Boobie Gibson, and Mo, we’re three explosive, fast guys, so it’s going to be tough for teams to defend.”
However, just because Cleveland’s guards are all on board with the idea of a smaller offensive front, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Byron Scott will continually look to implement it throughout the course of the season. There’s no doubt that a lineup featuring quick guards in certain moments of the game has the potential to exploit slower teams, but it could come at the expense of the defense. Additionally, Coach Scott has yet to reveal his starting shooting guard, telling media day reporters “I have the starters in my head.”
Regardless, it’s nice to see the current group of guards band together and focus on executing the team’s new offense as they prepare for the new season. After all, as Mo Williams put it yesterday, “This is the hand [we were] dealt, and you’ve got to play the best you can.”
But in the end, it will be up to Byron Scott to show us whether or not his trio of guards is a true three of a kind or simply a trick up his sleeve.
As you know i was born and raised in Houston, TX. Never once stayed outside the state for more than two weeks and the time I did, that was for basketball. But after two years of college at the University of Texas I decided to make the jump. You can just imagine how fast my mind was racing going to a city so many miles out of my comfort zone not knowing one single person. But I thank God it was Cleveland! Because From day one the city embraced me and made me feel like I was home. My Second HOME. And as time went on I began to see why we connected. Cleveland is a never die city, city of loyalty, hard-workers, passion, desire, and toughness. A lot of the same characteristics I have in me and that inspired me. So I made a promise to myself that every day I stepped foot on that basketball court I would show the world what Cleveland was all about. Leaving everything i had on the court. So no matter what obstacle was placed in front of me, I would bust right through it. No matter how high, I would get over it. Or how wide I would get around it. N I hope I did that and will continue to do that. I said that to say, I know right now emotions are high, and people are confused about the way things went down. But I’m here to say DO NOT FORGET THAT WE STILL HERE. and WE GONE GRIND!!!! The Cavaliers haven’t went anywhere, just lost a piece. Everything in life happens for a reason, Some which we dont understand and never will. Somethings we cant control, But the thing we can control is our passion and our love for city of Cleveland and state of OHIO. And that every single night we take that we floor We Will represent. Blood Sweat and Tears. We will go hard. Just like you. From the bottom to the top, this organization is committed to winning and we wont stop now… Cant stop now. I LOVE you. We Love YOU. And together We gone make it Happen. O H I O. Hang in there…
Daniel Gibson started this off-season on the right foot with the Cleveland fanbase, writing them a letter showing his appreciation for the way the entire city supported him throughout the first four seasons of his professional career. For the Cavalier faithful, who have shouted “shoot, Boobie, shoot!” ever since his rookie year, this only further endeared Gibson to them.
After spending his entire life in Texas, Daniel Gibson’s road to Cleveland was one filled with great opportunity and unfamiliarly low expectations. As a McDonald’s All-American recruit in high school, former Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and AP Honorable Mention All-American in his second and final year of college hoops, Gibson was used to all of the attention. But that would change when he was drafted by the Cavaliers in the second round of the 2006 draft, with less than only 20 players taken in the remainder of the draft. Although Gibson was able to ink a two-year guaranteed deal relatively quickly, he had to be a little nervous knowing that second round picks aren’t guaranteed a contract and that the Cavs already had a first round selection that year in Shannon Brown.
On the court Gibson started out slow, which was likely a mixture of those low expectations and being stuck behind veteran guards Larry Hughes, Eric Snow, Damon Jones, and David Wesley. But instead of sulking, he realized that there was a lot to learn from those players:
On and off the court, Eric Snow and David Wesley have helped me out a lot as a young guard. But another guard, Damon Jones, has really been great, too. Our relationship is basketball, but he keeps me relaxed. When I’m out there on the floor, he tells me what I’m doing right and wrong. But he also always keeps me laughing and smiling. Sometimes you can be way too tense out there and he keeps you in a relaxed state of mind. And that’s really when I perform at my best.
And boy did Daniel Gibson look relaxed in his coming out party during game 6 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals in Cleveland. When most rookies would look shook, Gibson helped the Cavaliers close out the Detroit Pistons with 31 points on 5-5 three-point shooting, leading Cleveland to their first ever NBA Finals berth.
The following year expectations were raised to a level that Gibson was used to, only on a stage far bigger than anything he experienced in Texas. But, just as he had done everywhere else in his career, Daniel Gibson rose to the challenge and played up to his potential. He averaged 10.4 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game in 30.4 minutes per contest, all of which are current career highs. Gibson also shot a phenomenal 44.0% from three-point range, his second best career percentage, despite taking 4.6 threes per game, a high volume of shots which marks a career-high as well. Ultimately, one of the only things that went wrong for Gibson in his sophomore season was an ankle injury which cost him 24 games.
But it seemed that after his second season in the league, Daniel Gibson found himself shackled to the bench courtesy of head coach Mike Brown, was known to prefer taller, more physical guards. After signing a new contract in 2008, one which made him a millionaire, Gibson suddenly saw less action for the Cavaliers. Seemingly healthy after having ankle surgery, Gibson went from averaging a career-best 30.4 minutes per game in that 2007-08 season to averaging 23.9 minutes per contest in 2008-09 and only 19.1 minutes per game last season.
The worst part of the entire ordeal was the fact that it wasn’t as though Gibson’s skills were diminished and there was a clear cut reason for the dip in minutes. Over the last two seasons he averaged roughly the same amount of points per minute while cutting down on his turnovers and personal fouls per minute. And then there’s the shooting. Last season Daniel Gibson shot a career-best 46.6% from the field and a career-high 47.7% from three, which was only good enough for third best in the NBA.
Fans clamored for “more Boobie,” not just because of the grade school humor, but because they wanted to see the passionate guard in action. They cited his superior shooting, improved post and on-ball defense, and great feel for the game as reasons why he should’ve seen more time. Yet he remained seated, experiencing a steady dip in minutes over the last couple months of last season, seeing only 23 total minutes of action in five of the team’s 11 playoff games. Twenty-three total minutes. In the same amount of team post-season games (11) in the 2008 playoffs Daniel Gibson played a total of 284 minutes, checking into each and every game. His least amount of post-season action came the following year, when he totaled 172 minutes played. Yet somehow he was only useful for 23 minutes in the 2010 playoffs, setting a new dubious post-season low.
Whether it was because of Mike Brown or other circumstances, Daniel Gibson understands that last season’s dip in minutes despite an increase in efficiency wasn’t exactly evenhanded. “I definitely feel like I didn’t get a fair chance,” Gibson explained, speaking of last season. However, with a new coach and offensive system in town, he’s ready to move on. He elaborates, expressing that “as a person and a player I continue to work and have faith in God and the system we’ve put in that it will turn… I’m ready to play and ready to help.”
And it’s this kind of attitude that has new coach Byron Scott taking notice. “Number one, he can shoot. He can make shots. Number two, he’s tough. Boobie’s a little warrior,” Scott raved when speaking of the fifth year guard.
On the other side of things, Daniel Gibson should be very happy with everything that Byron Scott has talked about since becoming the head coach of the Cavaliers. Not only has he stressed a faster paced, up and down fastbreak offense, but he has also mentioned playing two ball-handling guards at once. In addition to Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions, this could mean that Gibson will be one of the focal points of a small backcourt, whereas he was just another undersized guard in Mike Brown’s system. It’s with this notion in mind that Daniel Gibson has a lot of hope for the upcoming season:
We still have a group of guys who have a lot of talent — including myself. I haven’t had the chance to show it the last couple of years but I feel like I can be a key asset in the right situation. I think we have a great group of guys ready to do something big.
And perhaps this is the year that Gibson once again gets to do something big. With a new coach, a new system, and even a new bride and newborn son at home this season, fans of Northeast Ohio can expect new life from one of their favorite players and the second longest tenured Cavalier on the roster.
For those of you who missed all of the hoopla last night, LeBron James Heat jerseys have already found their way into the city of Cleveland. During an Indians game at Progress Field Wednesday night, one “die hard Cleveland fan” made his way to his seat wearing the newly stitched #6 jersey. Fans reacted as if LeBron James himself had just plopped down in left field, dousing the fan with beer and food. Eventually the fan was escorted out of the ballpark, exiting to chants of expletives by hundreds of angry Clevelanders.
But the incident certainly got me thinking. If this is how Indians fans reacted to the mere site of someone rubbing “The Decision” in their face on their home turf, how can we expect a building full of Cavs fans to respond when Miami makes their first trip to Cleveland this upcoming season?
How many police officers per hundred fans can we anticipate? Will fans have to arrive an hour before tip off just to be properly screened at the doors? Needless to say, this is a game that all Cavaliers fans have their eyes set on. I’m no different, as I will most certainly be at that game, which sadly enough could be the “playoffs” for the rebuilding Cavaliers this season.
Well, with this highly anticipated event in mind, I decided to take a look at some of the things we could expect based on past homecomings. Using lists of the top ten Cleveland sports villains and the ten levels of anger management, these are some of the events I believe could transpire at the Q.
Jim Thome (Level 7)
When Jim Thome left the Cleveland Indians it was a major heartache for Tribe fans. As blogger Len Kehoe puts it, “Thome thought of Cleveland as his second home. He told the fans he didn’t care about the money, he told them that they would have to ‘rip the shirt off my back for me to leave’… [but] Thome went for the money, breaking Cleveland fans’ hearts once again.”
However, since Jim Thome left the Indians for an NL team, it would be four years and another team later before he returned to Cleveland. Upon his return, he was met with a mixture of boos and cheers. In his second game back at Jacobs Field he was even fortunate enough to hit two home runs, perhaps being driven by the abundance of boos outweighing the cheering.
The Los Angeles Times did a good job summarizing Thome’s divided reaction return to Northeast Ohio in 2006.
Indians fans are now split in their sentiments toward the 35-year-old slugger, who was traded to Chicago last winter. Many still cheer him, but there are plenty of resounding boos each time he comes to bat in Cleveland.
Due to the partially softened stance on Thome’s trip back to the place that he used to call home, it’s quite obvious that LeBron James will likely never be this fortunate when playing in Quicken Loans Arena again. We can expect the boos to erupt x10 and the cheers of the 1-2% that claim their loyalty to LeBron will surely be drowned out.
Carlos Boozer (Level 8)
I still remember the game as if it was yesterday. After experiencing a few rowdy St. Patty’s Day parades leading up to 2007, I was absolutely thrilled to learn that the Cavaliers would be hosting the Utah Jazz on March 17th that year. And, for the first time since his betrayal, Carlos Boozer was actually going to play!
I quickly secured a couple of club level seats and made the pilgrimage to Quicken Loans Arena with hate in my heart and vengeance on my mind. The atmosphere was fantastic with a wide variety of notables, from duct taped Boozer jerseys, with an “L” over the “B” (“Loozer”) or “BIE” over the “ZER” (“Boobie”), to thousands of drunken fans, hundreds of anti-Boozer signs, and dozens of angry chants.
Every single time Carlos Boozer touched the ball, a sea of boos showered down on him from those sitting courtside all the way up to fans in the aptly named Loudville. The young children in front of me, who probably have no recollection of Boozer other than their father’s bitter complaints since the 2004 off-season, repeatedly screamed “Boozer sucks!” off and on every five minutes throughout the entire game.
With all of that said, electric atmosphere included, the overall level of disdain was slightly less than I had assumed it would be. This was Benedict Boozer, back in Cleveland, playing on one of the most alcoholic holidays in America. Perhaps the time off between Boozer’s bolting and his first game back in uniform softened the blow from what could’ve been battery tossing to merely signs, chants, and self customized jerseys.
In the end, there is one good quote we can take away from the 2007 not-so-St. Patty’s Day massacre. When asked about what he thought the Carlos Boozer homecoming would be like, LeBron James answered “terrible… it’s going to be pretty bad for him.” He followed this up by saying he understood that Boozer did what he had to do, but “whatever [the fans] do, I’m behind them.” It’ll be interesting to see what Cleveland players are behind the fans with “whatever they do” when James is the one visiting the once again scorned fanbase.
Albert Belle (Level 9)
When Albert Belle left Cleveland for the Chicago White Sox, it was a move that greatly angered fans since he chose to play for the team’s main rival. Feeling scorned, fans bottled up all of their animosity and saved it for his return the following season.
Belle wandered back to Cleveland in 1997 and was met with more hate than he could handle. Following the initial return on June 3rd, drastic measures had to be taken for the sake of security. As one Belle dedicated website documented the series in real time, “Angry, taunting fans throw debris at Albert in left field. Team owners add extra security for the last 2 games of the series and keep fans away from the porch overlooking left field.”
While it may seem somewhat harmless, once fans begin to throw anything at a player, all bets are off. Furthermore, the fact that additional security had to be brought in and certain sections of the ballpark were off limits proved that the heightened tension was cause for concern.
For James, this is the best case scenario homecoming he can expect this season. While I’m certainly not condoning it, there will undoubtedly be several stops in play, particularly in the first quarter, due to objects being thrown on the court at his direction. If fans wearing James’ #6 Heat jersey are getting pegged with debris in the very same left field stands that fans used to throw objects at Belle, I can only imagine what objects the actual #6 jersey will attract. Unfortunately for James, avoiding debris throwing fans isn’t as easy as closing off a section of the 360 degree, oval shaped arena.
Art Modell (Level 10)
The only one in the same weight class as James on this list, Art Modell is considered a curse word throughout Northeast Ohio. Unfortunately, for comparison’s sake, Modell has yet to once again step foot on the earth he tried to salt 14 years ago.
After stealing an entire sports franchise from the city of Cleveland, Modell had to abandon his Ohio home for fear of what fans may have done. Following several death threats, Modell hired an ex-Marine, Henry Gomez, to protect him down in his Florida home in West Palm Beach. But even though he had a military trained body guard and was over 1,000 miles away, Cleveland fans still lined up outside of the home, harassing Modell any chance they could get. That’s all of the way down in Florida, so take note LeBron.
From firing legendary coach Paul Brown, who the team is named after, to completely uprooting Cleveland’s beloved Browns, Art Modell is the city’s original villain. In a way that only furthers the anger towards him, Modell has internalized a lot of this hate and made it part of his persona. When asked if James would surpass him as Cleveland’s most hated villain, he responded “nonsense… I don’t think there’s any basis for it.”
Ultimately, James may never pass Modell as Cleveland’s number one sports villain, but he has to come back to the city at least twice every year.
So what should we expect?
To be honest, I’m not sure what this night will entail. There will certainly be a lot of anger in the air and the tension within the stadium will be unbelievable. It could be a night that makes the city of Cleveland look bad in the eyes of the nation or it could be a let down for those die hard fans who hope it makes LeBron James regret ever leaving the team.
One thing is certain, however. If the angry fans at Progressive Field on Wednesday night were any indication, you may want to proceed with caution that night. As Cleveland fan and blogger Matt Bowman put it, “Anyone who brings his/her children to the first Cavs/Heat game at the Q this year better not be complaining about crowd rowdiness.”
After all, crowd rowdiness and level 10 anger is to be expected.