Thursday, May 29, 2008

Varejao needs a bigger contract


The NBA announced to its teams this week at its annual pre-draft camp that fines will be imposed on players starting next season for clear cases of "flopping," has learned.

The league office has yet to determine exact fine amounts for offending flops and how fines might escalate for repeat offenders, but in-game arena observers and video reviewers will be instructed to report instances of theatrical flopping for potential punishment as part of postgame reports on officiating and other matters. The league's pledge to crack down on flopping was conveyed to team representatives at Tuesday's competition committee meeting in Orlando. NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson confirmed the new policy Wednesday night saying: "What was clearly expressed to the committee is that we would begin imposing fines next season for the most egregious type of flops. When players are taking a dive, for lack of a better term."

Because a precise penalty system has not yet been structured, it is not yet known whether serial floppers will be subject to possible suspensions after a certain number of fines for flopping, as seen with the league's protocol on technical fouls. Players who accrue 16 technicals during the regular season are hit with a one-game suspension when they get to No. 16 -- the limit is seven technicals during the playoffs -- and receive one-game suspensions for every other technical thereafter (No. 18, 20, etc.).

This is a step in the right direction, but I really don't think they need to be fining people. They don't need new rules or new fines, what they need to do is stop calling that shit. That's it. If Tim Duncan is backing down Varejao, Varejao falls on his ass and there no call... Duncan gets a free dunk because Andy is sitting on his backside. Next time down the floor, Varejao might not fall over, because he doesn't want to give up another easy basket (and if he does, Mike Brown will yank him).

See, simple. No new rules, no new fines, just not letting the floppers get away with it. I understand the desire to crack down on this crap (and I'm sympathetic to it, because I hate watching LeBron pick up cheap fouls when guys fall over at the slightest touch) but if they wouldn't let guys get away with it in the first place, they wouldn't need to make up new rules.

Also, will this actually change the ways games are called/played? If the flopper is fined after the fact (and these guys are millionaires) why not flop in a key situation? Sure, he'll get fined, but LeBron may pick up that crucial 5th foul.

(this is why I was against giving Varejao a huge contract. Hes a useful player, but the second they mess with the flopping rules he goes from 'nice rebounder/defender' to 'overpaid rebounder' really quick).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Windhorst to (real)Cavs fans(.com): Put Down the Pipe

You got a lot of crazy trade ideas? Want the Cavs to sign a bunch of big name free agents? Brian Windhorst has a post telling us to get our heads out of the clouds (or our collective asses).

Elton Brand: nope.
People are asking me a lot about Elton Brand, there is apparently some rumor that the Cavs want him. Well of course the Cavs would want him, so would almost every team in the league. He is going into the final year of his contract, which he has an option to terminate. But since he is coming off an Achilles tear nobody is 100 percent sure he will do that. Either way, the only way the Cavs would be able to get him is in a trade (straight up or in an sign-and-trade). The Clippers don’t like spending money, but they wouldn’t trade Brand just to clear cap space. He’s their franchise player right now and Corey Maggette may be leaving them soon. At this moment, I don’t think it is possible.
Ya, no crap. For some reason I see a lot of Cavs fans thinking that Brand is a legit option. I really don't see how that happens, what with the Cavs not having any capspace and the Clippers not interested in swapping expiring contracts.

Michael Redd: maybe.
Lots have e-mailed about Michael Redd. The Bucks have a new coach and a new general manager and may be looking to move numerous players as they look to rebuild. In time, this could be a legitimate scenario. The Bucks have not prospered with Redd as their centerpiece and his maximum contract ties them up. However, this is not the same Redd from three years ago. He’s suffered a knee injury since, his shooting percentage has dropped two straight seasons (he only shot 36 percent on 3s this year) and he’s coming off his lowest scoring average in four seasons. Now, he is a highly skilled shooter who has experience playing with LeBron on Team USA. We’ll have to see how things develop and what the Bucks do with the No. 8 overall pick.
I think if Redd was A) on a decent team B) paired with James that we'd see his numbers improve. He's a proven scorer and he's showed that he can play off the ball as well. I really think that Redd is the most likely avenue for the Cavs to pursue.

Baron Davis: WTF??
Baron Davis. Several have raised this one to me. Baron is another player who has an opt out in his contract that no one is sure he will use. The Warriors are at a bit of a crossroads, they have numerous free agents to deal with. It appears Davis wants an extension and probably a massive one and the Bay Area media has reported early talks have not gone well. So it makes sense that his name would be floated in rumors. No one has told me the Cavs would have interest and it is questionable as to whether his style would mesh with LeBron because he is a shoot first guard. But it is a situation that could be worth watching.
I love me some B. Diddy, but I'm not sure how he'd fit when paired with LeBron. Both guys need the ball in their hands to be effective and Davis shoots a lot (and doesn't always take good shots), but he definitely would be a legit second option for Mike Brown's offense (play A: LeBron iso. play B: Davis iso. Repeat). I have no idea how Cavs fans expect the Ferry to land Davis (they don't have money for free agents! Expiring contracts aren't useful when trading for someone with one year left!), but I'm pretty sure if he ends up anywhere else, Ferry will take heat for it.

Various restricted FAs: in your dreams.
Andre Iguodala, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor (I’ve gotten questions on all) or any other restricted free agent from the draft class of 2004. The Cavs do not have cap space required to give out an offer sheet that would scare anyone. As for sign-and-trades, the Cavs don’t have the young talent that would make such a deal possible. Teams don’t want to give up their young stars, just as the Cavs wouldn’t.
Again, no shit. I'm not sure how Snow's contract situation, but let's say the Cavs would be allowed to pair Snow's $3.7 mil exception with their mid-level (I believe $5.5 mil) and throw $9 million at someone. If it's Iguodala or Okafor, their teams probably match (cause $9 mil really ain't bad). If it's Gordon, I probably would blow up the Q during the press conference. No one needs this.

Now, what I find somewhat interesting is that Windhorst didn't mention either the Jermaine O'Neal talk (which seems scarily possible) or any crazy Carmelo Anthony rumors that various Cavs bloggers (myself included) have floated as possibilities (while I don't think it's likely, I do believe that the Cavs have a better shot a 'Melo than they ever did at Jason Kidd).

What kills me when reading these message boards is that people actually think that the Cavs have legit shots at these guys (like Davis and Brand) and then they'll be pissed when Ferry doesn't land them. So we begin with irrational expectations and it leads to irrational hatred of the GM when he (inevitably) fails to meet your irrational expectations. Awesome.

I really hope Ferry has some kind of plan, because if the only new guy at training camp in the 19th pick, people (myself included) are gonna be really pissed (I really don't want to see another deadline deal, not with Mike Brown's crazy rotations).

Monday, May 26, 2008

The sun begins to set on the Eric Snow era

Early retirement:
The Cavs have already started the paperwork with the league office on getting Eric Snow approved for disability retirement. There are lots of hoops to jump through, but Snow says that his left knee is bone-on-bone, and that he's probably done.

If all the proper parties sign off, Snow's $7.3 million could be taken off the Cavs' books for luxury-tax purposes.

It is also possible that the NBA could grant the Cavs an exception of up to half of Snow's salary ($3.7 million) to use to sign another player or to use in a trade.

I'm torn on this. Snow has been a model citizen here and it's been known for awhile that he's looking to be a NBA head coach once he retires. If he has no physical tools left, it would make sense to start that process early.

However, Snow has a $7.3 million expiring contract, which could be very useful over the coming 7 months. Snow hasn't been useful on the basketball court for 3 years and now when his contract becomes a help rather than a hindrance, the Cavs won't be able to cash in.

True, the Cavs could get some kind of exception to help with free agents, but they aren't really getting capspace, they're saving luxury tax money. Now, if they can pair that $3.7 million exception with their mid-level exception (around $5.5 mil) and throw that $9 million at a FA, then that's a whole different story.

I mean, I wish Snow all the best, but the Cavs are losing a valuable trading chip at the worst time. They still have a lot of options and a lot of expiring deals, but still.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Trade Rumor Watch Part II

From Newsday:
There was no frozen envelope, no conspiracy. But now, after the Knicks wound up with the sixth pick from the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night, there are many options for Donnie Walsh in what he calls the "second stage" of the Knicks' rebuilding process.

"Now," Walsh said, "our work starts."

It starts with shopping the pick with the intention of packaging it with one of those hefty contracts on the team's bloated payroll in an effort to get some desperately needed salary-cap relief, which, for Walsh, is always Job 1. "I think we'll look at everything," Walsh said.

Zach Randolph is the most likely candidate to join the sixth overall pick on the trading block, but there is also a chance the Knicks might be convinced to use the pick.
I'm generally not a fan in trading with either New York or New Jersey, but the chance to grab the #6 overall pick would be mighty tempting. If I'm the Cavs I'm only making a deal like this on draft, with my eye being firmly planted on OJ Mayo. Sure, helping the Knicks is like playing with fire, but pairing Mayo and LeBron... it might just be worth it. Randolph is no slouch either and I'm sure Mike Brown could get him to play defense. Plus, if he's on a team with James (and a legit shot at a title), there's a chance that he shapes up and gets in line.

Again, not saying that this is my ideal situation, but adding young talent (as opposed to aging talent) around James would be nice.

Trade Rumor Watch Part I

From Chad Ford:
Trade rumors keep coming hot and heavy, though most of them aren't worth repeating.

But here's one intriguing one I heard today: The Cleveland Cavaliers could trade Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao and the No. 19 pick to Indiana for Jermaine O'Neal.

It's an interesting idea, but when I called team sources to find out if there was any truth to it, they shot it down as bogus.

Still, I'd watch both teams closely. I think the Pacers will move O'Neal this summer if they can, and I think the Cavs are definitely going to try to strengthen the supporting cast this summer for LeBron's sake. A healthy O'Neal could be a big boon for the Cavs, and head coach Mike Brown, formerly with the Pacers, should know how to get the best out of him.

I'd be willing to take on Jermaine O'Neal if the circumstances are right. Giving up two bigs and a pick for one injury prone big is not the right circumstance. Only a Cleveland team could trade a guy with a billion foot surgeries and find a away to get both older and more injury prone.

If the Cavs added another piece like Michael Redd and THEN traded for O'Neal (without giving up Z) I'd be OK. O'Neal can't be someone that they absolutely depend on, simply due to his injury past. I'm OK with throwing Varejao in an expiring contract based deal, but there's no way I'm taking on O'Neal's salary AND giving up that much.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Boston moves on, Cavs go home

Alright, so I was out of town at a wedding this weekend, with no working computer and two giant Cavs games. Inconvenient, to say the least (though I had a blast) . So this is gonna count for both Game 6 & 7.


I think as Cavs fans, we can be disappointed and we can be bummed out, but I don't think we're allowed to be angry at this result. The Cavs weren't supposed to win this game or this series. You can expect them to play well and expect them to force a Game 7, but I don't think it's realistic to expect them to go into Boston and pull it out. They had good looks and they played with a strong effort, they went out playing fairly well. You can want more but you can only expect so much. And the way this game was played out, I thought the Cavs were actually gonna pull it off.

I could take them losing the final game if a couple things happened: I wanted to see Boston win a close game at home, in front of their fans, with LeBron James going nuts. That's all I wanted to see. I didn't trust Kevin Garnett down the stretch, Boston hasn't played tight games all year and LeBron can take a crowd completely out of a game when he's on. I didn't think that the Celtics had anyone who could match LeBron basket for basket in a tight game. I figured that Boston would fold under the pressure and the Cavs could win a close one simply because of James. I just didn't account for Paul Pierce having the game of his life. I didn't see that one coming and I don't think anyone else did either.

Pierce was spectacular with 41 points, 4 boards and 5 assists. He was really hot early and I still wasn't worried. I was hoping that Pierce would start shooting well, start taking some bad shots and then cool himself off down the stretch. I was fine with him scoring early, I didn't think he had it in him to continue it all game long. He matched James shot for shot (or James matched him, as the Cavs were playing catchup the entire afternoon). You know going in that the Celtics have the better supporting cast and if they can get someone to match LeBron's output, the supporting case would put them over the edge. And with KG, Eddie House and PJ Brown all doing the little things, the Cavs' role players couldn't match.

And the Cavs had their chances in Game 7, make no mistake about it. A couple of fouls go their way, a lose ball bounces the other direction or if West's game tying 3 doesn't rim out, the Cavs would be walking away the victors. I thought the refs did a poor job in Game 7, for both teams. LeBron ended up shooting 19 free throws (making 14, 73%) and he very easily could've had a dozen more. The Celtics were grabbing his arms when he drove, hit him in the face and generally roughed him up on the way to the rim. But the refs weren't exactly kind to the Celtics either, LeBron definitely hacked Pierce a few times with no recourse and Kevin Garnett got called for a weak pushoff on Joe Smith late in the game (however, KG was pushing off throughout the first 40 minutes, so I'll take that one, even if it was bunk). Though, I will say that I thought Boston was on the receiving end of the worst call of the afternoon, when Ben Wallace was whistled for a block after Pierce elbowed him in the chest while trying to create space while being trapped. How that was even debatable was beyond me (also, I was unaware that just because it's a close game, you're allowed to neck tackle people. Good to know).

Despite how awful the offense looked this series, I think you have to give the Cavaliers credit. They took the Celtics to seven games and they only really had three terrible quarters in Boston (quarters 2 & 3 in Game 2 and 3 in Game 5). Boston's the better team, plain and simple (not that the 66 wins didn't tell us this already). And things broke their way this last game. Look, if it takes Paul Pierce getting lucky bounces (once on a 3, once on a free throw and once when a tipped pass landed in his lap for an open trey) and PJ Brown hitting the game winning shot for the Celtics to put away the Cavaliers, then so be it. I'll tip my hat and go on my way.

But if the Cavs had put forth an effort like the second half of Game 5 or if LeBron put up another 2-18 game, I'd have been pissed. But they kept it close and LeBron was going off; that's what you shoot for in this situation. You can't really ask for much more from this group of guys. They won their three home games convincingly and had legit shots in both Games 1 and 7 on the road. The injury to Daniel Gibson hurt more than people realize. Gibson has played well in big playoff games and having him out there rather than Sasha Pavlovic (not the trainwreck I thought he'd be, but they need more from him), Wally Szczerbiak (who may be the slowest guard in the NBA) or Damon Jones (who hadn't played for the past month) could have been enough to tip the scales in the Cavaliers' favor.

And though Mike Brown and Danny Ferry will draw a lot of the fans' ire (some deservedly, some not), I think you have to give them some credit as well. Sure, the offense had some terrible moments and the role players were inconsistent, but for all intents and purposes, if the Cavs had gotten just a mediocre performance out of LeBron in Game 1 (as opposed to a terrible one), the Cavs take that game and probably the series. Despite all of the other issues, that's basically this series came down to. 45 win teams aren't supposed to upset 66 win teams. It's hard to do. The Cavs had a good of chance of anyone and they didn't capitalize on their chances.

I think you have to say February's trade was a success, even with the Game 7 loss (and Szczerbiak's poor performance). The Cavs basically traded two rotation guys (Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden) for four (Ben Wallace, Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Joe Smith). Once everyone got settled, I don't think it's a question that the post-trade Cavs were both the better and deeper team. Could you imagine if while LeBron was shooting 25% we had Larry Hughes turning in 5-17 nights? Do you think Drew Gooden would have been a factor in any of these seven games? Or if Joe Smith is a better fit off the bench than Donyell Marshall? Delonte West has had his moments (a little too turnover prone at times) but I think you have to be pleased at how he reacted to the playoff spotlight. And sure Ben Wallace is as overpaid as Hughes, but at least Wallace tries to do what he's supposed to be doing. I can live with that.

However, that's not to say that there aren't issues. The offense has be fixed and it's imperative that they hire an offensive coach for Brown's staff. Some will probably say that it should've happened this past offseason, and I tend to agree. However, if your coach, who just took the franchise to their first ever NBA Finals appearance, says that he's going to work on the offense in the offseason, I think you owe him enough respect to let him try to work things out on his own. But it didn't work, the offense still stagnated and things need to change. Now. Brown had his chance to fix it, but now it's time to get another coach in there for help, Brown's feelings be damned. But let's not neglect how good of a defensive team the Cavs have become; that fact they can be so bad on offense and yet compete with the best teams in the league is more than somewhat remarkable. I still don't think Brown's defense gets the credit it deserves (but that tends to be because his offense is so horrible).

But GM Danny Ferry will have more on his plate than simply hiring an offensive minded assistant. The Cavs are going to have roughly $30 million in expiring contracts to play with and he needs to add at least upper level talent, if not two. They'll also have a first round pick (#19) for the first time in a couple years and they'll be scouting for both their needs (young, athletic big man) and for potential trades (the "best player available"). The Cavs should be major players in almost every trade scenario that comes up over the next 8 months and we'll see what kind of talent Ferry can put around LeBron.

And LeBron. What can you say about this kid? I think he's clearly the best player in the NBA. The pounding he takes on a nightly basis is astounding, his defense is improving and he's a force of nature when he gets a head of steam. There are still some issues that have to be addressed; he needs to get his jumper more consistent, he needs to work on his free throw shooting and I'd like to see him put more effort in his offense without the basketball. Granted, some of this can be addressed by hiring a coach that can diagram something other than a pick and pop, but there are things that can be worked on. James has turned himself in to a dynamic off the ball defender and his jumper has improved remarkably. There's no reason to think that he won't continue to improve his game.

With the Cavs losing the way they did (LeBron scoring 45 and no one else doing squat) there will continue to be talk about LeBron bolting because he has no help (I already heard an ESPN radio guy talking up Mike D'Antoni and the Knicks- but I thought he was going to play for Jay-Z in Brooklyn? I'm so confused). And if his contract was up this July, I'd be terrified. But it's not, he's got at least two more years in a Cavalier uniform. With all the expiring deals, the team that walks off the court to end the 2010 season should look starkly different than the one we watched on Sunday afternoon. The Cavs have some time to make things over and I doubt LeBron will leave in 2010 because of anything that happened in 2008. However, if in 2010 the Cavs play a Game 7 and Sasha Pavlovic plays the entire second half.... be afraid.

All in all, I think you have to say that the Cavs had a successful year. They had key players miss a lot of time due to injuries, hold outs and other various issues. They revamped the roster mid-season and then couldn't get everyone on same page (and healthy) until the playoffs.

The Cavs got as far as their previous roster could take them and though they ended their season two rounds earlier, I don't think it's fair to say that they took a step back. If you actually think that last year's team is making that same run this time around, well... you need help. The Cavs had a good run and gave a great Boston team a legit scare. With all the games missed and other factors, I think they're a better team than their 45 win season says and I think there's enough pieces here that one or two key addition could turn them into a legit title contender (and one major piece *cough* Carmelo Anthony *cough* that could propel them to dominance).

Like a certain basketball playing presidential candidate, Cavs fans will be chugging the hope and change kool-aid quite a bit over the coming months. The offense has to change and with all of their expiring contracts, there's good reason to expect that the roster will change quite a bit as well (and ideally for the better). There are some reasons to be optimistic and hopeful; I think that Ferry tends to make good moves, even if he can be a bit gun shy (and for what it's worth, neither Mike Bibby nor Jason Kidd turned in that good of postseasons). While in some ways this turned out to be a lost season, with injuries playing a large factor for the entire year, I'd still says it's a successful one, if only for trade (and the roster turnover) alone. The trade was the first step in building a dominant team around James, where everyone knows their roles has the skills to compliments LeBron's skill set. All I wanted if for Ferry not to make a panic move and keep his options open for the coming summer. He did that and more.

The coming months should be really, really interesting.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

game 6

at a wedding... No recap, sorry

Go cavs

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Boston 96, Cleveland 89

That is now two games they've blown in Boston. With 3:39 to go in the 2nd quarter, the Cavs held a 43-29 lead. They were playing great; James had 23 points, Wally was hitting open looks and the defense was absolutely amazing. This was the high point of the night, as Boston made a run and the Cavs only led 46-43 going into the half. Things were never the same. (I don't even want to talk about the first 20 minutes, I can't stress enough how good they looked. They were so good and then so bad).

If Mike Brown's halftime message was "turn the ball over and stop playing defense," the Cavs heard him loud and clear. The Cavs did not look ready for the start of the second half. They turned the ball over 3 straight possessions and they allowed the Boston crowd to get back into the game (they were completely silent the first half). After scoring 23 points on a variety of shots, LeBron was just 1-3 in the 3rd (all three attempts were jumpers). It was infuriating how flat they were to come out. They let Boston build a 10 point lead and they could never get enough stops to really make a dent. They went into the fourth trailing by 9, 72-63 (for those scoring at home, that's 43-20 run since the 3 minute mark in the 2nd).

Rajon Rondo killed 'em. Rondo scored 6 points in the big run to end the first half and put up another 10 after halftime. His 6 points came on two treys (which you'll let him take) but the bulk of his points in the second half came off of drives where he just did whatever he wanted. His drives got him points and they led to wide open shots for his teammates.

James had a good game, but it wasn't complete. LeBron finished with 35 points, 5 assists, 3 boards and 4 brutal turnovers. He scored 23 of his points in the first half and only had four baskets after halftime. James did get to the line, making 11-13 freebies, but both misses came late in the fourth, and both were within the last 3 minutes (and he could've gotten to the line at least four times). Obviously, he had a good game with 35 points, but the Cavs could've afford to have James go passive in the third quarter. For whatever the reason, he stopped attacking in the 3rd period and the Cavs never recovered.

Some coaching issues. The offense was amazing in the first half; LeBron was getting the ball on the move and the Cavs spread the floor really well. In the second half, everyone stood around and LeBron received the ball outside the 3pt line. That's a problem. Also, I hate the fact that they didn't foul, down four, with 45 seconds left. I understand the logic behind not fouling (4 point game, a lot more than 24 seconds left) but you have to maximize your possessions. The Cavs ended up forcing KG into a tough shot as the shot clock went off, but the Celtics grabbed the rebound. But even if the Cavs get that board, they just wasted half of what was left of the game. There's less than a minute left and you need multiple baskets, I don't understand why you don't stop the clock. Especially against the Celtics, these guys haven't exactly stepped it up in crunch time (even in Game 5, they made some dumb turnovers late), put the pressure on them.

Boobie got hurt. Gibson wasn't really a factor in the game (2 points, 1-4 FG), but he left late with a "shoulder contusion". I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it looked to me like he dislocated his left shoulder (and trust me, I've dislocated my left shoulder multiple times while playing basketball, I know what that looks like). They definitely could've used Gibson's tenacity and shot making ability down the stretch.

Z was a non-factor, but I'm not really sure why. Ilgauskas got just 26 minutes of court time and shot 2-5 for 6 points and grabbed 7 boards (which was tied for the Cleveland high). Z played great defense in the first half, but like everyone, it suffered a bit after halftime. However, there was a long stretch in the second half where Z sat on the bench and Varejao and Joe Smith kept A) getting open looks near the rim B) getting to the foul line and C) missing their free throws. Z might've been a better fit for this situation, as the back up bigs finished just 3-10 from the stripe (as a team the Cavs were just 28-41 for 68%, but non-backup bigs were 25-31 for 80%).

3 point shooting wasn't much better. The Cavs were just 3-18 from behind the arc and all three makes came in the first half (2 by Wally, 1 by West). While some of these were good looks (Szczerbiak missed a wide open one that would've cut it to 5 with 1:38 left) many were not. LeBron missed all five of his attempts and Gibson missed both of his.

Both Pierce and Garnett got it going. KG finished with 26 points, 16 boards, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. He was magnificent, hitting a ton of jumpers (in the first half they were contested, in the second half, notsomuch). Pierce scored 29, but I was unimpressed for the most part. A lot of his points came at the foul line (10-11) and the bulk of those freebies came at the end when the Cavs were fouling intentionally. Don't get me wrong, Pierce played well, but he shot just 8-19 and he took a lot of bad shots.

Delonte West played great and was the only one to show up in the second half. Basically, the Cavs can thank West that this game didn't turn into a blowout. West had 11 points in the final period and finished with 21 points, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 boards. His defense forced some steals late in the game and he forced the issue and got to the line, making 10-13. He needs to shoot better from the floor (just 5-12) but I thought he played a great game overall.

and finally...

They blew this one, there's no way around it. They let a 14 point lead turn into 3 at halftime and then they didn't show up for the second half. What kills me is, Boston can be beat. They're good, but they aren't that good. If the Cavs would've played the second half with half the energy o the first half, they would've had a really good shot to pull this out. Even as is, if they make their open looks and don't screw up with under a minute, they have a great chance. They could very easily have this thing won by now; they let Game 1 slip through their fingers and they then blew a 14 point lead in Game 5. Game 6 is do-or-die and I'm fairly confident that the Cavs can pull it out. The key is keeping the game close; Boston doesn't execute well, they do better when they have a lead. But if it's close, they'll tighten up (even in Game 5, the Cavs cut a 9 point lead with 2:35 down to 4 with 45 seconds by forcing some turnovers).

This and That

Great news everyone! Look at this from Denver:
Convinced they must make a significant change to compete for a championship, it's no secret the Nuggets will actively pursue trade options. What's more significant, according to a source familiar with the team, is nobody on the Denver roster has been deemed absolutely untouchable.


While the Nuggets have given no indication they will actively shop Anthony, the constant drama in the life of their 23-year-old forward has become the source of enough frustration within team headquarters that Denver would be willing to listen if somebody made a trade offer too good to refuse for Melo.
Me gusta.

Meanwhile, the Indians... only a Cleveland team can see their starters pitch 18 innings of shutout ball and manage to split the double-header. Well played. Meanwhile, Paul Byrd and the defense got yet another 9 innings of 0 run ball.

All things considered, they're in a decent spot as we reach the quarter mark of the baseball season and you'd have to think that the bats will wake up at some point (though, as other owners in my fantasy league can attest, I don't really pay attention to baseball until the NBA playoffs are over).

Also, I'd like someone to give Hafner his roids back. And I'd like them to put in an offer for Ken Griffey Jr.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reading is fundamental

I'm sure everyone has seen this, but I can't help but share, just in case.

Cleveland 88, Boston 77

That was freaking awesome! The entire game had this epic feeling to it, that everything seemed larger than life. We had LeBron posing for 3s, we had Daniel Gibson playing with a smirk, we had Gloria James getting into it with KG (and LeBron telling her "to sit your ass down") and we had the exclamation point of all exclamation points, LeBron posterizing Garnett to seal the game. Everything just screamed 'playoff classic' and I thought it was (though maybe Celtic fans feel differently). Going in, we were wondering which team would address it's issues; would LeBron finally get on track or will the Celtics finally win a road game. Funny thing, neither happened.

LeBron still didn't shoot well, but he's more than a scorer. James finished 7-20 from the floor for 21 points (which easily led the game) while also amassing 13 assists, 6 boards, 3 steals and 2 blocks. James attacked the rim to get to the stripe (5-8 FT) and also hit some 3s, but his mid-range game was completely ineffective. LeBron it couple of big 3s in the second half to help seal the game (before his ferocious dunk really ended it).

The offense still wasn't that great. Don't get me wrong, this was night and day between the Boston games, but they were still too prone to wasting possessions just standing around. The first quarter was particularly brutal; the Cavs led 23-21 after one, but a lot of their makes came on jumpers taken at the end of the shot clock. They went in, but they weren't good shots and you can't rely on those to fall all game. Thankfully, things got better as the game went on, but there were still too many terrible possessions (including a couple off of timeouts) that need to be fixed before Game 5. One nice surprise was how well the big men passed in the interior; Z, Joe Smith and Ben Wallace all made nifty passes in the lane to other bigs for easy baskets (Smith and Z to Andy and Wallace to Ilgauskas). It was nice to see.

Wally hit some shots early to open things up. Szczerbiak finished with 14 points and was 6-11 from the field (2-4 from downtown). Wally had a big first quarter (5 points, including the game's first basket) and but his third quarter is what really helped. Szczerbiak scored three of the Cavs first four baskets after halftime and forced the Celtics to actually spend effort guarding him and chasing him around screens (to the point where Ray Allen just grabbed him). When he's knocking down shots, which is happening with greater and greater frequency, the offense
is much less stagnant. Defensively, Szczerbiak did a fair job on Allen (15 pts, 4-10) and had flying jumpkick-esque foul on Kendrick Perkins to prevent a dunk. It was awesome, plus, Perkin's missed both freebies.

The bench was absolutely huge. Anderson Varejao played his best game in three months; Andy had 12 points (6-8 FG, though this scares me, we don't want to be encouraging him to shoot), 6 boards and did a terrific job on KG (15 points, 6-13 PF and just 2 points in the second half). Varejao's defense allowed the Cavs to single cover Garnett and stay at home on everyone else (also, we're beginning to see some of the KG-Varejao tension I was so excited about). Joe Smith also had a solid game, scoring 8 points and grabbing 6 boards, while playing the bulk of crunch time. And Daniel Gibson... Boobie hit a couple of big treys, including a dagger to push a 4 point lead to 7 with two and a half minutes to go. Gibson finished with 14 points, 6 boards, 4 assists and zero turnovers. The only other non-starter to receive minutes was Sasha Pavlovic, and he had a mostly uneventful 12 minutes, scoring just two points and guarding Paul Pierce.

The bench play kept some of the starters glued to the pine. I thought both Z and Ben Wallace played well, but both only played just 23 minutes due to production of Smith and Varejao. Both played solid defense and rebounded well (each guy had 7 boards) but Ilgauskas was just 3-10 from the floor and Big Ben was only 1-4. Both have had great series thus far, so I'm too concerned, but it was kinda nice to get these older guys (with their back issues) some extra rest and not lose any production.

I know the story will be that Boston is 0-5 on the road, but can we get some recognition for the Cavalier defense. Lost amid all the talk of 66 wins, road losses and LeBron's shooting woes is the fact that the Cavaliers haven't allowed more than 90 points yet and only had Boston crack the 85 point mark once (Game 2's 89). They've kept Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (13 points, 6-17) in check and they're getting better at guarding KG. The Celtics had their chances to take control of this game as the Cavs only scored 8 points in the first 8 and a half minutes in the fourth. But Cleveland's defense was just as strong and never let Boston tie up the close game.

and finally...

How long will LeBron's shooting slump last? The Cavs can take control of this series with a win in Boston on Wednesday night. They've played the Celtics well for 5 quarters in Boston and they're going to have to be ready for the big emotional lift that the Celts will have on their home court. The Cavs have played well despite getting minimal scoring from King James and you get the feeling that if he can put together a big game, the Cavs would be in a very good position coming home for Friday's Game 6. A win in Game 5 gives the Cavs the opportunity to close this thing out at home and keeps them away from a Game 7 scenario (which might make for good TV, but will do no good for either my heart or my liver). I don't think they'll need a 48 point/Game 5 vs Detroit from James, but if he gets somewhere between 27 and 40, you have to feel good about their chances.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Game 3 recap/Game 4 preview

OK, I lied. I simply haven't had the time to sit down and watch the game like I should. I've seen bits and parts, like some LeBron's blocks or Z's amazing drive, but I haven't been able to watch the entire game.

For all of the bitching about Brown and Ferry after Game 2, they should be feeling pretty good about themselves. The team they built and coach would be up 2-1 if their star player made a couple of layups in Game 1. I have my issues with Brown, but the Cavs went into Boston and lost Game 1 by a couple of baskets when LeBron goes 2-18. That doesn't happen if A) the team has zero talent and B) if they have a terrible coach. I don't think these guys get the credit that they sometimes deserve.

Game 3 was nice, but this becomes a series tonight. If the Cavs win, we get a 'Best of 3'. If they lose, I don't expect to see them back in Cleveland until training camp. The good news is, their defense has been solid all series (which has gone largely unnoticed) and Boston should be feeling some pressure to win a road game.

Eventually, the Cavs are going to need a big game from LeBron and he needs to get on track tonight. I don't think he needs a 40 point game, but if the even it up 2-2, they might need it in Game 5.

But we're not there yet. If the Cavs lose tonight, all the gains they made in Game 3 are just blips on the radar. They need to have the same sense of urgency tonight as they did on Saturday. There ain't a whole lot of difference between 3-0 and 3-1. If the shooters continue to shoot and if LeBron can get even somewhat on track, I like their chances.

(by the way, who says that this series doesn't have all the trash talk that the Wizards series had? check this out:
Kevin Garnett and Zydrunas Ilgauskas might be talking a little extra trash with each other in the coming days. Ilgauskas is a Manchester United fan and Garnett is a Chelsea fan, and the two English soccer powers are meeting Tuesday in the Champions League final in Moscow. Not that Ilgauskas, a longtime fan of English soccer, thinks that Garnett really cares.

''He's a fake fan,'' Ilgauskas said.

Oh no he didn't!)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Game 3

I'm in Oxford, Ohio for my bro's graduation. Meaning I'll miss most of the game (though I'll get a bunch of Joe Tait) and there will be no recap tonight.

Does Sasha Pavlovic start? I'd think about, he's actually been decent and he can play defense.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Boston 89, Cleveland 73

There's only so much you can say. The Cavs played a good first quarter and then got their behinds handed to them. Boston's pressure D definitely messed up the offense, it seemed as if the Cavs were falling away from every shot they took. They were throwing passes off of each others feet.

Look, this offense has been a problem for awhile. You simply cannot have two quarters where you don't break the 16 point barrier. You can't shoot sub-40% in back-to-back games. ESPN's game recap has a graphic of the Cavs' lowest point totals in the playoffs, and every single one has come in the LeBron/Mike Brown era. Think about that, they're scoring less points than Mike Fratello's walk-it-up teams and they have the greatest player of this generation. That is not good.

I love Z, but he shouldn't the most consistent offensive threat. The big fella had 19 points on 9-12 shooting. The Cavs shot 36% as a team and non-Ilguaskas players shot 28%. Daniel Gibson played 20 minutes and only attempted 2 shots. Sasha Pavlovic led the bench scoring with a whopping 5 points.

Boston just wanted it more. They played harder, smarter and looked like a team. They were the aggressors, they forced the issue. Their bench stepped up, their role players stepped up and their stars carried them.

And when get down to it, you have to focus on LeBron. I know Coach Mike hasn't exactly put him in the best situations, but none of this is exactly new. Simply put, the Cavs won't beat anyone, let alone the Celtics, if LeBron goes 8-42 over two games. Make all the defensive adjustments you want, hustle for more loose balls, get a better sub pattern, doesn't matter. This team is built around James with the assumption that he'll get his. And he hasn't (for a myriad of reasons). Now, I'm not blaming the guy, but this team can't afford to have him shoot sub 20%. This is a team filled with spot up shooters and offensive rebounders... to work off of James. When he's not effective, they aren't effective; they aren't built to withstand many off nights.

and finally...

All that being said, we've seen them in this position before. If they would've lost 99-98 with James scoring 50, the Cavs would still be in the same position: down 0-2 and heading back home. These scores aren't cumulative, we're not counting total points here. The Cavs and LeBron have rebounded from 0-2 twice before to make it a series of things, so there's some reason to be optimistic. They've done it before. The Celtics have yet to win a road game all playoffs, they've stunk in crunch time away from Boston and they're still coached by Doc Rivers. All is not lost. But things have to improve.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Boston 76, Cleveland 72

Wow, tough loss. The Cavs shot 30% as a team, LeBron had one of his worst games ever and they only lost by four, in Boston. But it hurts, they got the lead late in the game after a Zydrunas jumper and they got outscored 8-2 to end the game. They definitely had their chances but they couldn't capitalize.

LeBron was this close to a quadruple double. James finished with 12 points, 9 boards, 9 assists and 10 turnovers. Some of this is a credit to Boston's defense, they doubled James early and often and made him uncomfortable the entire night. But some of this goes on the coaching staff and the terrible offense. Is James not allowed to post up? Why does he have to receive the ball outside the 3pt line? What happened to the 'C' cuts he was doing against the Wizards? The Cavs had extremely little offensive movement and it allowed the Celtics' defense to clamp down on James. LeBron finished just 2-18 (both shots were layups, including the first basket of the game) though he was 8-10 from the line. James missed two really close shots late that just rimmed out; he probably should've gotten a foul called at least once (you know, when James Posey was intentionally fouling) but he usually makes those anyways.

More James. He made a poor decisions at the end of both the first and second quarter. With time running down in the first, he drove and threw it away and it led to a Boston 3 (pushing a 7 point lead to 10). Then at the end of the second quarter he took a blocking foul on Rajon Rondo (who had a really good first half) with 0.2 seconds left, giving Rondo two freebies (he made both to push the lead to 4). That's 5 free points.

More first half dumbness. I have no idea why the TNT announcers didn't mention this, but later in the first quarter, Ben Wallace missed a shot and then tipped the rebound out to Boobie. The shot clearly went off the rim, but the shot clock didn't reset and Gibson was forced to throw up a wild 3. That's an entire possession taken away for no good reason.

Kevin Garnett played great. I'm not a big KG fan, but he played really well. I liked what the Cavs did for most of the night; they single covered Garnett and allowed him to get his points, but not let anyone else get involved. What I didn't care for is leaving Joe Smith on an island late in the game. At that point I'd have liked to see a double team, cause KG will probably pass the ball, and the rest of the team hadn't really shot well. Garnett finished with 28 points, 8 boards and 2 assists.

Z had a magnificent game. He forced a couple shots early, but the Cavs kept going to him and he responded. Z led the Cavaliers with 22 points (8-18 FG) and also had12 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He could've definitely gotten more than just 6 free throw attempts (he made 'em all), especially on their last bucket of the first half (he was fouled by 2 guys, come on!). Z made some huge plays down the stretch; he hit a jumper to give the Cavs their last lead and he tipped in a James miss to tie the game at 72 with 39 seconds left.

More on the offense. When James isn't in the game, why can't they run plays for Daniel Gibson? This kid is a world class shooter and they have him throwing post passes to Anderson Varjeao (while James is on the bench!). That's a good use of everyones time. Also, can we see more James-Gibson pick and rolls? It worked once (Boobie got a 3) but they never went back to it. They spent way too much time just holding the ball waiting for guys to get open... only for that guy to throw a post pass to Z. They had a sequence late in the game where they had 3 shot attempts in one possession and came away with zero points. Again, some of this was due to Boston's D, but only some.

The defense and rebounding were pretty solid. They kept Boston under 80 points and they held the Celtics to just 43% shooting. However, the Cavaliers did lose the rebounding battle 43-41, but they did grab 13 offensive boards. Z had 12 boards while both Ben Wallace and James had 9. I though Wallace did a decent job guarding KG one-on-one, but I would've liked to see some better help D, especially in the first half when Rondo was getting to the lane at will (I never know why the Cavs start out going under picks, it always seems to kill them. They always adjust and fix it, but why even start out that way? Fight through picks).

We had a Sasha Pavlovic sighting and it surprisingly wasn't a train wreck. Pavlovic scored all 7 of his points in the second half. He answered a Posey 3 with one of his own to start the fourth and he later made a 3 point play off of a steal that he initiated. Of course, being Pavlovic, he picked up two really (really really really) weak fouls. Only this time it was on the defensive end; with all the pushing going on, they called Sasha for two touch fouls 18 feet from the rim. This is especially ridiculous when you consider that Kendrick Perkins and KG shove on every pick they set (and Perkins also got some other cheap shots in there). The refs weren't great, but asides from the Pavlovic fouls, they weren't overly terrible either.

Wally started poorly, but was actually effective later on. Szczerbiak began the game 0-5 (all within the first six minutes of the quarter) but finished with 13 points and surprisingly decent defense on Ray Allen (who finished scoreless, go Wally!). Szczerbiak was 2-5 from downtown, including a big 3 that stopped a late Boston mini-run and cut their lead to 66-63. He also made a couple of nice plays without scoring, like a go lead pass to Pavlovic and he grabbed a key rebound late.

Paul Pierce is a chucker. If Pierce was trying to match LeBron shot for shot, well, mission accomplished. Pierce was just 2-14 from the field and while LeBron had a couple shots that just rimmed out, Pierce was taking terrible shots all night long.

Sam Cassell had some big moments. Cassell finished with 13 points and he hit the two free throws that put Boston up for good (though I'm 75% sure he flopped to get that call). Sam-I-Am also had a couple of big treys, including one that came off a broken play that really hurt.

Delonte West did his best Larry Hughes impression (though he actually took good shots). I though West did a decent job of handling Boston's pressure D and he went inside and rebounded well (5 boards and he got a questionable over-the-back call). But the Cavs can't have their starting point guard go 2-10 (and 0-3 from 3).

and finally...

While I think the Cavs probably should've won this game, I'm not overly worried. They aren't going to shoot 30% every game. James won't go 2-18 again. He won't have 10 turnovers again. Mike Brown won't let the offense look like this again. Wait, scratch that last one. Anyways, I still think the Cavs will win this series, but this game could've been freaking huge. If you're Boston, I could see reason to be encouraged as well (with Pierce only having 2 FG and Ray Allen going scoreless) but I still think the Cavs should come away feeling fairly confident about their chances. And even if they get themselves down 0-2, they've been there before (against Detroit the last two years).


Cavs in 6.

I think the Cavs can win this series, but I don't know if they can win a Game 7 in Beantown.

If the games are close, the Cavs have a HUGE advantage with LeBron. Especially since Boston doesn't do a good job matching buckets down the stretch of games (like Games 3, 4 and 6 in Atlanta).

If you can't guard Joe Johnson, how are you going to deal with LeBron James?

I can't wait to see KG and Anderson Varejao get into it. There's going to be some kind of altercation between those two in this series (provided Andy's play keeps him on the court).

The Cavs may need Sasha Pavlovic's defense more than Wally Szczerbiak's offense.

Delonte West needs to stay in front of Rondo. If Rondo can get to the lane easily, the Cavs could have issues.

I don't like either of these coaches for mid-game decisions, but I have much more confidence in Brown with regards to series and game preparation.

They can't get Boston get out to a big lead, especially at home. The closer the game is, the better.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Cleveland 105, Washington 88

Hey, defense, rebounding and making open shots! Who knew? The Cavs held the Wizards under 40% shooting (39.7%!), they grabbed more rebounds (45-42) and they made their open looks, especially from 3 (Gibson was 4-6 from downtown while Wally Szczerbiak was 6-13... 13!).

The Cavs withstood Washington's best shot in the first quarter. Washington scored 31 points in the first period, but only led by four. As a Cavs fan, you gotta be feeling good about only being down four in that situation, as Washington shot really well (57%) and LeBron only had 2 points. Then the second quarter happened...

The Cavs brought the hammer down mid-second quarter. The teams traded baskets to start the second period and the Wizards held a 41-35 lead with seven and a half minutes to go. Six minutes later, the Cavs had 56-43 lead and went into halftime leading 56-48. That 21-2 run? The Cavs made 8 field goals and assisted on 6 of 'em (the other two? Layups). The Cavs held the Wizards to jump shots while they buried four 3s on their own end. Daniel Gibson led the way with 13 points (3 treys), LeBron had 8 and Joe Smith pitched in 4.

Over-rated, eh? LeBron destroyed the Wizards with everything in his arsenal. James led everyone with 27 points (8-17 FG, 10-10 FT), he grabbed 13 boards and dished out 13 assists (he picked the Wizards apart early on, 7 assists in the first half). When it comes down to it, they really had no answers for James; there's no one on this team that can really give him trouble (Jared Jefferies was the only guy who used to make a difference) and Stevenson tried to flop his to a couple of cheap offensive fouls. For the most part, James took good shots (much better than Game 5) and he guarded Caron Butler on and off throughout the game.

Somebody ask Caron Butler if Mike Brown is a good coach. I've had my issues with Brown in the past (and I'm sure I will in the future) but Brown can game plan with the best of 'em. After watching Caron Butler go off for 32 points in Game 5, Brown set up the entire defense to stop him; the Cavs sent waves of guys at Butler, they doubled him at different times and he never got comfortable. Through the first 3 quarters, Butler had just 7 points. He finished with 18 points (6-14 shooting), 9 boards and just 1 assist.

If the Cavs are making shots, you aren't going to beat them. Daniel Gibson had 22 points and made 4-6 treys. Wally Szczerbiak scored a career playoff high 26 points and made 6 of 13 treys. Why these guys continued to be left wide open is beyond me, but they made the Wizards pay. Wally provided a big boost in the first quarter, scoring 9 and Gibson was a key player in the big second quarter run. As a team, the Cavs were 11-24 from behind the arc.

The Cavaliers moved the ball extremely well. They had 29 assists on 40 baskets and everyone was sharing the ball. James had the eye popping number with 13 assists, but Delonte West pitched in 7 and Boobie, Z and Big Ben each had 2. They spread the ball around (four guys in double figures, three guys were over 20) and they didn't settle for jumpers (though they took a lot of open ones).

Z had another solid game. The big fella finished with 12 points, 7 boards, 2 assists and 2 blocks. He grabbed 5 defensive rebounds after only having 1 in Game 5; as a team, the Cavs really stepped it up on the defensive boards after giving up 5 offensive boards in the first period. Z also had a nifty alley-oop pass to James off the high post (which is a play I absolutely love- the big guy can pass, when guys actually move without the ball).

Again, I feel for Antawn Jamison. 23 points, 15 boards in a loosing effort. Neither Jamison or Butler talked any trash during this series, both guys played hard and kept their mouthes shut. However, Jamison and Butler had just 2 assists combined on Friday night. When your two best players have as many assists as Ben Wallace... well, I don't know exactly what that means, but it cannot be good.

Speaking of Wallace... Solid game for Big Ben. He wasn't spectacular or anything, but he had 4 points and 7 boards. He missed some close shots, he made some closer shots and he never had to go to the line (thank God).

Speaking of thanking God, Anderson Varejao only played 11 minutes. I haven't cared for Andy's play throughout this series and Friday was no exception. He took another wild-ish post shot and he finished with just 2 points and 2 boards for the night. Fortunately, Mike Brown didn't feel the need to throw him back out there. Maybe the Wizards were just a poor matchup for him, I dunno, but if the Cavs want any chance to make it back to the conference finals, Varejao will have to play much better.

and finally...

Rest up boys, you aren't playing til Tuesday. Thanks to the Atlanta Hawks (and Doc Rivers) there will be a Game 7 on Sunday, so the Cavs will have a few days off. Hopefully they can get Sasha Pavlovic acclimated with the rest of the team and actually have their roster at full strength. Has that happened since the trade? Everyone back and healthy? I'm not sure it has. It's probably not a good thing that the first time they'll have their full roster will be the playoffs... but it's a nice problem too have, no? Too many healthy bodies? I'll take it.