Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Not only did they win in Atlanta, they won in Atlanta with LeBron having an off night. James shot 6-20 from the floor, finishing with 14 points, 8 boards, 10 assists, 5 steals and a block. LeBron's jumper wasn't falling but for some reason he kept taking it (though he did post up down the stretch). He wasn't aggressive as you'd like to see, he was settling for his jumper and because of that, he never got inside and ended up shooting just three free throws for the entire evening (two in the first and another in the third. That's it. Three.)
Delonte West is playing absolutely great. West finished with 17 points, 5 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals. He was finishing in traffic, he was skying for offensive boards, he set up his teammates and he played great defense. For the evening, West had a ridiculous +/- of +24. I love the way he's playing and it's no coincidence that the Cavs have won 10 of 11 with West playing so well. West probably had the highlight of the game, when he stole a pass, went the length of the court and threw it down in the face of Josh Smith (who had swatted West two plays previous). The bench went nuts, Delonte went nuts (got a tech for taunting) and even Joe Tait went nuts (I was driving around during the game).
You're not going to believe this, but Jamal Crawford had a monster game against the Cavs. Crawford carried Atlanta through the second quarter, scoring 17 points in the period (and 12 in a row at one point). It never seems to matter what team he's on, Crawford always seems to have a big game against the Cavs. He finished with 26 points, 4 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals. Crawford was the only Hawk who played well throughout the entire game. Josh Smith and Joe Johnson each had their moments but neither play particularly well (Smith was 1-6 from the line and Johnson started 4-4 and finished 1-10).
The Cavs took advantage of their size. Coming in, I was worried about the speed of the Hawks but they didn't really push the tempo all too much. Which is fine by me, as it allowed the Cavs big men to dominate. Shaq, Hickson, Z and Varejao combined to go 15-19 from the floor and grab 24 boards. They punished the Hawks inside (I can't stress enough how great their rebounding was during their 4th quarter shutout) and, funny enough, outside. Z's trey with 41 seconds left (with a great back screen from Varejao) made the score 92-84 and squashed any hopes of a late comeback from the Hawks (after scoring 0 points for the first nine minutes, they had 10 the last three).
For the most part, the offense wasn't bad. The Cavs had six players in double figures, they moved the ball well (at least early) and they continued to let Mo Williams play his game (20 points, 3 boards, 5 assists). The Cavs finally seem to be ulitlizing the post regularly; they're letting Mo post up (which is suprisingly effective) and LeBron took Bibby on the block for a late bucket. There's even some movement from Anthony Parker, he didn't just camp out in the corner and wait for the ball to find him.
Anyone feel dumb about those early season worries? The Cavs have now on in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Orlando and Atlanta. Those are all really solid victories. As we well know, the regular season doesn't mean a whole lot but you HAVE to love seeing them beat good teams on the road. Hell, going into this home-and-home with the Hawks, I'd have been happy with a split. But winning in Atlanta (with LeBron going 6-20, no less) has me hungry for a sweep. I'm really interested to see how the Hawks bounce back from last night's 9 minute shutout.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
On one hand, I like Jamison. He's the one Washington Wizard that I don't mock at every opportunity (he'd be mic'd up for those playoff games and you'd hear him just pleading with the other Wizards to crash the boards, I actually felt bad for the guy). The Cavaliers would be trading for a power forward who currently averages 20 points (47% FG, 35% 3FG) and 8 boards a night. You don't need me to tell you that he'd be a significant upgrade on the offensive end.
However, on the other hand, the Cavs would also be trading for a 33 year old power forward (he turns 34 in June) who is owed $13 million next season and a whopping $15 million the following year. Do you want to be paying a 35 year old power forward $15 million bucks? I sure don't.
As great as Jamison would be short term, he's a somewhat major risk for the long term (unless you think trading for overpaid guys in their midthirties is a good way to build a franchise).
Then there's this from Marc Stein:
The two Wizards who continue to draw the most interest from rival teams are forwards Caron Butler (who will have an array of Western Conference suitors when Washington decides that it's finally ready to break up its core) and Antawn Jamison (who is fiercely loyal but quite frustrated, as I hear it, by the ongoing disarray with the Wiz).
Jamison has been on the Cavaliers' radar for some time, as the ever-reliable Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reminded us in his column last weekend, but it's believed that Cleveland would only do a Zydrunas Ilgauskas-for-Jamison deal if it knew that the Wizards were prepared to release Ilgauskas after consummating the trade. Big Z could then re-sign with the Cavs after a 30-day wait, as seen last season, when Antonio McDyess was dealt from Detroit to Denver in the Allen Iverson deal and later rejoined the Pistons.
Yet I'm told that the Wizards (A) would insist on at least one more asset because they are not prepared to part with Butler or Jamison merely for cap relief and (B) would do everything they could to avoid sending Jamison to Cleveland because of the tension that has built up in recent years between those teams.
So the Cavs won't trade Z unless it's prearranged that he's being bought out and the Wizards won't part with Jamison unless they get some assets other than cap relief in return. Makes sense.
Other than cap relief (Z, Shaq and even Wally Szczerbiak), the Cavs' biggest (reasonable) trade asset is J.J. Hickson. I'm not opposed to parting with Hickson in a deal but it's gotta be the right one. I'm not sure getting 'just' Jamison is that deal. Now, if they wanna grab Mike Miller or Brendan Haywood (or Caron Butler, but that's much more tricky) along with Jamison, then wave Hickson goodbye.
I can probably be talked into parting with Hickson for Jamison but I'm not comfortable with the idea (food for thought: the one year Jamison was on the Mavericks -aka a good team- he shot 53% from the floor, 40% from three (both career highs) and averaged 14 and 6 coming off the bench. Interesting). Do you part with J.J. for a power forward on the wrong side of 30 who's owed 28 million over the next two seasons? Tough call.
As good a fit as Jamison can be, I'm not sure he's so much better than Murphy that he's worth J.J. as well as an another year (that extra $15 mil can really screw with your flexibility). And if Stein's reporting is true (that the Wizards don't want to deal with the Cavs due to 'tension') then so be it. They're currently two games out of the 8th spot, by all means, go down that road yet again.
During the recently completed West Coast trip, Brown gave up his attempt to play a 10-man rotation. He tinkered with it for several weeks when his guards all got healthy, but wasn't happy with the choppy results from game-to-game. From now on, Brown is going to uncomfortably designate an odd man out.
At the moment that is Daniel Gibson, who played just seven seconds against the Lakers Friday night and then didn't get in until fourth-quarter garbage time in the Cavs' 108-83 victory over the Houston Rockets Sunday night.
In five minutes, Gibson made all three shot attempts and scored seven points. But Gibson's play has nothing to do with his current situation.
"Boobie has been playing very well and he's a joy to coach, it is just tough to play that many perimeter guys," Brown said. "It's a matter of trying to find time for six."
Brown's six are LeBron James, Anthony Parker, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Jamario Moon and Gibson. There are 144 available minutes and Brown had tried to do that math but doesn't think he can give players fair playing time to establish rhythm. He tried for a while, but saw his rotation go all over the place. It particularly affected Williams, who wasn't getting his normal run.
Not ironically, in the last four games as Brown has boosted Williams' minutes, he's averaged 24.5 points and the Cavs have gone undefeated.
I mentioned this after the Sacramento game, but Gibson should be the odd man out. He doesn't have Delonte's ability to run the offense, he doesn't have the height of Anthony Parker and he doesn't have the length of Jamario Moon. While Parker and Moon may not be the pure shooter that Gibson is, they aren't Eric Snow either.
It's not like Boobie has been playing poorly or that he's done something wrong, it's just that Brown needs to have a tight rotation. Playing Moon 15 minutes and Boobie 5 minutes doesn't really do much for either guy. He's a shooting guard in a point guard's body, he's a great shooter and good defender but other guys can just bring more to the table (play point, defend bigger players, rebound, etc).
Having a set nine man rotation should really help the Cavalier players as well as Mike Brown.
It'll make things easier on everyone.
Friday, December 25, 2009
I learned two things today. Number One: Ron Artest cannot guard LeBron James. While James didn't dominate Artest, he didn't back down either. James moved extremely well without the ball and even posted up Ron-Ron for easy buckets. LeBron finished with 26 points on 9-19 shooting (but 2-7 from behind the arc) and 4 boards, 9 assists, 2 steals and a block. James even easily scored on Artest in the post (so if he can do it against a bulldog like Artest, he should have no problem against literally anyone else. I hope Mike Brown was paying attention). Think about this, the Cavs beat the Lakers by 15 and LeBron only took 19 shots. Yup, the Cavs sure are a one man team.
Number Two: Derek Fisher has no chance against Mo Williams. Williams put up a LeBron-esque 28-6-7 and schooled Fisher so often that, by the fourth quarter, a visibly frustrated Fisher resorted simply to shoving (classy, LA, classy). It actually wasn't the first time Mo took a shot during the evening, as Kobe ran him over mid-way through the second quarter (no call, naturally). Williams went 8-13 from the floor, 3-3 from behind the arc and a beautiful 9-10 from the charity stripe. Williams even posted Fisher up, scoring three times off the block (let's see more of this please. I'm all for any post play, whether it's LeBron, Delonte or Mo).
Shaq passed his second test. Shaq played pretty well in his upteenth return to LA, notching 11 points and 7 boards in 22 minutes. Shaq dominated the matchup with Andrew Bynum (4 points, 6 boards) and he made the entire Laker team aware of his presence on the defensive end. Shaq used each and every one of his 5 fouls to let the Lakers know that there would be no easy buckets on his watch (heh, he got Kobe more than once). Shaq's entire Cleveland tenure will be judged on how well the Cavs will do in the playoffs and thus far, they're 2-0 against the Lakers and Magic. So far, so good.
The Cavs made Kobe work. Bryant's final number are gaudy, 35-9-8, but he had to take 32 shots to get those 35 points. Kobe was hounded by both Anthony Parker (4 points, 3 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks) and Jamario Moon (13 points, 6-7 FG) and it was obvious that their length gave him some trouble (he got tee'd up after Parker blocked his shot from behind). The Cavs bigs rotated well defensively (including Hickson!) and they didn't commit any dumb fouls (when they did foul, they made sure he wasn't getting an 'and one').
Cavs bench: 31 points. Lakers bench: 17 points. The Cavs got great contributions from a number of guys coming off the pine. Varejao and Ilgauskas both played excellent defense (Z frustrated Gasol and Varejao did a commendable job on Lamer Odom) and each grabbed 9 boards. Delonte West continued his strong play, going 3-3 from the floor for 7 points, 2 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals and block for good measure. Delonte simply makes smart basketball plays (his basketball IQ is off the charts); he saved one possession by cutting to an open space, bailing out Varejao (who picked up his dribble in the corner), and then made a quick pass to Hickson for an easy dunk.
There's not all that much to complain about but there were some issues. The Cavs seemed to have trouble with the Laker press (LeBron forced a few bad turnovers), James missed his free throws (6-11 from the stripe) and Mo Williams still has trouble throwing entry passes to the post. I also thought Brown should've called a timeout to stop the bleeding when the Lakers made a run in the second quarter (cutting the Cavs' 19 point lead to 9 before halftime) but these are just quibbles (Brown made a nice call by subbing in Z for J.J. to start the second half).
Not a bad road trip, eh? My feelings about this team are night and day since that loss in Dallas to the Dirk-less Mavericks. The best part is, these were all good wins. These weren't games where they milled around and had LeBron bail them out with some crazy three (like in Philly...). These were team wins. They beat the Suns by executing their offense and playing brilliant defense, they won in Sacramento by shutting out the Kings in OT and they topped it off by putting a whooping on the Lakers on Christmas day. Well done.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
LeBron set the tone. James was locked in early (really hitting the midrange jumper) and he locked down Tyreke Evans late (holding Evans scoreless in overtime). I'm not going to lie, I was kinda concerned with how well he started off. LeBron made 11 field goals in the first half and all but three of them were on jumpers (he was on fire but the offense was somewhat stagnant). When he started off the second half by nailing a 21 footer, I was worried. But the third quarter offense didn't run through LeBron, it ran through Mo Williams.
Williams played really well. Mo was knocked out of the game in the first period after he bumped knees with Evans. He eventually came back and played through it, looking no worse for the wear. But after halftime... wow. Mo scored 21 of his 27 after intermission including 15 in the third period. Williams also had 3 assists and again threw that bounce pass to the slip screener from the top of the arc quite well.
The Cavs weren't always focused but they did a lot of little things well. For much of the game, the Cavalier defenders seemed to be over pursuing the Sacramento players, just running at shooters and scrambling. But once the Cavs tightened the screws, the Kings were out of their comfort zone and rushing their shots (Evans airballed a jumphook). But the Cavs did the things that good team do to win these types of games. When the Kings threw away an inbounds pass with 1 second left in third, the Cavs took advantage (they got an West found Varejao for open jumper in the corner).
Z had a more than solid game. If you didn't have a huge grin on your face for those last five minutes, I don't want you rooting for this team. The big story was obviously his three treys in a scant 117 seconds in overtime, but he was solid throughout. Z finished with 25 points (10-14 FG) and 8 boards in 25 minutes. His bombs in OT finished off the Kings, accounting for the last 9 of the Cavs 13-0 overtime run. Z has made all four of the threes he's attempted this season.
With both Delonte and Parker playing well, Brown may have to choose between Moon and Boobie. West was 2-5 for 4 points, 4 assists and a steal while AP notched 7 points (also 2-5 FG) to go with 3 boards, 3 assists, a steal and a block. On the flip side, Gibson gave the Cavs just 1 board his 12 minutes and Moon didn't even notch that in his 5. As much as I like Boobie's moxie, I'm think Moon can do more things for them on the court (rebound, defend bigger players). Neither is a strong ball handler and a lineup of Williams-West-Moon-LBJ-Andy is a little bit more versatile than that same group with Gibson subbed for Moon. I'm not sure splitting their time is the right move (especially for Moon, it seems like he needs a regular 20 minute a night stint to be effective).
Big game on Christmas. LeBron vs Kobe. Lakers vs Cavs. Shaq vs irrelevance. It's a big game for everybody. Playing the defending champs in their building is a strong test for the Cavaliers (who, by the way, are 28-6 since starting 0-2). It's also, for me anyways, a big test for Shaq. If he can prove useful against the likes of Gasol and Bynum, then it calm come of my concerns with the big fella. .
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Fake Trade 8c: Cleveland deals the Shaq/Ilgauskas ECs with Jamario Moon (expiring 2011), J.J. Hickson (ditto) and Jawad Williams/Darnell Jackson (EC throw-ins) for CP3, Okafor, Peja, Peterson and Songaila. That knocks the Hornets well under this year's tax, gets them out of $26.6 million of Peja-Songaila-Peterson in 2011 AND dumps Okafor's monster deal ($70 million through 2014). Sure, it's the biggest salary dump trade of all time. But shouldn't New Orleans do the Grizzlies routine for a year or two (super-low payroll, rebuild through the draft) over losing $25-30 million a year to be a fringe contender these next three years? And if you're Cleveland, don't you have to take a risk like this to keep LeBron?
Here, look. We built you a super-team: Okafor, Chris Paul, Mo Williams, you and Varejao, with Delonte West, Anthony Parker and February Buyout Big Man X coming off the bench. We can win four straight titles with this team. CP3 makes your life easier. Stay here. Just stay.
As simply a basketball fan, there are two players that I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see LeBron play with: Chris Paul or Dwight Howard. That's my list. Sure, Chris Bosh would be nice and maybe LeBron and D.Wade would be spectacular but neither excites me like the possibility of seeing Chris Paul or Howard with LeBron. 1-3 pick-and-roll with CP3 and LBJ... how do you guard that? Lord knows how many easy baskets LeBron would get per game with Paul running the show (plus, having Paul run the offense means that we'd see a lot less Le-Iso).
As for Simmons's trade... obviously, I'd love it (starting 5 of CP3-AP-LBJ-Varejao-Okafor with Delonte, Mo, Peja, Varejao and Powe off the bench. Imagine going small with Paul-Mo-West-LBJ-Varejao. Yikes!). If you can get Chris Paul without completely fucking over your team, you do it (even if it does fuck up your team, I'd still consider it). Teaming LeBron with a player of Paul's caliber and stature is probably the best move the Cavs could make to entice LeBron to reup (cause unless he signs with Miami or decides to take less money(HA!), odds are LeBron won't be teamming up with another Top 10 player).
For what it's worth, Simmons has another fake Cavalier deal:
VP's Verdict: I'd clean house. What would Cleveland say if Washington offered them Jamison, Butler and Brendan Haywood for Shaq's expiring contract and J.J. Hickson? What would Miami say if Washington offered them the same trade for Jermaine O'Neal and a 2010 No. 1? My favorite of the possibles …
Fake Trade 9 (three-way): Wizards get Carlos Boozer and Shaq; Utah gets Butler and Mike James' EC; Cavs get Jamison, Haywood and Kyle Korver's EC. Utah drops close to the tax line. Cleveland upgrades two positions for nothing. And Washington remains competitive this season and gets to start over financially next summer. Just enough to string fans along in case The Chalk Outline rises from the sidewalk.
Now, I'd do that first trade in a heartbeat. I love me some J.J. Hickson but Jamison, Butler and Haywood would more or less fill all of the Cavaliers' current holes. Butler starts at the 2 (perfect), Jamison plays the stretch 4 (not quite perfect, but really good) and your big man rotation is Z, Varejao, Haywood and Powe come playoff time. Not bad at all.
These fake deals are all predicated on the idea that the Cavs are ready and willing to part with Shaq and/or Ilgauskas. I don't believe that's very likely, at least at this moment of the season.
However, give Simmons some credit; in both of his deals he has the Cavs receiving some big men in return (Okafor/Songaila or Jamison/Haywood). If the Cavs were to trade Shaquille or Zydrunas they'd have to get some bigs in return (they backed out of a Stephen Jackson deal because they couldn't get Ronny Turiaf). The Cavs picked up Shaq solely for the purpose of guarding Dwight Howard, there's no point in upgrading the shooting guard position if they means still can't matchup with Howard (and Gasol/Bynum).
Asides from the February 19th trade deadline, the three most important dates for the Cavaliers are Christmas (Cavs @ Lakers), January 21st (Lakers @ Cavs) and February 11th (Magic @ Cavs). If Shaq and the Cavs can hold their own against the bigs from Los Angeles and Orlando, then they'll be more likely to either stand pat or go for a periphery, plug-the-holes type deal (Troy Murphy, Jamison, etc). But if they get stomped or if Shaq is ineffective at both ends...
Look, Simmons's ideas are obviously pie-in-the-sky, best case scenarios (Chris Paul!) but I believe that these are the type of deals that Danny Ferry has to, if not directly purse, at least entertain. I firmly believe that the Cavs have to be willing to cut the cord and trade Shaq should the need arise.
They have roughly $30 million in the expiring contracts of Shaq ($21 million) and Ilgauskas ($11 million) that they can't afford to sit on (especially during LeBron's walk year). They owe it to themselves to explore every available option (unlike Randy Lerner) and that includes parting with Shaq and/or Z. I know they got Shaq for the playoff run but that doesn't (or shouldn't) mean he's untouchable.
This could be LeBron's last season in Cleveland, you gotta explore all of your options.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
LeBron looked focused. James came out like man possessed, scoring 12 point the first quarter (with only two points coming outside the key) and setting the tone for the entire evening. It was nice to see him posting up early in the game, though I'll get excited when he does it on a regular basis, not just during the first quarter following a rough stretch. LeBron finished with 29 points, 6 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals. He shot the ball well, going 11-21 from the floor, taking just three treys (making one, a late dagger) and he made all six of his free throws. Also, he absolutely owns Jason Richardson, at this point it's almost mean (he bounced a pass to Varejao between J-Rich's legs for an easy dunk).
There were long stretches of James at the 4. It probably had more to do with the matchup agains the Suns rather than the Cavs own philosphy but regardless, it was nice to see. With 9 minutes to go, LeBron subbed in for Z and the Cavs had a 86-82 lead and a lineup of Mo-Boobie-West-LeBron-Varejao. Six minutes and one substituion later (Anthony Parker for Gibson) the Cavs led 105-86 and the game was over. Sure, the Suns are a small team that runs, so the Cavs were allowed to get away with a three-guard lineup, but Mo-Delonte-Moon-LBJ-Varejao wouldn't work against most teams?
They didn't get a lot from Shaq. 3 points (1-2 FG, 1-2 FT), 5 boards and 3 turnovers. Yikes. To be fair, playing the run-and-gun Suns, on the second night of a back-to-back, isn't exactly playing to his strengths. On the other hand, the Cavs just played two tough Western Conference opponents and Shaq had two field goals total. It's becoming more and more apparent that they're better with Shaq on the bench. I don't disagree that they'll need him for Dwight Howard and the Lakers (should they meet in the playoffs) but against most NBA teams, Shaq is a 'luxury' that the Cavs don't know how to use.
A lot of Cavaliers did a lot of things. Mo Williams played great, scoring 24 points to go with 6 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals and a block (with just one turnover). Mo's passing has been off the charts, he's really throwing the ball well from the top of the key, routinely hitting cutters (Hickson, Varejao and yes, LBJ) on slip screens for easy dunks (something Phoenix had no real answer four. But that's the price you pay for playing Channing Frye at center). Delonte had another stat stuffing night, going for 12 points (5-7 FG), 3 boards, 6 assists, 3 steals, a block and a couple of those "god damn, I love Delonte" plays (he took the ball to the rim strong and abused Nash on the low block). Anthony Parker also played well, giving them 7-5-3 and looking much more comfortable in the offense (he wasn't just spotting up). Hell, even J.J. Hickson gave 'em 10 points and 6 boards (2 offensive).
Anderson Varejao is playing superb basketball at the moment. Varejao's final line of 13-4-1 isn't overly impressive, but the way he and LeBron played together down the stretch was a delight to watch. Varejao made himself available by diving towards the rim and the Cavs rewarded him by setting himup for easy dunks (like the one through Richarson's legs). Andy was his usual annoying self on defense, drawing offensive fouls, pissing off Amare Stoudemire and drawing a tech.
Gotta love the defense. The Cavs forced 18 turnovers, held the Suns to 16 in the final period and outscored the Suns 17-4 on fast break points. The Suns were under 100 points for the first tiem in 36 games and the Suns lost at home for the first time in 19 games (they're now 10-1 on the season). Both Delonte and Mo did a decent job on Nash (18 points, 10 assists 0-3 3pt) and the Cavs stayed home on Phoenix's shooters, not letting them get good looks (the Suns were just 4-19 from behind the arc).
I dunno about you, but I feel better. I was not a happy camper after the Dallas loss. That should not have happened. But becomming the first team to beat the Suns at home all season? Me gusta. The key is going to be how much do the Cavs take away from this game. Will they play LeBron more at the 4? Will they continue to run the offense against a team that actually plays defense? Will James go to the post (the actual low block) on a regular basis? We shall see. They haven't played the best ball this year, but they are 21-6 in their last 27. That ain't too bad, no?
Monday, December 21, 2009
All snark aside, I like the hiring of Mike Holmgren. He's the most credible football guy the Browns have had since their return.
That being said, the rumor of a Christmas deadline coupled with the 10 year, $50 million deal just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Can you really blame me for being apprehensive when part of the reason he chose the Browns was because they offered complete control. I mean, can you really say with a straight face that they explored all of their options? That they left no stone unturned? I didn't think so.
Eric Mangini days have to be numbered. Yes, they've made a nice showing these past two games but they beat two bad teams. At the end of the day, they're still 3-11. Maybe he can convince Holmgren to let him stay on, but I doubt it. As Bud Shaw says:
He turned down Seattle, in part because he wouldn't have complete power. He'll get that here and he shouldn't be shy about exercising it solely because of late-season momentum.If nothing else, it looks like the Browns at least have a plan, a sense of direction. That's gotta count for something, no?
The offense had their usual rough patches. The Cavs scored just 3 points over the first 5 minutes in the third (allowing a 52-50 halftime deficit to balloon to 63-53) and while it wasn't Le-Iso, it wasn't pretty. The Cavs decided to feed Shaquille and the big fella did not respond; Shaq was 0-4 to star the second half and finished just 1-7 for the game. The offense also died during a crucial stretch of the fourth. With about seven minutes to go, the Cavs got within 84-83 and then didn't get a field goal for four solid minutes. They went 0-4 (three treys and a Varejao 15 footer) and Mavs went on a 9-2 run to seal the game.
LeBron was average (for him anyways). James finished with 25 points (9-23 FG, 2-6 3pt), 3 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 block... you know, average. James didn't play poorly but he let the refs affect his game (too much complaining, though he should've shot more than just 7 freebies) and he scored just 2 points in the final period (just 7 in the entire second half). There wasn't a lot of the Le-Iso, but it reared it's head at time (like a falling-out-of-bounds, 19 foot, fade-away from the corner? Um, not a good shot Bron-Bron). LeBron could've simply been tired down the stretch, since he played the entire second half (he played 43 minutes, great way to start the West Coast trip).
Things I know: when your starting point guard out boards your starting fowards, there is a problem. Mo Williams (6) and Delonte West (7) shouldn't combine to outrebound Shaq (8), LeBron (3) and Hickson (1). Hickson has lost what little confidence he had and played just 16 minutes. He's got to give the Cavs more energy; they need his athleticism on both ends and they're not going to win on the road with him giving 'em 4 points and a board. The Mavs killed the Cavs in the pick-and-roll (unless you're counting LeBron, the Cavs only have one big, Varejao, who can defend in pick-and-roll situations). Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea continually set up easy looks for Shawn Marion, Thomas and Terry through simple pick-and-rolls.
I had some issues with Brown (besides playing LeBron the entire second half). For instance, I have no idea why Shaq came back in during the fourth quarter. The Cavs were making a run in by going small (West-Gibson-Parker-LBJ-Z) and with the score 84-81, Brown decides to sub in Shaq (who was 1-7 and looking every bit of his 37 years). The Cavs made one basket over the next 3 minutes with Shaq failing to notch a point or a board (Eric Dampier defended Shaq well back when O'Neal was young and good, why keep forcing it?).
If it wasn't for Delonte West, the game could've been ugly. With James chucking 9-23, Shaq going 1-7 and Mo missing all three of his treys (and both free throw attemps), the Cavs needed every one of Delonte's 18 points (6-11 FG). West had a great game, scoring 10 of his 18 in the fouth while finishing with 7 boards and 4 assists. I think the reason I like West so much is the fact that Delonte is be the only Cavalier who seemingly isn't afraid to wave off LeBron and make a play himself. Everyone else (players and coaches) look overly apprehensive and defermental to LBJ. West was getting whatever he wanted against Kidd and Terry and routinely attacked the rim (it's not like Dallas has a lot of punishing bigs in Tim Thomas, Eric Dampier and Drew Gooden).
Varejao continued his strong play. Andy was the only Cavalier with a positive +/-, finishing with a robust +1 in 34 minutes of court time. He scored 13 points and grabbed 8 boards (4 offensive). While I didn't care for his late 15 foot jumper, Andy didn't hesitate when LeBron passed him the ball around the foul line (he was open), so I guess that counts for something.
Oh goodie, Phoenix. The Cavs get to face the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back (after LeBron went 43 minutes in the first night). The Dallas game may have been their best chance at a win on this entire trip (especially with the Mavs missing Dirk). The Suns haven't lost at home all year (10-0), the Kings are tough in their building (10-3) and the Lakers are the Lakers. They needed this Dallas game (which is probably why LeBron played those 43 minutes).
Sunday, December 20, 2009
It's sounding more and more as if Mike Holmgren will accept the Browns' job because of the option to coach the team in addition to being its chief executive.
Holmgren turned down an offer from his beloved Seattle Seahawks to be president of the team, according to the Seattle Times.
Holmgren's abrupt change of heart stunned media and fans in Seattle. As late as Friday afternoon, Holmgren talked on his radio show of wanting to return to the Seahawks.
Holmgren also pointed out the attractions in Cleveland were the absence of "layers" of management between him and owner Randy Lerner, and also the option to do "any and all" of the jobs of president, GM and coach.
God dammit. GM and coach? Seriously? Is Randy Lerner really going to go down this road?
I've loved, absolutely loved, the idea of bringing Holmgren as their "Football Czar." Here's a guy who's been a part of successful organizations and has been to (and won) the Super Bowl. Yes, bring in that guy.
But GM and coach? Didn't we all decide that Eric Mangini was doing too much and that it's extremely hard to handle both jobs? So now they're gonna throw a ton of money (Randy Lerner's specialty) at Mike Holmgren let him do both jobs? Brilliant.
Nevermind the NFL conventional wisdom, Holmgren's own history says that he can't do both. From 98-02, Holmgren was both GM and coach of the Seahawks and their record was 31-33. As just the coach (02-08) he went 55-41 (51-29 before his final season).
It's seems like the Browns are taking one step forward (hiring Mike Holmgren) and two steps back (letting him do whatever he wants). Now, the Browns haven't gone anywhere near 31-33 in quite some time, so I guess even Holmgren's worst is a step up, but this just seems dumb.
I'm all for hiring the Walrus but only for one job, not two (or three).
Saturday, December 19, 2009
gregg (cleveland, oh) john, i agree ferry built this team with interchangeable personnel that can be mixed and matched based on opponent. my question: is mike brown up to the task of actually executing those changes? based on his static rotations early in the season, my guess is no. i think such a rotation is a little too outside-the-box for himThey rarely practice with LeBron at 4? Of course not. Makes sense. Much better to have your best player receive the ball 25 feet from the rim every possession.
John Hollinger (3:51 PM) I was a little surprised when I went to Cleveland a couple weeks ago and he said they rarely practiced with LeBron at 4; obviously that precludes them using such a lineup more often. That said, I think Brown has done a lot more mixing and matching of personnel the past couple of years than you give him credit for; I've noticed Cavs fans tend to think since they have the best player in the world any loss must be Mike Brown's fault, but that's not how it works.
The last half of the fourth was not fun. With 6:33 to go, the Cavs built their lead up to 83-68 with a combination of good defense and Delonte West kicking ass. West had 7 points in the first half of the fourth (posting up smaller guards! attacking the rim!) and the Cavs looked on their way to an easy victory. But they had just 2 points for the rest of the game and, you're not gonna believe this, but the offense broke down- they went 1-9 from the floor (a LeBron jumper witha little under 5 min to go) and took zero (!!) free throw attempts. But there were terrible post ups (when you're 'on the block' you're not supposed to be 22 feet from the hoop), bad passes (behind the back, really?) and just terrible, terrible jumpers (seven of their final nine shots were jump shots). The Bucks had a chance to tie the game at the end but Brandon Jennings missed a trey (good D by Mo, give him credit) and Varejao chucked the ball down court as time expired.
Somehow LeBron didn't get a triple double (he entered the fourth quarter with 22-9-8). James finished with 26 points, 10 boards, 8 assists, 3 blocks and 6(!) turnovers. I don't know if he doesn't trust his teammates, his coaches (is he trying to get Mike Brown fired?) or just thinks he has to act like Kobe down the stretch (stop watching ESPN!) but this is becoming a major issue. My favorite part of LeBron's game is his unselfishness and that he'll make the correct pass (even to Donyell Marshall); watching him go 1-on-5 when it's not needed is extremely frustrating.
ESPN found a neat stat to hammer home. Apparently, when James is paired with Shaq they have a +/- of +5 and while paired with Z it's a +125. Interesting... kinda. A lot of this is based on the fact that LeBron and Z not only have chemistry but Z spaces the floor and can knock down jumpers. Shaq had a decent night, going 4-6, scoring 9 points and getting Andrew Bogut into foul trouble (which probably won them the game, as Bogut only played 17 minutes). As for Z, he had 6 points, 5 boards and 2 assists (both to West) and was +11 in just 16 minutes of court time (Shaq was -7).
Brandon Jenning had an off night (though the Cleveland defense was good). Jennings was just 5-21 from the floor (1-8 3pt, 7-7 FT) and finished with 18 points, 8 assists and 4 boards. The Cavs were content to let the Bucks hoist treys and hoist them they did; Milwaukee shot 26 threes and made just 7. Hubie Brown seemed to think that a lot of these were good looks but it looked to me like the Bucks weren't comfortable shooting most of the time. The Cavs defense was solid throughout the night (even at the end, it was the offense that let them down) and the fact that Jenning didn't kill 'em (they have trouble with quick guards) is a good sign.
For the most part, I liked what they got from the bench. Delonte had another strong showing, notching 12 points, 4 boards, 2 assists, a steal and a block. He attacked the rim, posted up the smaller Jennings (I love him on the block) and played his usual fantastic defense. Anderon Varejao was great; he had 6 points and 7 boards (including late offensive rebound that allowed the Cavs to run off more time) and gave the Cavs his usual energy and hustle. Jamario Moon and Boobie Gibson each only scored 2 points but only one had a bad game. I love Moon's defense (he harrassed Michael Redd) and the way he runs the floor (though I'm worried that he keeps getting fouled mid-air). Meanwhile, Boobie shot 1-5, messed up a fast break by dribbling too much and gave them a line of 2 points, 1 assist and 1 foul in 13 minutes.
They all count the same in the end. Yes, the Cavs played poorly down the stretch but they've won four in a row and their 20 wins ties them for tops in the NBA (they're behind 2 games in the loss column to Boston and 3 to the Lakers). This is good. I keep reminding myself of the adage that when there are two prospects with the same 40 time and one has perfect form while the other's is terrible, you pick the one with the bad form (becuase you can fix it). Right now the Cavs have terrible form. They're winning and keeping a good pace but they aren't playing particularly well. They have a ways to go and this West Coast trip is going to be interesting to say the least.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tracy McGrady is likely going to end up getting traded at some time in the next seven months -- maybe in a sign-and-trade deal after he becomes a free agent July 1, maybe at the trade deadline in mid-February, or maybe even sooner.Would I trade for Tracy McGrady? Hell no. He's injury prone, moody, used to being The Man (a volume shooter) and has a crazy contract ($22 million). Trading for McGrady would require the Cavs to give up at least Z and Delonte and lord knows what else. No thanks. He's not worth the effort.
One source said teams including Portland, Miami and Cleveland were hoping that McGrady's tenure in Houston would end with a buyout, and he would be free to sign with the team of his choice provided he cleared waivers by March 1.
But that source said the Rockets are not at all inclined to go down that road, and a second source insisted that too much should not be read into McGrady's comeback Tuesday night when he logged 7 minutes against the Pistons, saying it was the next logical step in McGrady' comeback from microfracture surgery, and will help establish how much trade value McGrady has heading into the peak of the trading season. One source also cautioned that Rockets owner Les Alexander's fondness for McGrady is a potential complicating factor in any proposed deal, and third source cautioned that there could be gray-area rules complications in trading Mobley, a quasi-retired injured player.
But picking him as a free agent? I'm down. Of course, McGrady has only been back for two games and no one is really sure how effective he can be... but ya gotta think if he's healthy and motivated that he could play the two next to LeBron. He could help defend bigger guards and small forwards, he could handle the scoring load (maybe?) and he wouldn't cost the Cavs a thing to acquire.
I'm sure there better options (Antwan Jamison? David West?) but McGrady definitely intrigues me.
I like that the Cavs' most effective lineup is also one of their least used. Well done, rarely using the starting five that won 66 games, the lineup that just happened to be their most effective offensive and defensive unit (to be fair, Delonte's, um Delonteness, is hampering their ability to do it at times).
Just throwing it out there, but since Shaq keeps saying that Z isn't his backup, that they're "co-centers," does that mean if Mike Brown ever decided to start Z over Shaq (just humor me, he'd never do this), Shaq would be cool coming off the bench?
Yes, Shaq is the future Hall of Famer and the guy who won all the rings but that doesn't mean he has to start for this team at this time. Z spaces the floor better, the offense runs smoother and he can get those offensive tip ins. Hell, having Shaq play with a second unit full of shooters (Boobie, Mo, Moon, etc) isn't necessarily a bad thing either (he'd be going against back-up centers).
I just don't see the point of going away from what worked so well in the past.
I had the game on during my drive home from work and Joe Tait called at least two 'dribble around, chuck up a three" plays. Is there any other elite team (and yes, I consider the Cavs an elite team) that gives away as many possessions as the Cavs do? I'm not even counting turnovers, just plays where the offensive sets never develop (for whatever reason) and the Cavs are forced to throw up a bad shot with the shot clock running down. This happens four or five times a game.
In Brian Windhorst's recap, he makes much the same point:
At the center of the conundrum, as usual, is James.
Simply put, he had another special night. When it was over, he had 36 points -- 13 of them in the fourth quarter -- as he lifted the Cavs to the win. He had six rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
It seems impossible to find much fault in that.
Except in the second half, when he stopped the ball so many times on offense.
During the fourth quarter, he killed ball movement and made it easy for the Sixers (6-19) to guard him. He missed six shots and the Cavs only had three assists in the fourth quarter because James often wouldn't allow things to move.
Then there were his two huge 3-pointers, including one off a steal that was a turning point. Plus he delivered two clutch assists on perfect pick-and-roll plays with Mo Williams that pretty much buried the Sixers. Can he be faulted for succeeding but not succeeding enough?
That's where the entire team is right now.
"That's a tough one," Brown said.
"When you win games and you have success a lot of times it can be fool's gold because the tougher teams are able to load up and play him and us a little bit better.
But he's shown time and time again that he's capable and he's our guy in the fourth quarter.
So as long as we're defending, I'm going to live what he brings to the table for us."
Having the LeBron-on-five offense win a game against Philadelphia or New Jersey can work out because those teams stink. Though it's not going to cut it against a good team and certainly not against one in a seven game series. This is a major major concern for me.
The Cavs are 19-7. This is good. They're currently 4th in the East (one loss behind both Orlando and Atlanta) and you know they'll be better in May than they are in December.
I'm absolutely terrified of this Laker game on Christmas. I really don't want to spend Christmas day watching James chuck up bad jumpers against the Lakers while every analyst on TV laments that the Cavs don't surround him with better talent and let LeBron be a finisher.
Mike Brown has his work cut out for him.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The Cavs centers played well... kinda. Again, Brook Lopez had 20 points and 10 boards in the first half (he drew a ton of fouls on Shaq and Varejao) but O'Neal and Ilgauskas both finished with 16 points and 5 boards (both were 7-9 from the floor too). Varejao played just 19 minutes due to foul trouble, so that meant Darnell Jackson got some playing time (he actually got more time than J.J. Hickson) and gave the Cavs 1 board in 13 minutes.
LeBron had an average (for him) night. James went 9-19 (1-5 from downtown), scored 23 points to go along with 6 boards, 7 assists and a whopping 6 turnovers. The Cavs simply weren't focused. My favorite from LeBron was when he got in Devin Harris's face after his flagrant foul on Jamario Moon (all set up by a Shaq steal).
The Nets scored fairly easily. Well, certain Nets. Devin Harris had 22, the aforementioned Lopez had 22 and Rafer Alston poured in 20 off the bench. Hmm... two quick point guards and a center had their way. Not exactly encouraging news (I don't know if Williams is worse defensively or what but they're having problems defending quick point guards). Yes, as a team the Cavs held New Jersey to 39% shooting but that doesn't mean a whole lot when you allow them to grab 15 offensive boards (to Cleveland's 8). Those offensive boards (particularly Josh Boone's 3) were a main reason why Hickson didn't get off the pine, but it wasn't like he was the only one screwing up (Lopez had 5, Trenton Hassell (!) had 4 and even Eduardo Najera pitched in 2).
No Delonte but Boobie returned. West was out due to being Delonte West and Daniel Gibson came back and continued his solid shooting. Gibson scored 8 points on 2-5 shooting and got himself to the stripe four times (making all of 'em). He only shot one trey (missed it) but I liked the energy he gave the Cavs off the bench. I'm still not enamored with his game but he's effective out there, hitting pull-ups off the dribble and using his outside threat to drive and get to the line.
In Philly tonight. The Cavs face the Sixers and then are back in Cleveland to face the Bucks before they head out on their West Coast Christmas trip. You'd like if both of these games end up in the win column but the Cavs are eventually going to give away a game or two by playing like this (turning their intensity on and off).
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
With 2010 (finally) fast approaching, Chad Ford got me thinking about Mike Brown and his impact on LeBron's future plans:
Jesse (Detroit) Chad, how much do think players take a teams GM into account when looking at free agent destination? Does the fact that the Cavs have done a pretty awful job with putting talent around LeBron weigh more heavily than the fact that Cleveland is a small market?
Chad Ford (1:17 PM) Guys like LeBron want to win. So I would expand that to front office: owner, GM, coach. They matter. If either or all of those three have a history of blundering ... why join the team. I think that's why so many are pessimistic about Bron joining the Clips. On paper, they have a lot of young talent to surround him with. However, their track record is awful. I think it's why the Heat, Knicks and (maybe) the Nets (new owner, new coach) could make the steal. Cavs owner has been solid. GM has been shakier.
If anyone in the front office worries me, it's Mike Brown, not Ferry (and certainly not Dan Giblert and co). The Cavs have been, let's say unfocused, for much of this season. They routinely take off entire halves (Memphis) and sometimes entire games (like Chicago and Houston). Plus, I'm not sure how much control Brown has over LeBron at this point (you don't think he draws up "dribble for 20 seconds and chuck up a contested 20 footer" three times in a row, do you?).
Brown is a large reason why the SBNation deemed the Cavs unwatchable:
How much of that can you really disagree with (besides the Mo Williams hate. Who can hate Mo Williams)? Of course the Cavs should run more and take advantage of their athleticism (I really want to see a West-Moon-LBJ-Hickson-Andy lineup), LeBron routinely abandons the play call to go 1-on-5 and the offense bogs down when they try to force feed Shaq (the Memphis game is a prime example). Those can all be put at Brown's feet.
IT'S CRIMINAL THAT THIS TEAM ISN'T MORE FUN TO WATCH
The Cavs are one of the league's best teams. They boast the best player in the league and the most recognizable star of the last decade (I'm talking about Shaq). So why so low for Cleveland?
- They don't ever run. The Cavs have the most unstoppable fast-break force in the NBA (maybe in league history), and they are 26th in the league in fast break points. I didn't tune in to watch LeBron James walk the ball up the court.
- James himself. Look, I'm a Wizards fan, so I hate the guy somewhat irrationally. But I don't think it's particularly fun to watch LeBron whine and whine to the officials. Part of it isn't his fault - his face naturally looks Hulk-ish when he scowls - but you'd wish a star like him could display more tact when bitching to the refs. It's also not fun to watch him completely abandon the offense to go one-on-five and shoot a 20-foot jump shot.
- Shaq. Shaq may still be effective in spurts, but he kills any offensive flow you try to get. It's not all that fun anymore to watch him back his ample posterior into people to try to score.
- The offense. If you are like most basketball fans and like ball movement and continuity, you won't like the Cavs offense.
- Mo Williams. He's just nauseating. I can't explain it. His ugly floaters bother me. His fake confidence bugs me. His "playmaking" bugs me. His headband bugs me. He's like that guy in a pickup game that shows up with short shorts and a headband and claims he can do everything, but really only shoots threes.
On the bright side, watching Mike Brown pretend to coach can be kind of amusing. So there's that.
I worry that Brown no longer commands the Cavalier players' attention (especially after the Orlando series). The offensive breakdowns were more understandable when Brown's starting guards were Eric Snow and Larry Hughes. However, this is year five of Coach Mike's tenure and these same problems keep popping up. If the the Cavs fail to win the title this season, it doesn't necessarily means LeBron is out the door, but I do think it would be the end for Brown.
For what it's worth, Ford has LeBron ending up in Miami though he does float what's sure to be ESPN's new dream scenario (the Nets/Russian Billionaire/Jay-Z landing the top pick, selecting John Wall and luring LeBron- remember, the Knicks don't have their pick this season). Unless James and Wade really want to play together (would LeBron really go to Wade's kingdom? Seems odd to me), I think the poor economy will (ironically) keep James in Cleveland, as it will hamper teams' ability to sign multiple stud players. Or maybe I'm just trying to find that silver lining.
For instance, he is so smart that he got you to buy a stake in a franchise that could very well be LeBron-less in 8 months? That $476 million franchise could take quite a hit pretty soon.
By the end of the year, Huang will likely finish another deal, completing the purchase of a 15 percent stake in the Cavs, representing the first major investment by the Chinese in American pro sports. That ownership deal, signed in May during the Eastern Conference Finals, will sell former Cavs Vice Chairman David Katzman's 15 percent to a group led by Huang.The NBA Board of Governors is expected to approve the purchase soon. Though no figures have been disclosed, Katzman's stake was worth around $56 million when he partnered with Dan Gilbert to buy the Cavs in 2005. Based on the team's current estimated value, which is $476 million according to Forbes magazine, the share could now be worth as much as $70 million."[Gilbert] is a very smart guy, I like smart businessmen," Huang said in his first American interview since forming the agreement to purchase a stake in the Cavs. "I think we'll be good partners.
Huang has big plans for LeBron and the Cavs:
Huang said interest in the Cavs has exploded in China and they have surpassed the Houston Rockets, who have Chinese national hero Yao Ming, in popularity. The Cavs are second to only the Los Angeles Lakers in overall profile. This year there will be 34 games broadcast on Chinese television and there are Chinese media members based in Cleveland who cover the team.
Tsingtao is buying into that, spending to appeal to Chinese fans watching the games in addition to the American fans. For the last month there has been a Tsingtao billboard on one of the basket standards at The Q and fans will notice more signage soon. The beer is being sold at the arena.
"There's going to be more similar-sized deals to come," said Huang, whose has also arranged sponsor deals with the Rockets and New York Yankees in the past.
"This is a very small piece of all the business activities going on China right now and investment in foreign teams are part of the many possibilities that are happening. It isn't a must-do deal, but it is a trend of businesses investing outside of China."
Perhaps soon, if things fall into place as Huang believes, they'll be investing in James as well. At least in China's eyes, James could have more fans playing in Cleveland with a high-profile team, than about anywhere else.
"He can be a superstar in China with the Cavs," Huang said. "He's got the potential to have more Chinese fans and become more popular in China."
Why is that exactly? Any team that LeBron James suits up for will be "high-profile". It doesn't matter if it's in Cleveland, New York City or Sacramento.
Now, I don't want to dismiss this new ownership group. I'm sure having a foothold in China could really benefit both the Cavs and LeBron. If James wants to be a 'global icon' then having ownership with a base in China would certainly help.
However, it's not like having a Chinese part-owner is the only way for LeBron to expand his brand in the Chinese market. I'm sure Nike could hook him with a few people over there.
Will the new ownership help the Cavs' chances of keeping James? Who knows, but it couldn't hurt. It really all depends on what LeBron wants. If he wants the lights of NYC, then the Cavs can't really do all that much. But if he wants to win (in his hometown) with an owner that is willing to go the extra mile (and a part owner that could boost his Chinese profile) then the Cavs are in good shape.
Monday, December 14, 2009
LeBron put on a show (even eating some French Fries from a young fan). Is it weird to anyone else that we watched a Cavalier score 44 points (not to mention 7 boards, 6 assists, 4 steals and a block) and our reaction is simply: 'hey, LeBron had a nice game'. Dear lord, if Price or Daughtery would've dropped 44 in a game (not to mention LBJ's ridiculous box scores), I would've freaked out for a solid week. LeBron makes these types of outbursts seem common. I liked a lot of what we saw from James; for the second game in a row he made a concerted effort to get some points off the low block. Of course, I'd like to see this even more (he almost always scores when he gets himself in good position) but at least it looks like he's starting to realize he can get some easy buckets this way. Now, James also hoisted eight treys but, in his defense, he was feeling it, going 5-8 from downtown (he hit three in a row to end the third and give the Cavs a lead going into the fourth). I just hope they stick with the post work. It's great to see in against the Thunder in December, I wanna see it come June.
Robin showed up. The only other Cavalier to have a decent scoring night was Mo Williams (no other Cavalier had double digits), who scored 22 points (8-18 FG, 4-9 3pt) and hit the biggest (and longest) shot of the night. With 4 minutes to go and the Cavs up 91-87, Williams salvaged a possession (and possibly the game) by swishing a 48 foot heave as the shot clock expired. That three put the Cavs up 7, demoralized the Thunder and their fans and sparked the Cavs on an 8-2 final push. Mo had 11 of his 22 in the final quarter.
Live by the three... As a team, the Cavs shot 11-22 from downtown with LeBron going 5-8 and Mo making 4-9. Now, much of the Cavs comeback was fueled by their defense (the Thunder followed a 54 point first half with 35 points in the second) but 8 of the Cavs' 11 threes were made after halftime (they shot 8-17 from behind the arc in the second half). You aren't going to lose many games where LeBron and Mo combine to go 9-17 from downtown.
But I don't want to discount the defense. Yes, Kevin Durant scored 29 points (poor Anthony Parker, KD abused him) but not a one came in the final period. After scoring 12 points in the third, LeBron and Jamario Moon (who had a nice 9-4 off the bench) held Durant scoreless down the stretch. Until Nenad Krstic's putback with 30 second left, the Thunder hadn't scored since there were over seven minutes to go (not just field goals, but no points at all. With 7:15 left, the Cavs led 88-87, they won 102-89). I don't like that the Cavs seem to be drifting and out of their defensive mindset (they sometimes play D for only a half each game) but it's nice to see that, when they want to, they can shut teams/players down.
J.J. Hickson in on a short leash. If you're surprised by this, you haven't been paying attention to Coach Mike. I don't mind it too often (though I thought yanking a minute into the second half against Portland, never to return, was a bit much) but I'd like to see Brown take him aside, tell him what he did wrong and then send him back out. Also, I really like Brown's lineup of Mo/Delonte, Moon, LeBron, Varejao and Z/Shaq, except for the Z/Shaq part. Sub J.J. in for Shaq/Z (let Andy play center) and you have one fast, athletic lineup (especially with Delonte). As is, it's a really quick lineup with a plodding center (and not a lot of shooters when Shaq is the in the middle). With the right mindset from J.J. (which is the issue, really) that could be a very good offensive AND defensive unit.
A couple of easy ones coming up, in theory. Before heading back out West, the Cavs face the Nets (2-22) and Sixers (5-18) on a back-to-back starting Tuesday night in Cleveland. This is one back-to-back where a split is unacceptable.They have to dominate these two bad teams; no halves without playing defense and no 1-on-5 offense. These teams have a combined seven wins, you gotta sweep these two games (especially given the fact that they're about to go to Dallas, Phoenix, Sacramento and Los Angeles).
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Number 16, Joshua Cribbs.
Now there's a jersey that Browns fans can wear proudly.
Cribbs could have played for Paul Brown, for Blanton Collier, for Sam Rutigliano or any other Browns coach. They all would have loved the guy.
He runs back kicks. He runs back punts. He runs out of the Wildcat formation, taking a long snap for center, then sprinting and daring the defense to stop him.
He also covers kicks. And punts. And he would play safety, if they'd let him.
Really? He'd play safety? What the hell are they waiting for? It's sure as hell than lining him up at wideout. I fully believe Cribbs could be an awesome safety in the NFL (just imagine him blitzing!).
Meanwhile, Joe Thomas thinks Cribbs could be a (great) running back:
"There's no doubt," said Thomas, after watching the game film of Cribbs rushing for 87 yards against the Steelers' top-ranked run defense. "I think he's too valuable to take off of kick return and punt return and special teams, but there's no doubt in my mind, especially after seeing the things that he did [Thursday night] that he'd be an extremely successful running back in the NFL.
"The guy's got some unbelievable vision, just watching the game film and seeing him going to his left, step toward the sideline.
"He must have some unbelievable vision because he could see all way back to his right, there was a lane the whole way back, like some of the greatest running backs in the NFL could. He hit a seam and took it for about 20-some yards. He kind of takes the approach it's a punt return. But the vision he's got is amazing."
"Being a jack of all trades, I feel like that's one of my abilities. My position is running back. I was a running back back in the day. The wildcat is me at running back. It's a straight handoff. It's not like we're trying to fool you with the quarterback being in the mix. I'm getting the ball and I'm running it; try to stop me."
That bold part is certainly true. I've been frustrated more than once this season with the lack of imagination from the wildcat formation (really? Cribbs off tackle, ya don't say...).
But if they're gonna get Cribbs touches on offense, I'd rather it come in running plays rather than the passing game. He's an adequate receiver at best. The only pass I like to him is the quick out/quick screen. Let him operate in space, asking him to go run routes isn't his forte (his hands aren't great either).
He really is their entire offense.
(Pay the man)
Things were a bit hairy there in the first half. With Portland missing roughly 50 players and the Cavs coming off two listless losses, I was hoping the Cavs would come out and lay down the hammer. Alas, no dice. Portland got a nice first quarter from Martell Webster (scoring all 13 of his points) and Juwan Howard scored 13 of Portland's first 15 points in the second (personally outscoring the Cavs 13-8). While you couldn't be pleased with them trailing by 10 at halftime, you kinda figured Portland would wear down as the game went on (and hell, before Howard turned back the clock, the Blazers didn't have a point inside the paint).
LeBron came out for the second half on a mission. James scored the Cavs first 9 points of the half (assistsed on points 10 and 11) and changed the demeanor of the Cavaliers (and their crowd). LeBron finished with 33-7-7 and his two-man with Anderson Varejao (who played nearly the entire second half, thanks to Hickson contiually getting schooled by LaMarcus Aldridge) really opened things up inside. James also made the key defensive play of the game. With 24 seconds left and the Cavs holding on to a 99-95 lead, LeBron swatted Brandon Roy's jumper 12 rows deep and seemd to take the air out of the Blazers (however, if I was a Blazer fan, I'd be pissed. ESPN and Hubie Brown seemed to think that the ball was still on it's way up, but I don't think so. It may have not been on it's way down (though I doubt it) but it definitely wasn't still traveling upwards). However, the was a little miscue at the very end, where LeBron and Jamario Moon had a miscommunication on an inbounds (LeBron wasn't looking for the pass, thinking the Cavs were gonna call time out), leading to a Blazer steal and basket (cutting the lead to 101-99).
Shaq played fairly well... before getting hurt. In 23 minutes of court time, the Big Fat Guy had 14 points and 11 boards (3 offensive) before leaving the game after getting scraped across the eye by Joel the Vanillia Gorilla Przybilla (who I really like). With just under seven minutes to go in the third, the Cavs went on a 13-2 run with Shaq scoring 9 points (Varejao had the other 4) and even went 3-3 from the line (including going 2-2 while blind- well done). After hitting his two free throws, Shaq left the game and didn't return (he went to the Cleveland Clinic after the game).
Both Varejao and Mo were close to missing this game with a stomach bug. Varejao played great, scoring 22 points, grabbing 10 boards and harrassing the hell out of LaMarcus Aldridge (who had 22 points but notched a measley 2 boards). Varejao made himself available filling the lane and both LeBron and Williams found him for easy baskets. Mo didn't have his best shooting night (14 points, 5-11 FG, 0-5 3pt) but dished out 10 assists to only 1 turnover.
Make Knick jokes all you want, but I freaking love those blue and orange jerseys. I know the Cavs original colors were wine and gold. That's all fine and dandy. But the reason I love basketball so much is because of those late 80s, early 90s Cavalier teams and these were their jerseys. This may not make sense, but that looked like The Cavs last night. Those were the uniforms I grew up watching. Those were the guys who battled Jordan. If only I could find me a #4 Steve Kerr...
Portland played well despite being undermanned. Aldridge abused J.J. (who did not have good body language on the bench) and Brandon Roy gave them 23-3-6-3 (steals) and former Cav Andre Miller pitched in 23-6-3. I was kinda surprised that Jerryd Bayless only got 8 minutes. The Cavs (re: Mo Williams) have trouble with quick guards and the Blazers could've taken advantage here.
No rest for the weary. The Cavs finished their one-game homestand a perfect 1-0 and head back out on the road to face Kevin Durant and Sonics... Thunder on Sunday evening. The Cavs have five games over their next eight days and they have to criss cross the country to play 'em. They visit Oklahoma City tomorrow, face New Jesery at home on Tuesday, are at Philly on Wednesday, go home for Milwaukee on Friday and then head back out West to Dallas to start a four game, six day road trip. Whew.
Friday, December 11, 2009
That was fun, wasn't it? Seeing the Browns beat the Steelers (ending their playoff hopes) in front of, not only their home fans, but these particular fans. Fans who were tailgating since 4:30 AM, people who sat through freaking 12 degree weather (and a -1 windchill) to come cheer on a 1-11 team (that has, quite frankly, deserved the heaps ridicule directed its way).
The Browns got a division win (it's been quite a bit), didn't embarrass themselves on national television, had more sacks (8) than points allowed (6) and Pittsburgh columnists are writing columns with titles like: Steelers Play Like Losers. It's a good day.
Note to Randy Lerner, Eric Mangini and whoever eventually becomes the football czar: when Josh Cribbs asks to renegotiate his contract, you better damn well do it. Cribbs is the guy responsible for this season's only bright spot (I assume no one is counting the Buffalo game, right?). He's the reason the offense was even in position to score points (Brady was 6-19. Ugh. To his credit, he didn't turn the ball over. So that's a plus). The guy is great, he's underpaid (by NFL standards obviously) and he plays extremely well against Pittsburgh. Pay the man.
Sure, the Browns are still 2-11. There's still a lot of problems (could you please throw the ball into the endzone when you get inside the 10? Just try it. Throw it in there. Quit it with these horizontal passes already) and I don't think Eric Mangini has saved his job just yet. If they go out and lose to a bad Kansas City team next week, he'll have squandered any good will from this win.
But a win is a win is a win. They beat the defending Super Bowl champions. Not only that, we won't have to suffer a Browns loss on Sunday. We get the whole weekend free of Browns misery.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
For what it's worth, I caught the fourth quarter. I was really surprised by their lack of urgency. The Cavs were down 10 with 4 minutes to go and LeBron is resetting the play and bringing it back out with 10 seconds on the shot clock. You're down 10, you don't have the time or luxury to keep resetting the play. Also, it's tough to make a late comeback when you can't hit your free throws.
From what I've seen around the web, this was not their best effort. Which is too bad, especially coming off the loss to Memphis (though it's not too surprising given that it was a OT loss).
Tough loss and I'll (hopefully) watch it tomorrow (I apparently enjoy suffering) but I don't want to get too down on the Cavs (but again, I haven't seen 3/4ths of this game). At the end of the day this was just a rough loss on the road in December. It's still early. If there's any issue is the fact that they still haven't really gotten used to Shaq and that Mo Williams has a real problem guarding quick guards (as we've seen these past two games). I'm OK with Shaq on this team but the Cavs are going to need to figure this out soon- the trade deadline is two months away. If Shaq isn't working come mid-February, Danny Ferry is going to have to think long and hard about just cutting his losses. (Of course, it's early December, there's a ton of time left).
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
But the second half... ugh. The Cavs had an 11 point lead (59-48) going into the third quarter but acted like they were up 25. The effort just wasn't there; the Cavs threw the ball away, played poor defense (in both the halfcourt and transition) and all offensive flow ground to a halt. The Cavs had trouble with Rudy Gay (he's too big for Delonte, like Turkoglu), Zach Randolph (too skilled for Hickson) and Mike Conley (he gave Mo fits with his speed). The Grizzlies executed down the stretch (running plays for Randolph, Mayo and Conley) while the Cavs settled for jumpers.
The weird thing is, the Cavs shouldn't have even been in this game at the end. I'm not sure there are words to describe the offense. If you like five guys standing around until someone hoists a terrible three, then you were in heaven. The only reason the Cavs even got the game into overtime was because LeBron and Mo knocked down a couple of those "no no no no no no YES!" threes. I don't get it, this is year 5 of Mike Brown's tenure and the offense always reverts to this garbage anytime the Cavs are in a close game. Whether it's Brown having no offensive clue, LeBron going off script and doing his own thing or some combination of the two, I dunno (some call it "LeBron not trusting the play"). But there's no reason why this team should still be having this problem.
Frustrating game. The Cavs had some issues throwing entry passes to both LeBron and Shaq, resulting in at least 4 turnovers. LeBron didn't help matters by "posting up" 20 feet from the rim (he consistently allows himself to get pushed off the block). The Cavs kept going under the Grizzly screens, allowing two huge buckets (Mayo's go-ahead trey and Conley's game winning layup). Also, if you're going to go to the LeIso, could you at least put Boobie in the game? Gibson scored 13 point, shot 3-3 from downtown (5-7 FG overall) and yet played only 16 minutes (and didn't sniff overtime until the very end). The Cavs shot the same number (24) of free throws as they did three pointers. Not good.
LeBron had some pretty numbers but others weren't so nice. LeBron had an eye-popping 43 points to go with 13 boards and 6 assists. Nice. However, LeBron took some terrible, terrible threes (4-11 3pt FG) and had 5 turnovers. Not nice. I found it fitting that his final shot was an off-balance 25 footer as time expired (he scored all 9 Cavalier points in the extra period). LeBron went a little too much into Hero Mode (he had a little feud with Rudy Gay) and the Cavs got out of their rhythm. I don't like how the offense looks when LeBron dominates the ball so much; I'm way to tired to look up the Cavs' record when LeBron scores 40 or more but I'm can't imagine it's over .500.
Some guys played well, others notsomuch. Mo Williams had 20-8-5 but got schooled on the pick-and-roll with Conley (if I'm playing the Cavs, I put Mo and Shaq in the pick-and-roll all game). Shaq had a decent game with 16 points and Boobie scored 13 (though just 3 after the first quarter). Anderson Varejao had an OK game before fouling out (5 points, 6 boards) but J.J. Hickson looked spooked after getting schooled by the post moves of Zach Randolph.
Memphis looks like they have the makings on a nice young team. Every one of the Grizzlies' starting five had double digits: Randolph had 32 (10-19 FG, 11-11 FT), Mayo had 28, Gay had 21 (finishing 9-22 after a horrendous 2-9 start) while Conley and Marc Gasol had 12 and 11, respectively. That's a decent five right there. However, they got squat from their bench; the Grizzly bench had 7 people between them and no one made more than one basket. Hasheem Thabeet does not look comfortable out there, it looks like he has stone hands (though the game is probably just moving too fast for him at this point).
Not the way you want to spend the first night of a back-to-back. The Cavs face Houston on Wednesday night and if they're tired, they have only themselves to blame. The Cavs had a 10 point halftime lead and acted like this game was over (yes, Memphis was demoralized early on but the Cavs never went for the kill). Not gonna lie, Brown's performance worries me (for some reason he had Shaq in for big offensive plays and for some reason Memphis didn't foul him) and I hope he can get these guys prepared to face the Rockets.
Monday, December 07, 2009
This was a bloodbath. The Cavs spotted the Bucks and 11-0 lead... and then led 39-17. The Cavs scored 29 straight points with Delonte going for 14 straight to start the second quarter. LeBron was certainly enjoying Delonte's run from the bench, hopping up and yelling every time West scored another bucket (man, he sure looks like he can't wait to leave, eh Simmons?).
I'm more than okay with James hamming it up on the bench (most of the time). Think about that- he's on the bench when this is happening. It's not like he's kneeing someone in the balls and then staring him down (for instance). He's not hitting garbage time buckets and preening around. He's celebrating the good play of his teammates (you know, the ones everyone calls "The LeBrons), this is a bad thing? Stop having fun!
And as far as I'm concerned, they're allowed to ham it up if the Bucks did this:
The Bucks played Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" as James and the Cavaliers were introduced, an apparent jab at the franchise because James can opt out of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.Seriously Milwaukee, what the hell are you thinking? Do you want LeBron to leave the Cavs? You're cool with stars to leaving their mid-market (winning) teams to bolt for the bright lights? Really? What about Brandon Jennings? You think he might want a bigger market to showcase his talents? Hell, Cleveland gave your city C.C. Sabathia, allowing Brewers fans to experience postseason baseball for the first time this decade, this is how you repay us?
Poor form, Milwaukee, poor form.
Friday, December 04, 2009
32. ClevelandHe's not totally wrong (hasn't been a good stretch for Cleveland sports)... but I'm not as down on Shaq as he seems to be. Right now the Cavs are 13-5 and last season they were 15-3... everything is OK. I'm pretty sure this team has a higher ceiling. (For what it's worth, I'm enjoying Simmons' book and I'm almost finished. I'll post a full review when I'm done. He has some nice shout outs to the 90s Cavs).
First, the Cavs choke in the 2009 playoffs. Second, the best two starters on the 2008 Indians start Game 1 of the 2009 World Series for two teams not named "Cleveland." Third, the Browns clean house and hire Eric Mangini, who takes that same house and sets it on fire with a flame thrower. Fourth, what could end up being LeBron's final Cavs season is distinguished early by Shaq looking like a bald Aretha Franklin and LeBron's body language occasionally lapsing into "I can't wait to find a new team; I am tired of playing with crap teammates" mode. And fifth, there are two nights of star-studded concerts to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- located in Cleveland, as you know -- and those concerts happen at Madison Square Garden.
Here's my question, God: What did Cleveland do to you?
I guess there's one (kinda/sorta/not really) bright spot:
The year-old New York City annex to Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will shut down Jan. 3.So it looks like the Rock Hall won't be moving anytime soon (the NYC annex felt like a trial balloon to move it out of Cleveland). It's really stupid that all the 'real' rock hall ceremonies aren't held in Cleveland.
A news release issued Thursday by S2BN Entertainment, a partner in the venture, gave no reason for the closing.
Rock hall CEO Terry Stewart tells The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland the decision was made by corporate partners who had backed the $10 million annex in downtown Manhattan.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
I'll give you a little taste:
The guy is a diva who acts like he is the GM. He couldn't co-exist with established high-scoring volume shooters like Ricky Davis, Larry Hughes, and Dajuan Wagner. If you remember correctly, Wagner, who was supposed to be the future of the franchise, was only 20 when James was drafted. Wagner was instantly moved to the end of the bench and his career was ruined. Davis was shipped out because James couldn't co-exist with him. He hated playing with Eric Snow. He drove out Drew Gooden, so his buddy Anderson Varejao can land a huge contract. He dominates the ball and clogges up the lane, so Larry Hughes couldn't slash.Yup.
(Inside all the stupid there's a point that James shoots too much and can dominate the ball too often. I don't necessarily disagree. Though the entire post could be one giant joke. Let's hope.)
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
So I look into NBA League Pass Broadband. Looks sweet enough: pick 7 teams, watch them live (with DVR) and there's a full season archive available (which is nice, because I work nights and miss games live- like tonight). But here's the problem: the blackouts. If I get the league pass, every Cavaliers game (regardless if home or away) is blacked out (since I live in Cleveland). Every. Single. Game (including the archives). So.... sweet.
That's where I am at the moment. I really have no clue what I'm gonna do about Cavs games and this blog (well, game recaps. I'm still gonna post my same infrequent bullshit). Despite my absences here and there, I really do enjoy writing this blog but I'm not sure how I'm gonna be able to write about Cavs games without, you know, actually seeing the games.
So I have no idea. Maybe call Time Warner (yet again) and see what cheap package I can get that has FSNOhio and then mess around with a VCR. Maybe I'll become an alcoholic and hang out at bars every night. Or maybe I'll get the second job or a fulltime position at CCPL and be able to afford cable/DVR. I dunno. At the very least, I get to reacquaint myself with the wonderful(ly cranky) Joe Tait. So there's that (which isn't terrible).
Anyways, I did not see the Cavs demolishing of the Suns and I missed seeing my favorite uniforms (from the Price-Daugherty years). Ilgauskas led the Cavs in scoring (with 14) while six other Cavs scored in double figures (plus Varejao had 9 and both Delonte and Jamario had 8 apiece).
The main story is the fact Z became the franchise's leader in games played (and third in scoring, behind Daugherty and LeBron) but didn't seem particularly happy afterward:
“I was very disappointed,” said Ilgauskas, “that I didn’t play in the last game. I know I’m a good player and I could have been impacted the outcome. What made me more disappointed were some acts that followed … I’m not going to go in any details. I know when I got to bed at night my conscience is clear.”So that's, um, great....