Friday, February 26, 2010

Cleveland 126, Toronto 118 (OT)

Things going great until Reggie Evans checked in. The Cavs came out hot, building a quick 12 point lead (27-15) and they assisted on 12 of their first 13 field goals. But then Reggie Evans came in and things went to hell. Evans scored 7 points over the last four minutes of the first quarter and the Cavs lead was just 33-30 going into the second period. Antawn Jamison led everyone with 11 points in the first quarter.

The Bosh-less Raptors stuck around and made it a game. The Cavs defense was spotty at best; the Raptors shot 48% and a couple of guys went off at different moments. With Shaq and Z both out, the Cavs were forced to go small with Varejao starting at center. Varejao got himself into foul trouble and the Cavs got some good minutes from Leon Powe (I love this team's depth). Both Toronto and Cleveland had six players score in double figures and the Raptors had nice contributions from a lot of guys (I liked what I saw from Andrea Bargnani, 24-4-3, that dude is skilled).

LeBron was "average great". The guy averages greatness. I mean, if you watched this game, I don't think you'd say LeBron played particularly spectacular. There weren't many 'wow' plays (like chase downs or crazy dunks) and there were some ugly possessions (I think they're too focused on hitting those dagger jumpers) but here are his numbers: 36 points (10-17 FG, 15-16 FT), 6 boards, 9 assists and 2 steals. Those numbers are great. Late in the game, LeBron was attacking the rim and it got the Cavs either wide open jumpers (that they knocked down) or easy layups for James. What's so frustrating about LeBron and his isolation jumpers is that it seems like he can get to the rim whenever he wants (to be fair, it's not like Toronto is equipped to deter him).

Mo Williams was one of the guys knocking down those wide open jumpers. Man, the Cavs sure look good when Williams plays well. Mo had 22 points and 6 assists and shot a blistering 6-11 from behind the arc. Williams had the first six points of overtime (two quick treys) and the Cavs quickly took control in the extra period. Of course, there were the usual defensive issues, like when Jose Calderon scored three straight baskets during a stretch in the fourth (and Jarrett Jack finished with 24), but overall, Mo was really good.

Antawn Jamison looks like he'll fit in just fine. Jamison scored 22 points to go along with 11 boards and 3 assists. He moves really well without the ball and LeBron found him a couple times for easy layups (whenever Jamison got the ball, he seemed surprised at how wide open he was). Those two could be deadly once they get comfortable with each other. I will say, I worry that the Cavs will turn him into another spot up shooter (he's too good to just stand around and watch LeBron).

Once again, I'd like to thank Orlando for letting Hedo Turkoglu walk. Man, I hate that guy and I wake up everyday thankful that he's not still on the Magic. I was having Conference Finals flashbacks as Turkoglu scored 7 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a game tying and go ahead buckets in the final minutes. He's just too tall for the Cleveland guards to deal with (he can just simply shoot over Delonte and Mo).

I love Delonte West, especially on the block. Brotha Red finished with 15 points, 4 boards and 2 assists in 30 minutes. West has a very polished low post game and he three or four buckets off low block. The Cavs' offense is much harder to defend when they can throw different looks at the opposition. With Shaq out, they'll have to call some post ups for other Cavaliers (like LeBron? Where'd that go?). Another thing I like about Delonte is that he's not afraid to waive LeBron off down the stretch (when LBJ likes to initiate the offense); it's OK to have LeBron play off the ball in crunch time every now and then.

The refs weren't great and it very nearly cost Cleveland. Anderson Varejao started at center, quickly picked up two fouls and ended up fouling out after just 23 minutes. To his credit, Andy put up 10-8-3 in those 23 minutes but he fouled out on a really cheap call. The Cavs got a bit chippy with the refs at times, but they can't complain too much (I mean, James did shoot 16 freebies).

I'm still not sold on Anthony Parker. Parker took the potential game winner to end regular and I'm not sure I agree with the call. Yes, he was open (since, um, Toronto wasn't guarding him) but I would've much rather had anyone (West, Jamison, Mo or LBJ) take that last shot with a second to go. Parker finished with 10 points (all five Cavs starters finished in double figures) and he hit a couple jumpers early in OT to help put the game out of reach. AP finished with 10 points, 2 boards and 6 assists.

and finally...

Now that the ship righted, let's build a win streak. After beginning the post All-Star break with three straight losses, the Cavs have now won two in a row and their next three opponents are the Knicks (20-37), the Nets (5-52) and the Pistons (21-36)... all at home. Yes, having Shaq miss some time isn't what you want, but it's not the worst thing in the world for him to get some rest in the middle of February. The injury is to his thumb, it's not like he's missing time due to his legs and plus, now Mike Brown has additional minutes to keep J.J. Hickson focused and for Leon Powe to get his sea legs (seriously, the Cavs are deep).


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Why, thank you, Washington

For my birthday? You shouldn't have (wait. No, you totally should've):

The Wizards have reached a buyout agreement with center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations. The 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas is expected to pay back between $1 million and $1.5 million of his $11.5 million contract, the person said. Ilgauskas agreed to the terms late Wednesday night. A formal announcement will likely come on Thursday.

Ilgauskas's agent, Herb Rudoy, said the sides are "very close" and he expects to have the paperwork completed "in the morning."

While the earliest Z can resign with the Cavs is March 21st (the Cavs play Detroit at home that evening), he can make his intentions known once he's a free agent. Word is Denver and Atlanta will make a push for Z, but I really can't imagine that the big fella would end up anywhere but back home.

For what it's worth, Z finalizing his buyout is now officially my second favorite birthday NBA transaction.

The first? The Cavs acquired this guy on the day I turned five:

Also, I share a birthday with both George Harrison and Kurt Rambis. This makes me about 10% cooler than you.

The Cavs would really top off my day with a win over the Paul Pierce-less Celtics tonight.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Come Home Z

It seems as if Zydrunas Ilgauskas will be bought out soon. David Aldridge:

While everyone expects the Washington Wizards to complete a buyout of center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the next 48 hours, allowing him to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers in time to be eligible for their postseason roster, Ilgauskas will likely have to leave more on the table in exchange for his freedom than he had hoped.

A league source indicated Tuesday that the Wizards want savings far in excess of the approximately $590,000 "trade kicker" Ilgauskas is due after being traded last week from Cleveland to Washington as part of a three-team deal that sent Antawn Jamison to the Cavaliers. While no specific dollar amounts have been disclosed, the source indicated Washington was going to be firm in holding out for the most money possible -- likely $1 million or more -- from Ilgauskas.

The Wizards no longer are under the pressure of having to work out a buyout with Ilgauskas in order to get under the $69.9 million luxury tax threshhold. Washington got under by trading forward Dominic McGuire to Sacramento last Thursday for a second-round pick.

By contrast, Ilgauskas is under the gun to get something done by next Monday, March 1. Players that are on a team's roster on March 1 are not eligible to be on any other team's postseason roster, meaning if Ilgauskas is still a Wizard he would not be able to play for Cleveland in the playoffs, although he could re-sign with the Cavs for the rest of the regular season. Once Ilgauskas is a free agent he can sign with any team and be eligible for the playoffs.

I'm not totally shocked that Washington is driving a hard bargain with Zydrunas. He wants out and they don't have to grant him that wish. It think it's kinda poor form that they're quibbling over about five hundred grand (when dealing Jamison saved them a little more than $30 million) but whatever. Z has made a ton of money playing in the NBA, I'm sure this will be worth it.

There's been some talk of the NBA blocking Z's return to Cleveland, but they've investigated and found nothing (they never do):

An official within the league told The Associated Press on Monday the NBA has not threatened to stop a potential reunion between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.


The Los Angeles Times quoted an unnamed source Sunday saying the NBA had told other teams it wouldn't let Ilgauskas go back to the Cavs. However, the official told the AP the league would only step in if there was proof of an agreement before the trade was completed.

This is certainly good news. After only having one All-Star, no participants in the Three Point Shoot-out and J.J.'s snub from the Rookie/Sophomore Game, if the NBA would've chosen this situation step in, I'd have been extremely pissed. Never mind the fact the Knicks and Nets are practically courting LeBron openly.

I know Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers aren't happy about it, but fuck them. If they're bitching, that means they're worried. Good.

Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer makes an, um, interesting analogy:

I tend to wretch at things that - while completely legal under whatever governing body we're talking about - still come off as tacky and skeevy and skirting societal norms. But for some reason, trading a guy like Zydrunas Ilgauskas to the Washington Wizards, watching him give back money to help further put the team under the salary cap (Washington's dealing of Dominic McGuire already put the team under the threshold last week), and letting him walk back to the Cavaliers a month later just doesn't raise my ire.

I'm trying to figure out who it hurts. It appears as if Z's happy, the Wizards are happy and the Cavaliers are happy. I'm not usually one to get too lascivious in these pages, but if a happily married couple were to involve a third party without strings in a moment of heightened intimacy, and each came away happy and without regret, is this something to be tsk-tsk'd?

It's certainly gross and skeevy and icky, but it's not hurting any of us. Just because the neighbors down the block (let's call them, say, "the Boston Celtics") don't like it, it doesn't mean it's wrong, and it's not illegal. And, let's face it, "the Boston Celtics" would do it if they could.

Finally, someone compared the Zydrunas-Jamison deal to a threesome. I love the internet. Dwyer continues:

If I'm a Cavaliers fan, I want Antawn Jamison. I really want to keep Big Z, but I understand that Antawn Jamison helps, perhaps more than Big Z would. To get Jamison, and eventually get Ilgauskas back? That's heaven.

If I'm a Wizards fan, I want nothing to do with Big Z. Like him, respect him, but want nothing to do with him taking minutes away from the development of Javale McGee or Andray Blatche. That's where I'm at right now. I know what counts for my team's future, and it ain't Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

If I'm a follower of Big Z, I want him heading back to Cleveland. Where he's always been. And the best chance for him to win a championship. I might like the idea that he can make more money as an Atlanta Hawk, but I want to see him with a ring on his finger, playing a role.

All three of these fans get what they want. The players and teams get what they want. So what if the Celtics or Magic piss and moan about Cleveland getting Antawn Jamison for the last pick in the first round. Haven't the Celtics, with Gary Payton, done this before? Don't the Magic take advantage of rebuilding teams (signing away Rashard Lewis for little compensation, acquiring Vince Carter for expiring deals) themselves?


The best part of all of this is the fact that we never had to see Z wearing another uniform. How great is that? It would've killed me seeing him lumbering around in a Washing Wizards uni. It wouldn't have been right.

Can't wait to see Mike Brown deal with these rotations once Z returns. That'll be fun.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cleveland 105, New Orleans 95

Not the prettiest game but the Cavs needed this one. The game was much closer than the final score makes it seem (it was a four point game with 2 minutes left). The Cavs had some nice stretches but they had some struggles throughout the game. The Cavs had some issues both offensively (the New Orleans zone seemed to frustrate them) and defensively (they had a real hard time guarding Darren Collison and Marcus Thorton, two small, quick guards). The Cavs pulled away at the end thanks to a few threes and some timely defense. It was a hard fought win and it ensures that the Cavs won't be heading into Thursday's game in Boston on a four game slide.

Things started off fairly well. The Cavs came out focused; the defense was good (they challenged every shot), the offense was crisp and they had a lot of energy. The Cavs led 28-16 after the first, with LeBron scoring only 5 points in the quarter (he didn't score until there were four minutes left). The offensive movement was delightful; everyone touched the ball, they made quick decisions and they got a lot of good shots. There wasn't any standing around and watching LeBron. It was nice to see.

Things didn't go quite as well in the second quarter. Two words: Marcus Thorton. Thorton, a rookie, absolutely torched Cleveland. There was no stopping him; Thorton scored 23 points in the second quarter (he finished with 38) as the Hornets put up 40 to the Cavs' 25. New Orleans had 21 fast break points in the period. The Cavs transition defense was awful and they seemed to have real trouble dealing the Hornets' zone defense.

Cleveland's defense stepped up in the second half. While the Hornets scored 40 points in the second quarter, they only put up 39 in the entire second half. The Cavs pestered the New Orleans shooters and cut back on the easy baskets (they stuck LeBron on Thorton, though he still scored). The Cavs shot only 8-25 from behind the arc (!!) but three of those eight came in the final four minutes (Mo, West and LeBron all hit big shots) and the Cavs pulled away at the end.

LeBron was solid, if unspectacular. James finished with 20 points, 5 boards, 13 assists and 2 steals in, um, 44 minutes (not sure I like Bron-Bron having to play 40+ against a Chris Paul-less Hornets, but they needed this win). LeBron finished 7-16 from the floor (2-6 from three) and made all four of his freebies. There were some offensive, LeIso-ish, issues at times, but late in the game, LeBron set up on the block (finding Jamison for an easy layup) and attacked the rim. The Cavs had six guys in double figures and LeBron's passing is a big reason why (as a team, the Cavs had 29 assists).

Antawn Jamison started, played well. Jamison played pretty well, scoring 18 points (7-14 FG) and notching 8 boards and 2 assists. He spaces the floor really well and whenever he finds some space, LeBron finds him (he got a few layups off of passes from LBJ). James also found him for a nasty 'and one' dunk over David West in transition. Antawn was running on the wing, took a pass from James and skied over West with a one-handed jam. I, for one, did not see that coming. Well done, sir. Jamison could average 20 points in Cleveland without getting a play called for himself.

Coach Mike shortened the rotation, playing only eight players. Boobie, Hickson and Jawad were the odd men out but I can't really disagree with Brown. I like Boobie a lot and he's done well thus far, but he wasn't playing before Mo and Delonte got hurt, so I'm not exactly shocked he's not seeing the court. Mo can give you most of what Boobie does (assuming Mo ever finds his shot) but he passes (8 assists for Mo)( and handles the ball better (same with West. Delonte just gives them more). Jamario Moon received some playing time but only 10 minutes. I like Moon and what he brings too the Cavs; he's athletic (before he got hurt, they were routinely throwing him alley-oops from the weak side) and he's tall (he can defend bigger guys), so he's more versatile than both Gibson and Hickson.

I liked some of the lineups we saw Tuesday night. I really enjoyed the West, Moon, LeBron, Jamison and Varejao lineup. That's a group that should be able to compete both offensively and defensively. I also liked seeing a old school/new school blend of Mo, West, LBJ, Jamison and Shaq. That group could be positively deadly. Brown has his work cut out for him. It's only going to get harder with Leon Powe activated and Z's possible return.

Shaq had a solid game. The Big Fella had 20 points and 7 boards in 31 minutes. You can tell Shaq is getting his touch back as he's making a lot of those layups and bank shots he was missing early in the year. O'Neal finished 9-13 from the floor and the Cavs found him for easy hoops off of pick-and-rolls and dribble penetration (he had two or three alley-oops). He may be old, but he's still a load and he can still put the ball in the hole. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the Cavs need to utilize him more, especially when they get jumpshot happy. Very few guys can guard Shaq one-on-one (even at this age) and playing inside-out isn't a bad way to go when the offense stagnates.

Mo Williams didn't have the best of nights. Mo just doesn't seem right to me. His jumper looks flat and he shot just 2-9 from the field (1-5 3FG) for 6 points. Defensively, he was completely useless against both Collison and Thorton (22 and 37 points, respectively). It was nice to see Williams hit a big shot (a three that gave them a 92-89 lead with just over four minutes to go) but the Cavs are going to need more from him over the long haul.

Special shout out to the Cavs announcers. Wow. I know they're blatant homers and everything but I nearly died when Fred McLeod said that he thought Shaq got all ball on his fifth foul. I mean, this wasn't even close. I don't think Shaq got any ball, let alone all of it. I get the wine and gold colored glasses, I really do, but it's it not the end of the world to admit that a Cavalier committed a foul, especially when it's blatantly obvious. Just call the game and let Austin say crazy crap, that's all we need.

and finally....

Cavs vs Celtics on Thursday. Finally, the Cavs will be able to test themselves against the Best Team in Basketball (*when healthy). Hopefully, the Cavs can build off this win against the Hornets (it wasn't easy) and go into Boston with some confidence. Obviously, the Cavs are still getting used to the Jamison acquisition but it sure would be nice to win a game in Beantown.


Monday, February 22, 2010

That seemed entirely too familar

Some days just aren't conducive to blogging, yesterday was one of those days. I saw the most of the game but had to be out the door immediately upon its conclusion.

Quick and dirty thoughts:

There's going to be an adjustment period. Mike Brown is still figuring out his rotations (J.J. started the game, Jamison started the second half) and the teams they're facing post-All-Star break aren't the teams you want to be experimenting against. For instance, Brown sat Jamison for four minutes in the fourth and the Cavs scored a total of four point over that time (the offense was full on LeIso and yes, I know Antawn picked up his 5th foul). What makes Jamison such a nice pickup is that he doesn't have to stand around and wait for LeBron to make a move in order to be effective (*waves at Anthony Parker*), so the Cavs should take advantage of that.

The Cavs are going to need Mo Williams. Williams was a dismal 1-9. He hasn't looked right since his return from his shoulder injury but that isn't exactly surprising. I'll give Mo a pass on Sunday's performance, simply due to the injury and the circumstances of the team, but the Cavs if expect to reach the NBA Finals, Mo Williams has to play well.

This may be the bias of a Cavs fan, but I though the Magic got a lot of calls yesterday. I know this evens out over time and LeBron gets his fair share but some of those calls... wow. The block on Jamison in the fourth really changed the outcome, he was clearly set, he was clearly outside the circle and Dwight Howard bowled him over. It's a foul when LeBron does it.

That being said, it's not fair to say the refs decided the game. The Cavs starting guards shot a combined 2-13 and LeBron scored a total of 3 points in the fourth (and the basket came once the outcome was decided). It's feels weird to say this, but they need more from LeBron. He turned it over 5 times, went 1-6 from downtown and shot just 8-12 from the line. Since the All-Star break, James shooting 71% from the stripe (28-39) and is an abysmal 4-21 from behind the arc. Ouch.

Would Jamario Moon do a better job on Vince Carter? The Magic torched the Cavs guards in the fourth with Carter and Nelson pick and rolls. They isolated Carter on Jawad Williams and Anthony Parker and Vince killed them. Moon looks to be the odd man out and I know AP is the starter... but at the end the day, Parker gave them 4 points, 1 board and 1 assist. You're gonna need more than that from your starting two guard. Moon isn't the shooter that Parker is but he's got younger legs...

I liked the energy J.J. Hickson showed in the second half. He was flying to every offensive board and made himself a nuisance. If Jamison ends up starting (and he should), the Cavs will need Hickson to continue to bring that energy off the bench.

Don't get too upset at this loss. I don't know if you can remember this, but the Cavs just beat Orlando less than two weeks ago. Orlando is a good team. The Cavs are in flux right now but they're a long way away from the playoffs. They'll right this ship.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


The Cavs 4-0 record against the Lakers and Magic doesn't mean anything, because regular season victories aren't always indicative of postseason success.

Also, the Bobcats 3-1 record against the Cavs shows that Cleveland would lose to Charlotte should they meet in the first round.

Not making excuses for the Cavaliers, but this was a rough way to start post-All Star break. They didn't play for a week, they're reintegrating both Mo Williams and Delonte West, they added a major piece and they started out with a back-to-back against two good teams.

To say Antawn Jamison had a rough night is an understatement. Dude was 0-12 in his Cleveland debut and two of those were airballs and another four were blocked. Wasn't his best night, to say the least.

While I'm not worried about a Cavs-Bobcats playoff series, I am officially concerned. Charlotte has guys who can play defense (the newly acquired Ty Thomas had 6 blocks in is debut) and they're long and athletic. Offensively, they're OK but it's a lot of one-on-one stuff, the Cavs defense has be sub-par these past two games; lot's of open looks and missed rotations leading to layups plus, they aren't rebounding well (Bobcats won the battle of the boards 47-37, Denver beat 'em 48-44).

If the Cavs miss Z at all, it isn't the rebounds but the floor spacing. Z's shooting ability cleared up the lane and opened up space for LeBron to work. When Shaq and Varejao are paired up (as it's been these last two games), opposing teams will just pack the lanes and force the ball out of LeBron's hands. The opposition would absolutely LOVE to see Varejao hoisting 15 footers.

Charlotte (with their defense and slow tempo) is a rough opponent to play when you're still figuring things out. Once Jamison gets up to speed, the Cavs will be fine (I think should he should start over JJ) but, near term, things aren't getting any easier, as they're in Orlando on Sunday, face New Orleans this Tuesday and travel to Boston to play on Thursday night.

Break is over, guys.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tough Loss

Tough loss. I saw the fourth quarter and OT of the Cavs-Nuggets game but only caught glimpses of the first two thirds of the game. From what I saw, the word that sums up the loss to me is 'sloppy'. The Cavs missed their free throws, they missed some layups, and they only had a passing interest in rebounding the ball (you could definitely tell that they had a full week off).

The offense down the stretch? Bad. Yes, LeBron had an awesome game but he took some TERRIBLE shots in the fourth quarter and OT. James had 43 points, 13 boards, 15 assists and 4 blocks- spectacular. However, he was 1-9 from behind the arc and he just murdered the offense down the stretch.

Now, it's not totally his fault (not that you can fault a guy with 43-13-15 but the dude was 1-9 from downtown). In OT, Mike Brown had a lineup of Boobie, AP, LeBron, Varejao and Shaq, two spot up (re: stand around and wait) shooters, a guy who can only score in the pick and roll and an aging post man. Yes, neither Mo Williams nor Delonte were having the best of games, but at least they can handle the ball and create a shot.

And about the last shot in OT... yes, LeBron slipped, but wow. That's the play that was drawn up? Down two with 1.9 to go, get LeBron the ball 27 feet from the hoop? Really? What the fuck? Can you at least fake a lob pass so Denver has to think about guarding something? No picks, no misdirection.... nothing. What was LeBron going to do 27 feet from the hoop with 1.9 seconds left? There's no way they could've gotten a closer shot? You only needed two points, you don't need the three. Now I know why Antawn Jamison said that the pregame handshakes will be tougher to learn than the offense.

Frustrating, very frustrating.

Now the Nuggets are 2-0 against the Cavs. Expect to hear about this from ESPN. This is why regular season records don't matter. Do you feel like the Nuggets are a better team than Cleveland? I don't. The first loss came without Carmelo Anthony, one of those games that the Cavs didn't take particularly seriously. Then last night, LeBron is missing layups and Varejao is having passes bounce off his hands (again, sloppy, sloppy game). Just think about the Nuggets the next time you're touting the Cavs record against the Lakers and Magic.

The Cavs face the Charlotte Bobcats tonight, here's hoping Cleveland comes to play.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trade Deadline Chat

I'll be participating in a live chat from noon-4 today. Check it out below:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Title Push

The deal is done, the Cavs have traded for Antawn Jamison:
The Cavaliers have agreed in principle to a 3-team trade with the Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers that brings forward Antawn Jamison to Cleveland, sources said Wednesday night.

The Cavaliers are sending Zydrunas Ilgauskas to the Wizards and this year's first-round draft pick to the Clippers as part of the trade. The Cavaliers are expected to receive Clippers point guard Sebastian Telfair as part of the package.

Can't argue with that. Z and a 1st rounder for Jamison. Me likely. Hopefully Z and the Wizards can reach a buy out and Z can return home to the Cavs.

Plus, it looks like the Suns might be stuck with Stoudemire. Good. I hope Danny Ferry called Steve Kerr's bluff (of couse, could we interest you in Wally Szcerbiak? Hasn't been used in months...).

Gotta say, well done to Danny Ferry. They got Jamison without giving up J.J. Hickson, well played sir. Ferry has now turned Damon Jones, Joe Smith, Sasha Pavlovic and (assuming Z gets bought out) a first round pick into Mo Williams, Shaq and Antawn Jamison. Well done.

Mo, Parker, LeBron, Jamison, Shaq.


I'm Still Here

Sorry for not updating the blog, I have two posts up over at LeBrowns Town.

These are my most recent thoughts on the trade deadline (I even did the photoshop myself!).

Then here's my thoughts on Corey Maggette (quick version: meh).

Thursday can't get here soon enough. My brain is fried.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Alright, this is getting stupid

After a full day refreshing Twitter every two seconds (while vainly attempting to load Real Cavs Fans), trying to get all the latest information on Amar'e Stoudemire and watching a sorta boring, sorta fun All-Star Game, I was ready to go to bed (what's that? Today was Valentine's Day? I mean, I did something romantic... with my girlfriend. Ya.). But like an idiot, I check Twitter one last time for the latest Amar'e tidbits and I find this from Chad Ford:
For the Suns, the Stoudemire-Hickson trade would be something of a last resort. The Suns have been hoping to land more than just Hickson and financial relief for Stoudemire.

In particular, the Suns are still holding out hope that Philadelphia will come to the table and agree to a deal sending Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert to Phoenix. The Suns have sweetened their offer to the 76ers by including Leandro Barbosa in a package with Stoudemire. Also possible is a three-way trade that would send Hickson and Barbosa (along with Ilgauskas) to Philly, Stoudemire to Cleveland and Iguodala and Dalembert to Phoenix.
Cool, I guess. I mean, I don't really care if it's a two team, three team or twelve team deal; as long as the Cavs are landing Amar'e and only giving up Hickson and Z, I'm down.

But there's more...
Meanwhile, Cleveland remain interested obtaining either Antawn Jamison of the Washington Wizards or Troy Murphy of the Indiana Pacers. According to an official from one of those two teams, the Cavs said on Sunday that a Stoudemire trade was not a done deal and the team was still evaluating its options.
Makes sense, I expect the Cavs to have their fingers in a lot of pots....
Even if the Cavs get Stoudemire, they might attempt do a secondary trade to obtain Jamison or Murphy to fill the need for a 4 who could stretch the floor with his shooting.
Wait, what?
Even if the Cavs get Stoudemire, they might attempt do a secondary trade to obtain Jamison or Murphy to fill the need for a 4 who could stretch the floor with his shooting.
Okay, they'd probably resign Wally Szczerbiak (I'll know how to spell that name for the rest of my life) to something like $16 million and trade him...
Given that the Cavs have concerns about how well Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal would fit together, the team would consider moving Shaq if it acquired Amare. For instance, the Cavs could swap O’Neal and their first-round pick to Washington for Jamison and Mike Miller. They could send the same package to Indiana in a deal for Murphy and Mike Dunleavy.
What. The. Fuck.

I can't possibly imagine the Cavs doing this. They have been playing, as Austin Carr would say, fantacular. Hell, a lot of my friends who are casual Cavs fans (non blogger/message boarders/tweeters, you know normal people) don't want them to make a trade at all. Can't really blame 'em, the Cavaliers have won 13 straight, beat the Lakers and Magic twice apiece and stand alone atop the entire league with a 43-11 record.

I mean, I get upgrading to someone like Jamison or Stoudemire. If you have the chance to land an All-Star talent for J.J. Hickson and some expiring contracts, you do it. Yes you're good, but you can always improve and these guys are no brainers (Murphy is different, but it'd be for cap relief and he fills a need).

But trading Shaq? Why do that? The big fella has been playing great and I'm finally getting used to rooting for O'Neal. Hell, I actually have an opinion about the whole Howard/Shaq Superman 'controversy' (never in a million years could I have seen myself caring about one of Shaq's 'feuds'). Plus (and this is kinda key) Shaq is the main reason they now matchup so well with both Orlando and Los Angeles. The Amar'e/Jamison or Amar'e/Murphy combos aren't stopping Dwight Howard or Gasol and Bynum.

And if they traded Shaq, how would they play defense? I'm serious; I know Coach Mike is a defensive guy and the Cavs have that defensive culture and mindset and blah blah blah, but what would those lineups looks like? Williams-Parker-James-Jamison/Murphy-Amare? That's one and a half good defensive players (Parker is kinda slow). Plus, neither Mike Miller or Mike Dunleavy are exactly known for their defense.

But this is stupid, I shouldn't be using any brain cells to ponder these possibilities (Come playoffs, would Z start at the five (we know he can't guard Dwight)? Leon Powe? Would the front court be James-Murphy-Stoudemire or would Varejao start?). You can't completely revamp the best team in the league on the fly, that's insane.

This won't happen. This will not happen. The Cavs aren't going to spend the first half of (possibly LeBron's last) season slowly working in O'Neal (successfully, 43-11!) only to blow it up at the deadline. Scrap the entire season and start over? Dumb.

Not gonna lie, I'm kinda apprehensive about pairing STAT and Shaq together once more, but I think it's worth the risk. What's not worth the risk is trading Shaq because it didn't work in Phoenix. You don't blow up a 43-11 team, you just don't.

Deep down I know this is just stupid speculation and I can't think about it any more. There's no way Danny Ferry is going to trade for both Jamison and Stoudemire. ESPN is making things up. I have to go to bed.

Good day.

(But wouldn't the Wizards or Pacers buy out Shaq? He'd make a stink, wouldn't he? Where would he go? Lakers? Miami? Would he come back here? The Cavs could start Mo, Parker, LBJ, Amar'e and Shaq while having West, Moon, Miller, Jamison and Varejao come off the bench! But there'd still be Z, Boobie, Jawad....)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

More on Amare

Looks like the Cavs are closing in on Amare Stoudemire. I have thoughts on the subject that you can read over at

Saturday, February 13, 2010

All-Star Weekend Memories

Look at that hair!

Crazy Game of Poker

The Cavs appear to be in serious talks about acquiring Amare Stoudemire:
The amount of information and disinformation flying around is at a fever pitch as teams jostle for position in escalating trade talks. The Cavaliers, as would be expected, are right in the middle of it.

According to multiple sources, over the past few days the Cavs have had advancing talks with the Phoenix Suns about All-Star forward Amar'e Stoudemire. It is not the only player they have interest in -- there are still long-term-target forwards Antawn Jamison of Washington and Troy Murphy of the Pacers out there -- but it seems the Cavs are focusing on Stoudemire.


The Cavs are believed to still have talks open with the Pacers for Murphy and the Wizards for Jamison, plus options for three-team deals. But sources indicated the Stoudemire talks were the most advanced.

It is a bit of a surprising attraction. While there's a chance the Cavs could pick up a former first-teamer in a money-based deal, Stoudemire and O'Neal didn't have great on-court chemistry when they played in Phoenix for parts of the past two seasons. O'Neal and LeBron James have said they are happy with the current makeup of the team, though that, too, could be a smokescreen.

"I've been a part of trade deadlines and guys moving in an out," James said. "I don't get caught up in it much until it actually happens or if it is serious. There's some great players out there."

The Suns are believed to like Cavaliers forward J.J. Hickson, whom they considered drafting in 2008 and is currently having a breakout sophomore season. The Cavs, however, have been reluctant to include Hickson in trade talks.

The Cavs have several other ways to get the deal done, including the expiring contract of Zydrunas Ilgauskas or a sign-and-trade with guard Wally Szczerbiak.

The Arizona Republic reported earlier this week that teams who were talking to the Suns about Stoudemire also were being asked to take on guard Jason Richardson, who is owed $14.4 million next season. It isn't clear whether Richardson is involved in the talks with the Cavs or with a third team the Cavs might be recruiting.


Even with having to take on Jason Richardson (who, like Delonte West and Damon Jones, would join the Cavs after being on the wrong end of LeBron's highlights), I'm still very much in favor of trading for Amare. I understand not wanting to mess with this squad's chemistry, but you don't turn away 20-10 big men in their prime. Trading for Stoudemire is as much about this season as it is the future. Having Amare on the roster, who looks less and less likely to opt out of the final year of his current deal (I don't see anyone giving him $17 million this summer, do you?), should help the Cavs with retaining the services of one LeBron James.

All that being said, part of me wonders if this Amare leak is all part of a high stakes game of chicken being played between the Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards.

The Cavs really don't want to part with J.J. in most deals and the Wizards really don't want to trade with the Cavs. The Cavs are aware of Washington's demands and vice versa. They are stuck.

So then yesterday morning, Yahoo! floats a rumor that Washington was considering trading both Jamison AND Caron Butler to the Boston Celtics for straight cap relief. I wasn't too thrilled with the idea, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a bluff: "Oh yea, you won't part with Hickson? Fine, we'll just trade both of our good players to the Celtics for cap relief. How would you like that?!"

But it looks like the Boston-Washington deal is dead and it appears Bulter will be heading to Dallas, which means Washington doesn't have a deal ready for Jamison (the Celtics, with Kevin Garnett and Sheed, aren't exactly in the market for another aging power forward).

So now it's time for Danny Ferry to turn to up the pressure: "You won't trade us Jamison because we beat you in the first round (and other dumb reasons)? Fine. We'll just go trade for Amare Stoudemire and you can eat the $30 million left on Jamison's deal. Enjoy losing both money and games, dumbasses."

But who knows. According to Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavs are debating between Amare and Antawn:
Cavs front office internally debating merits of trading for Amar'e Stoudemire vs Antawn Jamison. Not much on line --only franchise's future.

Yowza. Kinda sounds like the Cavs already have deals in place, but this is from Twitter, so some nuance could be lost within those 140 characters.

Myself, I'm cool with them trading for Jamison or Stoudemire. Both represent a significant upgrade to J.J. Hickson and either could push the Cavs over that Championship hump.

That being said, each guy comes with his own set of (very different) issues.

Jamison seems like he'd be the easier fit. He's a stretch 4 and could slide in next to Shaq and hit all those open jumpers (could you imagine the Magic daring Jamison to shoot, as they did Hickson? I can't.). He'd be less likely to cause any waves and the Cavs wouldn't have change up the offense too much. Jamison could very well be that missing Championship piece.

Jamison's minuses come after this season. He has two more years on his deal (roughly $30 million) and he'll turn 34 this June. Jamison's salary will make it hard for the Cavs to add talent down the road and they don't want three of their four rotational bigs to be past the age of 34 when LeBron hits the free agent market (which is why the Cavs are balking at including Hickson in any Jamison deal).

Stoudemire is nearly the exact opposite. Trading for Amare would drastically change the dynamic of the Cavalier offense; Stoudemire is a legit post presence and the Cavs will have to run at least some plays for him. However, the Cavs currently sit atop the Eastern Conference and have a seven(!!) game lead over the second place Magic, so they have some room to experiment if they need to (I'll be honest, I love the idea having Amare against Orlando. He'd abuse Rashard Lewis and because of Shaq, Howard can't switch).

Plus, adding the 27 year old Stoudemire (especially if he doesn't walk away from $17 mil) to a core of Mo Williams (27), Anderson Varejao (27) and Delonte West (26) gives the Cavs a nice, young roster to show LeBron this summer. You don't mind parting with Hickson in an Amare deal, since Stoudemire is young himself.

I'd be thrilled with the addition of either guy, at this point I'm leaning towards Amare. Yes, I'd miss J.J. and I'm not thrilled with adding Richardson, but when have a chance to add a young big man with 20-10 skills (despite the risks), you take it. I don't think the Cavs can go wrong with Stoudemire or Jamison (and I'm OK with them standing pat too), but like Wojnarowski said, the only thing on the line is the franchise's future.

Good luck, Danny, no pressure.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Cleveland 115, Orlando 106

Well, that was fun. LeBron was awesome, J.J. had some highlight plays, Shaq had a big fourth quarter and the Cavs produced a solid win over the Magic (sans Mo Williams, not that anyone noticed) . I thought the whole team did a great job, from the coaches (they moved Hickson around once they realized the Magic weren't even pretending to guard him) to the bench (Delonte!), this was a solid effort from everybody.

The game started out eerily familiar. Did the Cavs come out strong and built up a big lead? Yup (they led 37-23 after one quarter). Did the Magic hit a bunch of threes and storm back? Yup (Orlando was 6-11 from downtown in the second quarter). I was quite worried in the third; the offense stalled (Cavs scored 6 points in the quarter's first seven minutes) and they fell behind 79-72. I felt like I've watched this game before. Somehow (threes finally started to fall) the Cavs ended up increasing their halftime lead to four (87-83) heading into the fourth. That's when LeBron just took over.

LeBron is scary good. James led everyone with 32 points (10-21 FG, 2-6 3pt, 10-12 FT) to go along with 8 boards, 13 assists and 2 steals. He scored 11 in the fourth and completely dominated the Magic down the stretch. His alley-oop to Shaq was a thing of beauty (LeBron came around a pick, caught the ball and immediately turned and lobbed a pass O'Neal. Just ridiculous) and it started the Cavs' final push (game was tied at 96). James knocked down a couple jumpers (turn arounds, step backs, you name it) in Mickael Pietrus's grill and that was all she wrote.

LeBron's teammates did some damage too. J.J. Hickson scored 20 points (though only 4 boards) and Anderson Varejao scored 16 (and also had just 4 boards) and it seemed like the Wizards seemed content to not guard Cleveland's power forwards at all. The Cavs guards were a bit more hit-or-miss. West and Boobie were quite good; both guys knocked down treys late in the third to help the Cavs back their lead and West hit a three with a little more than three minutes left to push Cleveland's late game lead from 4 to 7 (huge shot). Delonte finished with 8 points, 3 boards and 6 assists while Gibson gave them 11, 3 and 5. Before his big shot late in the third (to cut into Orlando's lead to two), Anthony Parker was 0 for his last 5 attempts (all in the third). It was brutal. He played good defense though, Vince Carter finished just 5-16 from the floor.

Defensively, the Cavs were still scrambling at times. The Cavs went through a couple stretches where it seemed they were simply chasing Orlando's shooters. It was quite frustrating and it wasn't fun at all. However, 8 of the Magic's 10 threes came in the first half and Orlando finished 10-26 overall. The Cavs had some good stretches, especially in the third and fourth, but the Magic had a 40 point second quarter and topped the 100 point mark for the game. After watching another big lead disappear quickly, I'm not comfortable that the game is in hand until that final buzzer sounds.

Maybe the refs were looking ahead to their break. The refs sucked. The first half was particularly unpleasant. Shaq was called for some touch fouls (one particularly bad one) as was Howard and neither team was happy (Varejao, Shaq, Howard, Lewis and Barnes all had 3 fouls at half). Things were a bit better down the stretch, but at no one were they ever 'good'.

I both do and don't get Orlando's offense. Yes, Rashard Lewis is a matchup problem and the team is full of shooters, but if I was a Magic fan, the fact that Lewis had as many three attempts as Dwight Howard had shot attempts would drive me insane. Howard was killing the Cavs bigs (though J.J. had a nice, crowd pleasing block) and got Shaq in foul trouble, why not keep going to him? The Cavs had no recourse but to foul, especially in the fourth, where Howard shot 6 of his 10 freebies. Yes, the burned the Cavs from behind the arc (especially in the second) but why not play off of Howard more? Also, once again, thanks to Orlando for letting Hedo Turkoglu walk, I was terrified of that ugly fucker. Vince doesn't worry me at all.

and finally...

It's kinda nice going into the All-Star break on a 13-game win streak. 13 wins in a row, beating the Magic at home, crazy LeBron dagger jumpers, Delonte returning, Shaq playing well in crunch time... this is fun, no? The Cavs have to feel really good about themselves right now. They're 4-0 versus the Lakers and Magic and Shaq has meshed almost perfectly with these guys. Things are good. Before the game, TNT's Chris Weber stated that the Cavs were close to making a deal for Troy Murphy. Meh. If it's a straight salary dump, then fine. But I really don't want to see Hickson included in a deal unless it's for an absolute stud, which Murphy is not. The deadline is next Thursday, don't expect any trades to go down over the All-Star break, but I'm sure there will be a lot of chatter. Should be fun.

Cross-posted at

High Asking Price

Adrian Wojnarowski:

In a dramatic move that would resuscitate their fading championship hopes, the Boston Celtics are discussing a deal with the Washington Wizards for forwards Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Friday.

The proposed deal would send the expiring contracts of Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine, and J.R. Giddens, to the Wizards, a move that would signal the start of Washington’s rebuilding process.

The trade isn’t imminent, but talks have progressed and Celtics GM Danny Ainge has positioned his organization to make one of the boldest trade deadline moves in years. For the Celtics, ownership would have to agree to take on an additional $24 million in salary next season between Jamison and Butler. Jamison makes more than $15 million in 2011-12, but most owners are discounting those salaries because of an assumption that there will be a labor lockout and some, if not all, of that money will never be paid to the players.

God damn, I really do hate the Wizards. Seriously, would they do this just to spite the Cavs? I don't get it. I thought they had high asking prices for their starters? Ray Allen, Scalabrine and JR Giddens (who?) for Butler AND Jamison? Wow.

(I'll have an Orlando recap sometime before noon)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stuff that Drives Me Crazy

People who call the Cavs a one man team.

Criticizing the job Danny Ferry has done and comparing him to Sam Presti.

The way Bonnaroo rolled out their lineup announcements.

The idea that J.J. Hickson isn't among Top 20 second year players.

The idea that this year's NBA leading Cavaliers will fall in the playoffs simply because last year's NBA leading Cavaliers fell in the playoffs (two entirely different teams).

Relatedly, the idea that the Cavs HAVE TO make a trade because they stood pat last year and lost. (Different situations. Last year the Cavs had matchup issues and Wally was extremely expendable. This year, the Cavs don't have those matchup problems and Z is extremely useful).

The second half of Season 4 of The Venture Bros won't be start til August.

The Cleveland Indians.

The fact that the Cavs have the best record in the NBA yet only have a single All-Star.

The fact that the Cavs have the best record in the NBA and three players in the Top 10 in 3pt FG% and have no one in the Three Point Shootout.

The fact that the Cavs have the best record in the NBA and start a second year PF who somehow isn't good enough to make the Rookie-Sophomore game.

This crap:

The idea that the NBA's MVP race is up for grabs.

All this fucking snow.

Cleveland 104, New Jersey 97

While the game was fairly close, you never felt the outcome was ever really in doubt. The Cavs started off slow (they were down 23-15 with 3:30 left in the first) but they eventually righted the ship and trailed by only one (27-26) heading into the second period. By the time James came back in from his customary second quarter rest, the bench (and Shaq) took that one point deficit and turned it into a seven point lead (43-36). The Nets continued to play fairly hard but the Cavs simply weren't going to lose this game. Ya, they kinda let New Jersey stick around (there's no reason why James should play 42 minutes, at home, versus the Nets) but the Cavs were in control of this game throughout.

James continued his strong play and excellent passing. Bron-Bron scored 32 points to go with his 3 boards, 11 assists and a steal. His passing continues to be off the charts (he found Varejao running the floor with a beautiful chest pass) and his scoring is pretty efficient (13-21 over, but 1-4 from three and just 5-9 from the stripe). He's running the offense, he's scoring and he's playing excellent defense; the dude is the MVP and I can't believe it'll be close.

Solid game from Shaq. O'Neal sure filled up the stat sheet during his 21 minutes of PT: 7 points, 8 boards, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Niiiice. I have to say, O'Neal has won me over (I was so-so on the Shaquisition) and I've completely bought into him; he's converting those bunnies he missed early on and he's given team an extra swagger. It doesn't hurt that he's making plays like this block to start what is possibly the highlight of the year. It starts off with Shaq blocking Brook Lopez (pinning the ball to the glass) and then taking it up court himself (always fun when he plays point). Shaq then passes off to James (who dodges a steal attempt) and LeBron lofts an oop to a streaking Varejao, who somehow gets and slams it with one hand. Varejao then proceeds to make weird cross-eyed faces with Shaq on the trip back down court. That's a whole bunch of awesome.

The Cavs bench was great. Varejao gives them so much every night and Tuesday was no different. Andy had 15 points, 9 boards and 2 steals. Of his 9 boards, a whopping 6 were offensive. Jawad Williams set a new career high (which seems to happen weekly) with 17 points to go along with his 3 boards and 2 assists in 28 minutes. I like Jawad's game a lot; he always seems to be playing under control and never rushes things. Williams was 6-12 from the floor and 3-5 from behind the arc, prompting Fred McLeod to break out the unfortunate Hot Wad Williams nickname (I'm all for anything that harkens back to the Cavs of the 90s, but really, Hot Wad? This comes from a announcer who says "getting a blow", "stroking it" and "rubber rim job" constantly. Hot Wad? The name Jawad is unique enough on it's own, let's just leave it there, please). Big Z shot poorly (just 1-10) but gave them 6 boards (4 offensive) and 3 assists. The Cavs needed those rebounds from Z and Andy, as Shaq was the only starter to notch more than 3 boards.

The starters weren't bad, but they weren't great. Boobie scored in double figures yet again, putting up 11 points (4-7 FG, 1-2 3pt) to go along with a measly 2 assists and a board. Anthony Parker was the same, scoring 7 points but giving them 2 assists and a board. The Cavs starting guards combined for 4 assists and a 2 rebounds. LeBron and J.J. Hickson only had 6 boards between them, so none of the starters rebounded too well.

Only 14 minutes for J.J. Hickson, really? If he's Danny Ferry's deal breaker (and it looks like he is), why can't he get more than 15 minutes against a woeful Nets team? I love Hickson's game quite a bit and I think he has a nice, long future ahead of him in the NBA. However, if the kid is only getting 14 minutes against a 4-47 New Jersey squad, it's pretty obvious the Cavs won't be trusting him come the playoffs (not that I exactly blame 'em). Obviously, you don't include him in a deal for someone like Troy Murphy but at some point you gotta give up something to get something, no? Not sure you should balk at a trade for Jamison over a player that Mike Brown will play for three minutes to start each half come playoff time.

The obligatory "I can't believe the Nets are this bad" paragraph. But seriously, I can't believe the Nets are this bad. Hell, all five of New Jersey's starters scored in double figures. Brook Lopez put up 23 points, 14 boards, 3 assists and a block. Courtney Lee had 24 points, 7 boards and 4 assists. The talents of Lee and Lopez alone should give them more than four victories. Obviously, at this point things have snowballed and no one on this team has any confidence, but still. These guys shouldn't be this bad.

and finally...

One more before break. The Cavs face the Magic on Thursday in their last game before the All-Star break. This is a big game for both teams; Orlando hasn't been playing well, but they're still 35-17 and Vince Carter just turned back the clock against the Hornets to the tune of 48 points. The Cavs are playing well right now, winning 12 in a row (perfect since Mo and Delonte got hurt) and the Magic have won 8 out of 10 including two victories over Boston and laying the beatdown on the Hawks. Yes, the Cavs aren't at full strength, but I'm very interested to see how they're going to match-up with Orlando.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Good News

Delonte West might be back tonight:
The best team in the NBA is beginning to get healthy.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, riding an 11-game winning streak, could get guard Delonte West back in the lineup Tuesday against the New Jersey Nets.

He missing the last eight games with a broken left ring finger, leaving the Cavs without their top two point guards.

Starting point guard Mo Williams, out with a shoulder injury, said Monday he expects West to play. Coach Mike Brown wasn't as confident because he hadn't received final clearance, but that could come at Tuesday's morning shootaround.

Delightful. It would be nice to have him get his feet wet against a team like the Nets as opposed to a team like the Magic. They'll probably need West on Thursday night, especially if Vince Carter still thinks it's 2001.

Oh, Taco Bell...

I love the fact that Lamar Odom makes an appearance the new Charles Barkley/Taco Bell commercial. Hey, a stoner and a fat guy promoting Taco Bell, go figure. This isn't the first time Taco Bell and the NBA have teamed up. The Cavs own Shaquille O'Neal has appeared in a few (again, go figure).

Reverse Psychology

Marc Berman, New York Post:

When a native asks if you’re attending the Saturday night Knicks-Cleveland game at the Q, reply, “Yes, and I’m excited about seeing LeBron James play his final season in Cleveland.”

The response is either laughter, utter disdain or both. A guy on Cleveland’s Rapid Transit rail tells me it’s “80-20” — 80 percent of Northeast Ohio patrons believe James will re-sign with the Cavaliers. Then he adds curiously, “But if the Cavs win the championship, that drops to 50-50. He’ll want to win another one somewhere else.”

That is the Cleveland inferiority complex at work. Even if James reaches the summit in Cleveland, bringing the city its first NBA title, he still would want to leave. It’s nonsense, flying against everything James has chattered about in the run-up to his free agency, which begins July 1.

Last night, James stopped chattering, blowing off his pregame interview session, which is becoming more commonplace.

During the Cavs’ 113-106 victory over the Knicks, several fans held up signs reading “No York” — a reference to the Knicks’ pursuit of James, who dropped 47 on them.

The better the Cavaliers do this season — and right now they own the NBA’s best record at 41-11 — the worse the Knicks’ chances of making the biggest score. The worse the Knicks do this season also takes the air out of the July grand ball.

Cleveland Magazine reported 40.5 million Google results for the phrase “LeBron James unrestricted free agent.” The magazine deduced in a cover story titled “LeBron Will Stay” that after parsing all the quotes on the subject, a 90-percent chance exists he doesn’t leave Cleveland.

Frank Isola, New York Daily News:

The worst-kept secret in sports is that James, a pending free agent, is the Knicks' primary target starting July 1. The best thing the Knicks have to offer is Madison Square Garden and endless marketing opportunities - although James appears to be doing pretty well in the marketing department while wearing a Cavs uniform.

Cleveland is also providing James with the best chance to win, which James says is his top priority. The Cavs have now won 11 straight games and are on pace to lock up the NBA's best record for a second straight year. The Knicks have to root for Boston, Orlando or Atlanta to knock off Cleveland during the postseason because a second trip to the NBA Finals would likely result in James re-signing with the Cavs.

"That's what we're thinking," said one Cavs official. "You never know what could happen but I think he'll stay."

The Cleveland franchise is cautiously optimistic that James will spend the prime years of his career - or at least the next three - in his home state. But they also understand the lure of New York City. Walsh has plenty to offer James, except a winning team.

Mike D'Antoni's squad is 19-31 and will struggle to make the playoffs. The Knicks are on pace for a ninth straight losing season and thus it's hard to imagine James leaving to join a rebuilding team.

"I think they're trying to show LeBron that (Danilo) Gallinari is a good piece to build around," said the Cavs official. "I like him as a player but right now he's one-dimensional. And a lot of those other guys are free agents and won't be back. The Knicks are going to get someone this summer. I have no idea who that is but they're still a few years away from being a contender."

James has refused to discuss his future for several months, but people close to him claim that he hasn't made a decision yet. The Knicks are hoping to get him to visit the Garden on July 1 and there is a feeling that James, who likes the attention, would milk the recruiting process for as long as possible.

As a Cleveland fan, I won't believe LeBron is staying until he signs that dotted line but I won't pretend that this isn't a positive development either. If NY folks are starting to realize that LeBron leaving is a long shot, then things are trending in the right direction.

The Cavs and Dan Gilbert can't offer beaches or the big city, but he can offer a winning franchise with top flight facilities (oh, and the most money). As I've said before, James isn't hurting trying to find marketing gigs here in C-Town (and by the way, that McDonalds' Super Bowl HORSE ad with Dwight Howard wasn't that good) and I doubt he wants to start over with a team trying to make the playoffs. The Cavs are winning and the teams hoping to sign LeBron aren't, you can't ask for much more than that.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


So the game where the Cavs nearly blow a 20 point halftime lead is the same game where they got that lead from LeBron nailing jumpers? Interesting.

To simply say that LeBron was 'hot' the first quarter doesn't do him justice. He was feeling his jumper and he kept moving farther and farther away and shot after shot kept going in. It was full on Video Game James and LeBron scored 24 straight Cavalier points.

The Cavs were up 20 points at half and lead 94-80 heading into the fourth and yet somehow were clinging to a 109-106 lead with just over two minutes to go. Fittingly, James bailed them out with a couple jumpers and few free throws (Bron-Bron was 7-7 from the stripe) and the Cavs hung on for the win. LeBron's final line was ridiculous: 47 points, 8 boards, 8 assists and 5 steals.

While it was frustrating to watch them piss away 20 point lead, it wasn't exactly surprising. The Cavs built their lead by watching a scorching hot LeBron make nearly every shot. Is anyone shocked they kept watching him? Watching LeBron got them the lead, watching LeBron lost them their lead and in the end, LeBron won it.

I don't want to sound critical but it's hard to not be a little frustrated after watching that second half. Yes, the first quarter was ridiculous and when LeBron gets like that, you let him go. But they more or less took off the second half and there's really no good reason for the lead to shrink to just three. I mean sure, a win is a win is a win. If you need LeBron to win a game by himself in early February, so be it. They all count the same in the end and these are the perks for employing the best player in the game.

However, I do think the second half shows how vulnerable they are when LeBron does everything. They're too predictable when LeBron dominates the ball like that. It can work for stretches but it's not their best offense. They other guys can't be all be spot up shooters, the offense needs movement and can't bog down. But hey, they're missing their two point guards and LeBron has been averaging 10 assists in their absence.

They've won 11 in a row and have the best record in the NBA. These guys are good.

Friday, February 05, 2010

10 in a Row

The Cavs, with LeBron James starting a point guard (where's Dajuan Wagner?) have just won their 10th game in a row and their record stands at 40-11. You know what their record was last season at this time? 40-11.

Think about that. After all the early season questions (I mean, people seriously lost their shit after that Toronto loss) and tough schedule (all the 4-in-5s and back-to-backs), Cavs have matched the pace of last season's 66 win team.

Would anyone out there take last year's squad over this current one? I know I wouldn't.

(For what it's worth, I didn't set the VCR last night and I only caught some of the third and all of the fourth. Not exactly an exciting finish).

This is why I'm so torn on the trade deadline. For some time now I've been saying that while the Cavs should make a trade, they don't have to.

Obviously, I understand why people want the Cavs to make a deal. The Cavs showed last season that having the best regular season record doesn't mean jack come playoff time. You couple that with the fact that the Cavs sat on Wally Szczerbiak's expiring deal and some fans are convinced that Cavs must make a move.

I get all that. I really do. But this team is different. Last year's team had significant matchup problems with other elite teams, this year's team doesn't have that. And letting go of Wally is a tad easier to swallow than parting with longtime Cavalier Zydrunas Ilgauskas (both emotionally and basketball-wise). While both were role players, Z is Shaq's backup and a nice insurance policy in case the big fella goes down (or do you trust a Cleveland team to stay healthy for the playoffs? We don't need another Jim Chones situation).

The best case scenario is the Cavs getting someone like Antawn Jamison or Andre Iguodala for Z's contract and then having Washington or Philly buy out Z. But from what I've read, teams seem to be asking a lot from Danny Ferry (Indiana wanted Z, J.J. and multiple picks for Troy Murphy. HAHAHAHA). The thinking goes that since LeBron can walk this summer, the Cavs will be eager to make a deal that put them over the hump and other team can take advantage of their supposedly desperate situation.

But that's the thing, the Cavs shouldn't be desperate. Obviously, I'd love to add a player like Jamison, Iguodala or Amare Stoudemire, but I don't want Ferry to feel like he has to. The last thing I want is some panic trade. Just because you stood pat last season and didn't win it all doesn't mean you're doomed to lose this year if you fail to find a trade. Name me a team that the Cavs matchup poorly with? There's no team out there like Orlando last year that creates a mismatch at three different positions. The Cavs are versatile, they're flexible and they beat the good teams.

The Cavs top win streak is 11. Their next two games are against the Knicks and the Nets. I will be seriously disappointed if they don't get to 12.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Agree 100%

Ball Don't Lie midseason awards:
Most Valuable Player

1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

It's not even close. No player combines all the important facets of an NBA game and performs them as well and as consistently as James. At this rate, anything outside of a unanimous win should be cause for concern from the voters.


Defensive Player of the Year

1. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers

Quick test. Whether you have League Pass, or are following the Cavaliers through that team's 97 national TV appearances this season, count in your head how many times you've seen Varejao flop in a game. I've seen quite a bit of his minutes, and I can barely recall any, a far shot from the three flops per half that infuriated so much (infuriated even Cavs fans, because refs stopped giving him the benefit of the doubt) before this season.

If you're lucky, you have a chance to block three shots (three possessions altered) a game. But every time down court, your ability to show on a screen-and-roll or protect the paint or close out properly or secure a defensive rebound can alter things completely and utterly. That's what Varejao does consistently.

I almost got really pissed when Varejao was left off the Sixth Man of the Year section, but I'll gladly take Defensive Player of the Year instead.

The idea that this team is all LeBron is ludicrous. Yes, he's far and away the best player on the squad (as he would be on any team) but he's not the sole reason the Cavs win games (only the biggest).

Cleveland 105, Memphis 89

Domination, pure domination. Normally, whooping the Grizzlies at home isn't all that impressive, but this Memphis team is pretty good; they beat the Lakers on Monday and they're 25-14 after their 1-8 start. But the Cavs just dominated. Cleveland's defense was fantastic (Memphis shot 38% from the floor) and their offense was equally impressive (the Cavs shot 49% and had 27 assists). I think that this extended home stand (and the extra practices that go with it) is really going to help the Cavs, especially offensively. Guys were moving without the ball, the offense didn't stagnate and the Cavs seemed to get whatever they wanted. Yes, Memphis was on their fourth game in five nights, but they're a good team and this game was never close.

LeBron looks like he's toying with people. James led the Cavaliers with 22 points and he easily could've had much more. James ran the offense to perfection; he set up his teammates for easy hoops, collecting 15 assists in the process, and picked his spots to score the ball. There were no instances of Le-Iso that I can remember and the game felt like one giant highlight reel. LeBron finished with 22 points, 6 boards, 15 assists, a steal and a ridiculous chase down block on O.J. Mayo. His layup at the end of the half is gonna be what people talk about (he switched hands mid-air, like Mike) but my favorite plays were his two hook shots off the low block. That's right, LeBron had two running hooks and they were beautiful. I'm telling you, this extended mid-season home stand could be the worst thing to happen to the rest of the league. The offense is clicking and Bron-Bron is showing off hook shots. Awesome.

Shaq seems to be rounding into shape. The big fella finished with 13 points and 13 boards in just 21 minutes. He shot 6-10 from the floor and he even dominated the game for a stretch in the second quarter, scoring 7 straight points and setting up LeBron for an easy dunk. He seems to have found his touch from the floor, he's not missing those bunnies like he did early on. Defensively, Shaq was great. O'Neal had 4 blocks and he was a big reason why Zach Randolph shot just 3-14 to finish with 8 points.

Another solid game by Boobie. I have to say, I had some concerns with Gibson taking over the point guard duties for a few weeks, but things have gone pretty well (if 'they haven't lost since Mo got hurt' counts as 'pretty well). Gibson has scored in double figures every night since his insertion into the starting lineup and his 16 points Tuesday night was a season high. Boobie finished with 16 points (6-11 FG, 2-6 3pt), 1 board, 3 assists and a steal. However, as good as his scoring has been, over these six starts, Gibson has a total of 14 assists (or one less than LeBron had on Tuesday). Of course, since Mo has been out, LeBron has been conducting the offense (Tuesday was a perfect example) and has averaged 10 assists over those seven games, allowing Gibson to focus on what he does best- shoot.

Solid night from the big men. J.J. Hickson had a nice game, going for 15 and 8 with an assist and two steals. He played good defense early on (leading to some points) and his spacing at the offensive end looks really good. Varejao continued his strong play, netting 8 and 6 in 25 minutes off the bench and I'm continually amazed at how well he finishes while moving (reverses, bank shots, etc). Finally, Z shot 6-10 from the floor and finished with 14 and 5 in 21 minutes. The Cavs got 27 and 18 out of their center spot, with neither guy playing more than 21 minutes. Me gusta.

I thought Mike Brown had a good night. First of all, he's got to get a little credit for all the passing and cutting, no? I really think that we'll see the offense improve throughout this home stand. It was nice seeing the Cavs not give away their 18 point halftime lead (Cleveland's highest scoring quarter was the third) and the Cavs never let up. Brown also led the arena in a standing ovation for Shaq after the big fella protected the rim with one of his four blocks. I really liked some of the lineups Brown used, particularly the five of LeBron-Jawad-Moon-Varejao-Shaq/Z. That's a big effing group right there. You could take that group, move Varejao to center, add Delonte and go 'small' and run while still playing great defense. This team is versatile and I love it.

Rough night for Memphis. I feel for any team that is playing its fourth game in five nights but playing the Lakers and Cavs back-to-back... ugh. Randolph was 3-14, O.J. Mayo went 4-15, Mike Conley (who hit the game winning shot earlier this year in Memphis) finished just 1-6 and while Rudy Gay shot a respectable 7-14, he never seemed comfortable out there (at one point shoving Varejao into a shooting Jawad Williams, which ended up in a four-point play). The Cavs had the extra rest and they used their energy to harass the Grizzlies shooters at every opportunity. The Cavs never took their foot off the gas and the Grizzlies just wilted (there wasn't even a token 'get the lead down to 10' third quarter run).

and finally...

Sweet, we get to watch LeBron vs Wade again. The Cavs face the Heat this Thursday night on TNT and lord knows what to expect. I love watching Wade and Bron-Bron go against each other I'm sure a nationally televised game won't hurt matters (though it could if they go into Hero Mode too early). The Cavs follow Miami with the Knicks on Saturday, the Nets on Tuesday and head into the All-Star break after facing the Magic in Cleveland next Thursday.