Saturday, November 29, 2008

Once more, with feeling

I really didn't want to write this post. I really didn't. I've written somewhat extensively (for me anyways) about LeBron and 2010 and I've felt I've said all I can. I didn't want to keep writing the same rebuttal every time Chris Sheridan or Adrian Wojnarowski decided to pen another "LeBron to New York" story. I was going to try to ignore 2010 until well, 2010.

But then the Cavs faced the Knicks shortly after New York made some cap clearing trades and ESPN lost their shit. Now, casual sports fans and even casual acquaintances are asking me about LeBron leaving for New York (because, as the big Cavs fan they know, they figure I must have an opinion).

So this is it. This is the last time I'm ever discussing the possibility of LeBron leaving in 2010. After this, I'm done. I'm thrilled that people visit my little blog to discuss various Cavaliers news and rumors. But I'm telling you now, if want to read a Cleveland fan rip some ESPN douchenozzle over his latest LeBron to NY column, this is not the place for you. It would be a shame if we spent the year ignoring this great team because we're worried about what LeBron might do in two seasons. I'm going to try to touch on just about everything, so this is gonna be long.

The entire sports media has been pushing the narrative that LeBron is leaving. ESPN has been going non-stop (J.A. Adande, Chris Broussard, Truehoop twice, Marc Stein, Bill Simmons, the Stephen A Smith interview and countless Around the Horn, PTI and Sportscenter segments), Jim Rome spent his entire Nov. 18th show on the great Chalupa controversy and Wojnarowski has been a one man wrecking crew, writing five (5!!) "LeBron is leaving" stories in the first fucking month of the season (Sports Illustrated also discussed it a little bit). I knew we've reached critical mass when the AP recap of the Cavs-Knicks game had almost no information about... the Cavs-Knicks game.

But ESPN has gone off the deep end. This isn't the first time this has happened; over past few years, the four lettered network has beaten various stories into the ground (for instance: Barry Bonds + steroids, Roger Clemens + steroids and ongoing Terrell Owens and Brett Favre soap operas) and the "LeBron 2010" story is just the latest example. For what it's worth, at least those other stories were, you know, newsworthy.

*Hall of Fame baseball players caught cheating = news.
*All-Pro wideout quitting on his team/throws QB under the bus/being a general douchebag = news.
*Hall of Fame QB parting ways with the franchise he's synonymous with = news

But LeBron's free agency isn't actually news. LeBron can't leave the Cavaliers for an entire two seasons, all of this stuff is just speculation. It's suffocating, obnoxious and insulting, but it's still only speculation (and it'll only get worse- we're TWO YEARS away!).

So am I worried he might leave? No, I'm really not. Do I think he could leave? Sure. If I had to guess RIGHT NOW, I'd say he'll stay, but I really don't know.

As a Cleveland fan, obviously I know that players leave. I've seen some of the best players in Indians franchise history leave for 'greener' pastures (Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and now C.C. Sabathia), so I'm quite aware that James leaving is well within the realm of possibilities (I mean, fuck, the Cleveland freaking Browns even left).

But I refuse to worry about it. Look, if James wants to go to a bigger market, there's nothing that the Cavs organization can do. New York has more light bulbs and eyeballs than Cleveland. That is indisputable. And if James wants that kind of spotlight, then he's gone no matter what, so why should I worry? I'm gonna enjoy the time that he's Cavalier.

And despite what ESPN wants you to believe, it's not a done deal that LeBron is out the door. Chris Broussard:

I've had several conversations with LeBron about his future, and I can tell you that anyone who says he's definitely leaving Cleveland doesn't know what he's talking about.

"It's not a foregone conclusion that he's leaving,'' a person close to LeBron said. "It's premature to make that assumption.''


All in all, I'd give the Cavs a slight edge basketball-wise, especially if they win a title in the next year or two and are able to keep all that cap room. A longtime friend of LeBron's is convinced he's staying in Cleveland.

"He loves home,'' the friend told me yesterday. "That dude is a homebody more than people know. People think he's out all the time, but he'd be so happy to be at home.''

But it may come down to the issue of lifestyle.

"He's obsessed with living in New York,'' another friend told me recently.

LeBron is a fashion plate, and what better place to show off your wares than New York. He clearly likes the limelight and the Hollywood scene, so playing in front of the Garden's famous actors, actresses, athletes, rappers, et al would undoubtedly appeal to him. Also, some of the people around LeBron would rather see him in New York, where they believe he's more marketable, than in Cleveland.

So two 'friends' told Broussard two completely different things. And you know what? They're both probably right. I don't think LeBron even knows what he's going to do in two years. Do you know where you'll be living in two years? I sure don't.

But doesn't LeBron need New York to fufill his stardom? And doesn't the league need LeBron on the Knicks to score mucho ratings? Maybe not:

Now if James wants New York's vibrancy and thin-crust pizza, that's one thing. Maybe he just wants to play 41 games a year in Madison Square Garden. From the savvy fans to the booming sound system, it's still the NBA's best arena when it's at full blast.

But let's dispense with the notion that he has to go there, that it's the next step in his career and any other location between there and Los Angeles is a waste of his time. Patrick Ewing got to New York a year after MJ went to the Midwest … and you don't see people wearing Ewing's silhouette on their shoes.

LeBron made the cover of Sports Illustrated and played games on ESPN when he was a high schooler in Akron. In Cleveland, he's been on the cover of Fortune, Time and Vogue (maybe he should have rethought that last one). He has hosted "Saturday Night Live."


If LeBron goes to New York, he won't get any famouser. I'm forced to use a made-up word because the Knicks are a made-up mythology, somehow considered to be among the elite franchises even though the Rockets have won just as many championships in 21 fewer years of existence. The Warriors, Trail Blazers and Heat have won more recently than the Knicks. The Bullets and Sonics have won more recently, too, only they're not the Bullets and Sonics anymore.

When it comes to the league's health, the Knicks are like tonsils. It's nice to have them, but you can live without them. At the NBA's zenith in the 1980s, the stars of the program were in L.A. and Boston. The Knicks were the sideshow, giving us the occasional Bernard King scoring outbursts or the Ewing lottery. The best they could be in the early 1990s was an interesting villain to be vanquished, Sgt. Slaughter to Jordan's Hulk Hogan.

What happened the first two times Jordan retired and allowed the Knicks to get their time in the spotlight? Viewers left in droves. The biggest NBA Finals ratings drop-offs were from a 17.9 for Jordan in 1993 to a 12.4 for the Knicks and Rockets in 1994 and an 18.7 for Jordan in 1998 to an 11.3 for the Knicks and Spurs in 1999.

It doesn't matter that the Knicks reside in the nation's largest television market. New York only matters to New Yorkers. The rest of the country doesn't care.

Exactly. Big stars are going to be Big Stars no matter where they play. K.G. in Minny, LeBron in Cleveland, Shaq in Orlando- big time players will get endorsements no matter where they go. But the marginal player... those guys could use big markets. You think Luke Walton is going on soap operas if he plays in Memphis? You think Greg Anthony or Tiki Barber land talking head gigs if they didn't spend their entire careers in NYC?

If LeBron wants to up his earning potential, he needs to win. A lot. Marc Stein:

The Cavs, though, are still in a pretty good spot. James, for starters, is a certifiably proud Ohioan, which has to help. What happens if they make one more trade for one more difference-making sidekick this season or next? What happens if they actually manage to win it all once before LeBron's contract expires? The Cavs better have a convincing championship plan to hit James with when he's free to leave, because the closest thing to a sure thing in this whole process is what we were told this week by one source close to LeBron: "He knows that championships will determine his legacy." Then again, they're not that far off with what they've got right now to surround their potential 22, 10 and 10 guy.

All the Cavs can do is keep winning. They have a top flight practice facility, a loaded locker room and a pretty decent arena (with fire breathing scoreboards!) . All the amenities are there. They have a stable front office, with an owner that's willing to spend money and a GM that's building up a fairly good track record. They also have a coach that preaches defense (you know, the stuff that wins championships) and they'll have a ton of capspace of their own in two years.

But what if LeBron is determined to leave? No matter what he's out there door. So what do you do, do you trade him and get something for him before he's gone?


GM 101.

I know. I agree.

And I know that there are far more Dans -- Ferry, Gilbert, and the like -- in this world than there are LeBrons. The superstar ultimately holds the cards, and everyone else should act accordingly.

But that doesn't mean you stand idly by as they loot the store. If at any point the Cavaliers believe LeBron James is going to leave as a free agent in 2010, it's time to start preparing Cavalier fans for the fact that you might trade the guy.

At the very least, it might dim the lights a little on the LeBron James flirtation show.

Or it might end up being smart to actually trade him.


So my point is, if you're Danny Ferry, and you don't have strong private conviction that LeBron James is harmlessly flirting, don't you have to at least know what's out there?

There is probably no limit to what you could get for LeBron James in trade. Three affordable young stars and some cap space doesn't seem like too much to ask. (UPDATE: David Thorpe's clever trade suggestion. Even looking at that trade machine screen kills me as a Blazer fan ... you don't trade those guys either ... but the market for James must just be sick. He's a one-man trip to the Finals. And another idea from Thorpe, involving Boston.)

No. The Cavs aren't like the Indians. First of all, they're better. Second of all, unlike the Tribe, they can offer their players the most money. LeBron will make about $30 million more by re-signing with the Cavaliers. Now, if maybe if the Cavs got so far out of contention I might be willing to look into LeBron trade scenarios (à la C.C. Sabathia), but as long as they have a shot for the Finals, you don't trade him. You let LeBron walk away from a Championship caliber team. You let him make that decision. Cleveland needs a title and we need it badly. You don't trade away a shot at a title for the future. You ride this out.

Cavs fans are getting antsy. We finally have "The Man" and all everyone can talk about is when he's going to leave. It sucks. Some of us are getting sick of LeBron's act, like friend of the blog (I was in Who Shot Mamba?) Brian Spaeth:

I don't care anymore if he goes.

You watch those two teams last night, and it's clear that if LeBron signs with the Knicks, then he doesn't care about winning, at least not as much as playing in New York. In my mind, that's the case, and he's gone anyway, unless he really, really, really just likes all this attention. (This is entirely possible, by the way. Just like his people circled 08/08/08 on the calendar as a climactic marketing target, they may have now circled 07/01/10, just for the attention it can draw. I did think it was odd how LeBron specifically used the date in his ending statement last night -- just seemed too scripted.)

In any case, I love watching "LeBron the Basketball Player" play for the Cavs, and I love how all the pieces have really fit together nicely this year. I'm even at peace with Mike Brown finally.

"LeBron the Marketing Maven," on the other hand, I'm tired of. He's annoying.

My sincere hope at this point is that Cleveland wins the title in 2010, and then LeBron doesn't help defend it, by signing with the Knicks that summer.

As a result, the basketball gods can lay the biggest curse of all-time on both of them. I'm sure the media will find plenty to say ad nauseum about that, as well.

I pretty much agree, with a few caveats. I'm sure LeBron likes the attention, but he hasn't done a whole lot to stoke the fire. Ya, he's played coy with the media for awhile, but at this point it's something I expect. Look, I don't think he knows what he's gonna do, so I figure he's keeping his options open. Now, would I like him to just say, "I've discussed this at length and I just want to focus on my current team"? Of course. But I don't want him to state unequivocally that he's staying either. Because then he's obviously being disingenuous (because I don't think he even knows) and seen other athletes say they'll stay, only to leave for bigger bucks later. I don't really mind LeBron keeping his options open.

But Spaeth is a lot less incendiary than other Cleveland fans. The current radio promo for the Jim Rome show (which I cannot find online- it was from Chalupa-day) features a Cleveland caller bitching that LeBron held the Cavs to 99 points simply to spite the fans (no chalupa!), just like he wears Yankees and Cowboys gear. The guy goes on to slam LeBron and all but tells him to get the fuck out.

Look, if you have a problem with LeBron wearing a Yankees cap, you're a grade A moran. The fact that the only "issue" with LeBron is that he likes a different football and baseball team is pretty nice, don't ya think? James isn't in trouble with the law, he's not making stop-snitching videos, he's not involved with drugs, he's not skipping practice or getting coaches fired. If you want to deny the city a championship because James doesn't like the Indians, you suck.

The worst part of this whole thing is the fact that we're ignoring this season by worrying about 2010. Bill Simmons actually enjoys it:

Quick tangent: The Summer of 2010 quickly turned into a polarizing topic since it's two years away and some fans are rightly making the "Can't we just concentrate on this season?" and "How is this good for a professional sport that a team is throwing away two solid seasons for something that might happen?" My counter: The NBA's off-court subplots, in many ways, have become just as fun as anything happening on the court. Because of the Internet, sports radio, team blogs, better information guys and everything else, the whole trade/draft/free-agent market has practically evolved into its own sport to follow. We love reading mock drafts, making up fake trades, arguing about GM mistakes, discussing the latest moves and everything else. That's just become part of being a hoops fan.

The Summer of 2010 (it sounds like a blockbuster movie) ties everything we love about that goofy underbelly into one neat package. You have teams killing themselves to clear cap space. You have rumors galore. You have a staggering number of star free agents who might be available (including Wade and LeBron, who only has a chance to become the best player of all time), as well as some crucial markets in the hunt (including New York, the league's signature city). That summer could rewrite the following 10 years of the league. It really could. If LeBron signed with the Knicks in the prime of his career, that would be the single biggest transaction in the history of the league. And if LeBron, Wade and Bosh really did make that China pact to play in New York? The significance can't be calculated. I don't know if we can discuss it enough.

(In fact, I think ESPN should jump on this story like ABC jumped on the Iran Hostage Crisis with "Nightline." I vote for a daily afternoon show called "Toyota's Summer of 2010" hosted by Matt Winer, Tim Legler, Jalen Rose and Tim Hardaway in his dramatic return to TV. Every day, they could just rehash the latest rumors and interview Marc Stein and Ric Bucher by the Sony VideoPhone. Once a week, Chad Ford could give us the latest from Hawaii via OnStar Satellite while wearing one of Thomas Magnum's old shirts. EA Sports could simulate mock "NBA Live" games with Wade and LeBron on various teams. And so on. Would I TiVo this show? Absolutely! Speaking of TV ...)

This is different than our current situation how, exactly?

Cavs fans, be warned, this isn't going to stop. It's going to be this way for the next two years. Hell, they've all but told us:

Doesn't matter that LeBron could be heard at that Obama rally announcing to a downtown crowd: "I love Ohio and I ain't goin' nowhere." If the other teams in the NBA aren't listening, why would their fans be?


You're going to hear it ad nauseam until LeBron actually signs that next contract -- King James to the Knicks is a done deal! -- and we're going to keep countering with this: Why would LeBron, even if he's leaning one way or another, commit to anything so soon?

This will not end. If this is getting to you, do what I do: ignore it. You can ignore ESPN if you want. Trust me, I've been doing it for months. I got sick of the T.O. coverage, got sick of the Bonds coverage, got sick the Clemens coverage and by the time they were pimping the Favre story this summer, I was gone. Hell, don't take it from me, take it from ESPN's J.A. Adande:

You don't need to go to the media anymore. The media come to you, even if it means parking a satellite truck at your curb. Just ask Joe the Plumber. In the world of YouTube, Flickr and Facebook, anyone with a digital camera and a high-speed Internet connection is the media. In fact, LeBron's best work can be found on the Web, in that sublime scene where Smooth LeBron romances Nicole Scherzinger with a pair of high-tops.

You can follow the Cavs and the NBA without ever turning on Sportscenter, trust me. They're going to keep at this LeBron thing. Watch at your own risk.

It's really a shame, because this years Cavs team is really, really good. This is a complete basketball team. The Delonte West shooting guard experiment has worked far beyond my wildest dreams. Z and Ben Wallace are playing extremely well in limited minutes. Mo Williams has been amazing and will only get better as the year goes on. The Cavs are deeper than they've ever been, with Daniel Gibson, Wally Sczcerbiak and Anderson Varejao all coming off the bench (let alone the rookies J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson). And hell, Mike Brown's offense sure looks a lot better when he has an honest-to-God point guard to run it, doesn't it?

Folks, this is damn good basketball team. Everyone knows their role, there's no fighting for minutes and everyone seems to actually get along (have you seen how the bench reacts to big plays?). Oh yeah, they're super talented to boot. I dunno about you guys, but I want to enjoy this basketball team. This looks like the best squad ever fielded by the Cavalier franchise and I, for one, will not let something that might happen in two years stop me from enjoying it.

If he leaves, he leaves. All the Cavs can do is try to give LeBron the best chance to win championships. It looks like they're on the right path.

But no matter what, worst case scenario, LeBron is here for two more seasons. That's two more trading deadlines, two more postseason runs and one more (critical) offseason. That's hundreds of dunks, behind the back passes and ridonkulous blocks. I want to be able to appreciate this guy in full.

So I'm not going to spend the LeBron-era (no matter the length) being worried about the future (and justifiably pissed at ESPN). Right now, the Cleveland Cavaliers have the best basketball player on the planet suiting up for them, so soak it in. This kind of talent doesn't come around too often (which is exactly the reason why everyone is gearing up for 2010).

So this is my last post on the subject. If you want more, I highly recommend (I wrote the plea) for all your 2010 needs (donate!). But I'm done addressing it. I know it's infuriating, trust me, oh I know. But I can't keep talking about it or I'll go insane.

This is a very good basketball team (run by very competent people). They're going to win a lot of basketball games over the next two seasons. Enjoy the ride.

Cleveland 112, Golden State 97

Again with the blowouts? The Cavs came out a bit sluggish against the Warriors (at one point trailing 15-4) but fought back to trail just 32-29 after one quarter. The Cavs took the lead in the 2nd quarter and never looked back (they went into halftime with a 58-52 lead). Their attack was balanced, LeBron led the charge with 9 second quarter points, while Mo Williams had 8 and Z pitched in 5.

And they looked great in the third period. I don't know where the crappy third periods went, but I'm glad as hell they're gone. The Cavs outscored the Warriors by a ridiculous 36-16 in the third period. I loved the fact that they just kept going to Illgauskas, daring the Warriors to stop him- they didn't. For the period, Z had 10 points off of an array of post moves, Golden State never doubled and the Cavs made them pay.

LeBron James is absolutely ridiculous. LeBron finished with 23 points (9-13 FG), 7 boards, 8 assists, 3 steals and a block in just 30 minutes. He had at least four powerful dunks and only one was off of a play that he initiated. He's getting a ton of alley-oops and weakside dunks just by moving without the ball (and having competent deliverymen). James finished 3-4 from behind the arc (good) and just 2-4 from the foul line (notsomuch). His free throws don't bother me all that much, considering he only took four (and that doesn't bother me either, he went inside enough, the Warriors just let him get dunks).

Z was great. Z went to work at the offensive end, again scoring in double figures (as he has every game) and adding 3 boards and 1 steal. He abused multiple Warrior big men in the post, using a variety of old man post moves on his way to his season high 21 points (9-13 FG) in just 19 minutes of action.

The rebounded was fantastic. Sure, Z only had 3, but that was offset by both Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak(!!) grabbing 9. The Cavs outrebounded the Warriors 52-42 and had 16 offensive boards. Both Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson came off the bench to grab 5 boards apiece.

I love the starting backcourt. Mo Williams had 16 points (6-14 FG, 1-4 3pt) and Delonte West had 13 (4-12 FG, 1-4 3pt) but they did so much more. Williams had a big second quarter with 8 points (he took over briefly while LeBron was on the bench) and West did a great job guarding Warriors guard, and general crazy person, Stephen Jackson. West gave up 5 inches, but held Jackson to just 2-11 shooting. Both guys stuffed the stat sheet; Williams finished with 4 assists, 2 rebounds, a steal and a block while West netted 5 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block. I'll be honest, I did not expect these two to compliment each other so well.

I can't say enough about the job Ben Wallace has done. Is it weird that I really love how he rotates on defense? Not only is Wallace playing well on defense, he's making it easier on guys like Z and LeBron to stay out of foul trouble, simply by being where he's supposed to be (ya, I don't miss Drew Gooden). Wallace was also great on the offensive glass, getting the Cavs some extra possessions with his 5 offensive boards.

Wally has found his shot, Boobie hasn't. Szczerbiak was lights out again, shooting 4-7 from the floor and hitting 1-2 from long range (he finished oh-so-close to a double-double, going 9 and 9). Gibson's shot started to look better (especially when he hit two treys to start the fourth quarter), but it's not quite there yet. Boobie finished with 16 points on 6-14 shooting, but was a lousy 2-8 from 3pt range. This team will be even tougher to handle if they can get both Wally and Boobie knocking down shots at the same time.

and finally...

Remember, remember this month of November. If the Cavs can pull out a win Saturday night against a 7-11 Bucks team (in Milwaukee), they'll have their best November in franchise history, going 14-3 (with a 8-game win streak and a 4-in-5 sweep). They should be in pretty good shape on Saturday; LeBron has only averaged about 25 minutes over the last 3 games as Mike Brown has been able to keep his starters fresh due to the blowouts. Again, the schedule makers were somewhat favorable (they haven't faced a ton of good teams, especially at home) but they've been beating the bad teams soundly (like they should be).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cleveland 117, Oklahoma 82

This is getting pretty fun. The Cavs out-everythinged the Thunder- this game was never remotely close. Cleveland jumped out to a 13 point lead and never looked back. Six Cavaliers scored in double figures (led by Zydrunas's 17) and their lead ballooned up to 42. None of the starters reached 30 minutes and three of 'em (Z, Wallace and James) didn't get to 20.

Defense, defense, defense. Ben Wallace sets the tone and everyone else responds. Big Ben got another two blocks and both LeBron and J.J. Hickson finished with 3 (and LeBron's last one was absolutely stupid- he punched that thing into the stands). No matter the score, the Cavs were working hard guarding the Thunder and crashing the boards.

Everyone played great (well, except maybe Sasha). The Cavs shot 60% as a team, blocked 10 shots, out-rebounded the Thunder 46-28 and held Oklahoma to just 35% shooting. The only things that didn't go right were Gibson's 3 point shooting (1-6) and Pavlovic mediocre-ness (1-3 FG, 2-7 FT (including an air ball), 1 assist and 0 boards).

Hickson is starting to look comfortable. If there's a story of the game it's J.J.; the rookie poured in 14 points on a variety of dunks (6-12 FG), grabbed 6 boards and swatted 3 shots. Hickson is playing with at on of confidence and having these big leads will really help his development. In one particular sequence, he blocked a shot (leading to fast break) then ran the floor and received an alley-oop for his effort. If he can playing with this kind of confidence, he'll add just another layer to this Cavaliers team.

and finally (yup, wrapping up already)...

They haven't played the greatest teams, but the Cavs have done all you could ask. They're beating teams they should beat and now they're blowing out bad teams. You can't ask for a better start to a 4-in-5 stretch (so much rest for the starters). The scary thing is, the longer that this team plays together, the better they're going to get. Folks, forget about 2010, don't focus on what might happen in two years- this is a really good basketball team. These guys are off to the best start in franchise history. Enjoy it.

NOW he's done

It's not an official Cleveland Browns season until a quarterback is out for the year:

Browns coach Romeo Crennel said Wednesday that quarterback Brady Quinn will miss Cleveland's final five games with a broken right index finger.

Crennel said Quinn is weighing options of resting the injury or having surgery. Quinn must stop all football activity for at least six weeks, sources told ESPN.

Awesome. The only reason I wanted to watch the rest of their games is to see how Quinn did. Now I can't even do that.

Next season can't start soon enough.

Cleveland 119, New York 101

.... and it wasn't even that close. The Cavs beat the Knicks in every way imaginable and they spent large chunks of this game ahead by 30 points. The final score is only this close because the bulk of the second half was garbage time.

It was that kind of night. Ben Wallace was hitting fade-aways, LeBron was knocking down flat footed treys and J.J. Hickson was one of seven Cavaliers to score in double figures (aka this was fun). The Cavs shot 53% from the floor, they out rebounded the Knicks 48-43 and everyone who played got some points. The Cavs also had 9 steals and 8 blocks to completely overwhelm the Knicks at the defensive end.

The bench was fantastic. The bench, with the help of Mo Williams, took the Cavs' 34-22 1st quarter lead and pushed it 55-26 over the first fives minutes of the 2nd. Hickson had his best game as a pro, scoring 10 points and getting a block and a steal (to go with just 2 boards in 18 minutes). Wally Szczerbiak had 15 points and 4 rebounds and he knocked down 3-6 from beyond the arc (where he was constantly left open by the shoddy New York D). Anderson Varejao put up 11 (5-7 FG) and 6 in just 21 minutes. Daniel Gibson also threw in 10 points (but he was just 2-8 from 3) while also giving the Cavs 7 assists and 4 boards.

LeBron got a lot of attention. Hey, did you know he could be a free agent in 2010? That the Knicks are one of the teams rumored to be interested? LeBron had mostly a nondescript game, finishing with 26 points, 4 boards, an assist and a steal in 30 non-competetive minutes. He had a couple of highlight plays (a sick block and a breakaway dunk) but keeping LeBron off of Sportscenter seemed to be the only thing that the Knicks cared about, fouling LeBron whenever he got close to the basket (James finished 9-11 from the stripe).

The bigs were solid, yet again. In 22 minutes of strong play, Ben Wallace finished with 4 points, 5 boards and freaking 5 blocks. Z had the Cavaliers' only double-double, netting 11 points and 10 rebounds to go with his 3 assists (have I mentioned that I LOVE that they're utilizing Z's passing?). Varejao and Hickson gave them solid minutes off the bench and even Darnell Jackson got to play, dropping in 4 points and 2 boards in six garbage time minutes.

3 point shooting was good, not great. The Cavs used the 3 ball early in the game to build their big lead (4 of their 10 treys came in the 1st period). However, they kept shooting 'em and finished just 10/33. Gibson was 2-8, James was 3-7, Delonte West (16 points, 7-14 FG) was 1-7 and Mo Williams (8 points, 4-11) was 0-4. I'm not everly concerned about the long distance shooting, because the bulk of this game was garbage time and the Cavs kept trying to pour it on.

The Knicks stink. Now, they did just make some trades, so guys were making their Knick debut... but this isn't a real good team. There's almost no inside game to speak of (David Lee is a more polished Varejao, nothing more), they have a team full of chuckers (hi Tim Thomas! *waves*) and they dont play a freaking lick of defense. The Cavs absolutely destroyed their will by midway through the 2nd quarter and never looked back (not a bad way to start a 4 games in 5 nights stretch). Enjoy the next couple of seasons, Knicks fans.

and finally...

More turkeys! To follow up the beating of the Knicks, the Cavs get to face the Oklahoma Thunder on Wednesday night, in Cleveland. Nice. They then finish out the month of November with the Warriors and the Bucks (in Milwaukee). Sweeping this last 4-in-5 isn't out of the question and they have a very real chance of going 14-3 in the first month (17 games in 30 days?). (Also, wasn't it great to see them kick the Knicks collective ass in Madison Square Garden?)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Detroit 96, Cleveland 89

I guess eight is enough (I'm sorry). Also, I apparently lied, I'm not leaving for CO until tomorrow.

First half: awesome. The Cavs survived an early punch from the Pistons (down both 7-0 and 9-2) and ended up dominating the first half. They led 24-16 after the 1st and were up 49-38 at halftime. The offense was pretty good (lots of ball movement) and the played suffocating defense (lots of blocks).

Second half: ugh. The offense wilted in the face of Detroit's defense, the defense didn't match Detroit's intensity and the Cavs seemed shocked that the Pistons came back. It wasn't pretty. After scoring just 38 points in the first half, the Pistons put up 28 in the 3rd and 30 in the 4th (while the Cavs countered with 19 and 21, respectively).

Le-Iso reared it's ugly head. During the Cavs win streak, I kinda bitched about them relying too much on the LeBron isolation offense. Sure, he hit some dagger treys, but those weren't good shots. Well, he hoisted those treys on Wednesday night, this time they didn't fall. The thing is, it wasn't just LeBron going isolation; both Mo Williams and Delonte West went one-on-one numerous times throughout the evening (with mixed- at best- results). One last bit on the offense: why was Ben Wallace involved in so many plays, especially far from the hoop? Who thought this was a good idea?

The defense let them down. Well, I don't know if I'd say the defense, but they certainly didn't match Detroit's effort after halftime and it was most apparent at the defensive end. They let Iverson get in the middle of the floor and he simply killed 'em (I agree with Austin Carr, try to force him baseline to see what he does, cause he's getting easy shots whenever he went to the middle) . Also, they gave up the corner 3 ball all night long. In the final period, the Pistons made eleven (11!!) shots in a row to blow the Cavs out of the game. Now, some of this was Detroit getting freakishly hot (Sheed in particular) but the Cavs left a lot of guys open (they were scrambling).

LeBron was... I'm not sure. At times he seemed content to let the other Cavs do the work. And at other times he went iso and hoisted some terrible shots. Though it wasn't like he played poorly either; the man finished with 25 (8-21 FG, 0-4 3pt), 6 boards, 6 assists and 4 steals. I hate to say this, but the Cavs needed more from him (especially with how Detroit turned it on). The Cavs aren't going to get a win in the Palace with James going 1-6 in the 4th (all five misses were jumpers- and three of 'em were outside of 25 feet).

The refs were not good. The Cavs got a lot of calls in the first half; they got away with more than a few hacks and bumps and Varejao acted his way into a couple of calls. However, the refs swung back to the Pistons after halftime. James and Z couldn't buy a whistle and Detroit took advantage. While both teams had legit complaints against the refs (my god, does Detroit whine more than any team in the league) but the refs didn't decide the outcome by any means.

We couldn't play my new favorite game. Sasha Pavlovic took Derek Zoolander's minutes and actually didn't do half bad. Sasha did a fairly decent job on Rip Hamilton and scored 5 points in 12 minutes of playing time. However, he only had 5 points and a single rebound. I like the guy and I think he fits the team better than Szczerbiak (at least at this stage of Wally's career), but he needs to do more than just score (because he's not that great of a scorer).

Mo Williams played great. Well, check that, he shot great. Williams was 5-8 from beyond the arc (9-16 over all) for 25 points in just 23 foul plagued minutes. At times he struggled on defense (you'll have that when you guard A.I.) and he only finished 2 boards, an assist and a steal (also: 4 turnovers). I'll give Mo some credit, he was the only one who could put the ball in the hoop after halftime.

and finally...

Damn, now they won't go 80-2. This loss sucks, cause, well, I hate the Pistons with a passion. But I'm not going be too hard on the Cavs losing the 2nd night of a back-to-back in Detroit (especially coming off an 8 game streak). What I want to see is how they respond to this loss. Previous Cavs teams have been pretty streaky (win 3, lose 2 etc) and I'm hoping they can bounce back and start another win streak Saturday against Atlanta (a nice 3-5 game streak is what I'm looking for). Despite how this game ended, the Cavs are still looking pretty good; they're only losses are at Boston, at New Orleans and at Detroit- there's no shame losing in those three buildings. They have the Hawks, Knicks, Thunder, Warriors and Bucks to finish out November, so the schedule is pretty favorable, let's hope they can stay focused and take advantage.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cleveland 106, New Jersey 82

First half: meh. I wouldn't say the Cavs played poorly in the first half, but they definitely were not sharp. They had a lot of turnovers (11) and it led to a bunch of easy buckets for the Nets. The Cavs took a lot of jumpers and just seemed kinda lazy. They were down as many as 9, but kept it around 5 for most the half and they entered the locker room trailing by 3 (52-49).

Second half: hooray! The Cavs tried something different this game, instead of coming out after halftime and completely sucking ass, they played extremely well. Their defensive pressure was off the charts (holding New Jersey to just 13 points in the 3rd), they stopped turning the ball over (1 TO for the second half) and they shot the fucking lights out. The Cavaliers scored the first 12 points of the 3rd by hitting four treys (Williams and West made two each). After that opening, they never looked back; the Nets never got within 7 and the Cavs kept their focus for the last 24 minutes.

As usual, LeBron was awesome. James led everyone with 31 points and he pitched in 8 boards, 4 assists and a sweet chasedown block. His defensive effort was awesome and though he wasn't in the post too often, he had some variety in his shot selection and he only needed 20 shots for his 31 points. Since the Nets have no interior defense, James could get to the rim at will and he was rewarded with 17 free throws (making 12 of 'em).

Ben Wallace, also awesome. The stats say 3 points, 4 block and 8 boards (4 offensive) in 26 minutes, which is nice. But the stats don't show everything he did. He set the tone at the defensive end, guarding all 5 positions, blocking shots and diving on the floor for loose balls. The Nets tried to slow the Cavs down late in the 3rd by going to hack-a-Ben and Wallace made 'em pay by swishing both freebies. It was that kind of night for the Cavaliers (well, in the second half).

Mo Williams was awesome. 16 points, 6 boards, 6 assists and a steal. That's sweet. He got both LeBron and Z some easy buckets and he's developing a nice two-man game with James (LeBron got him a layup off a pass from the high post). Williams struggled a bit defensively while guarding Devin Harris (23 points) but I thought the effort was there.

I liked what Z did, even though his shot wasn't falling. Z was just 4-14 in his 33 minutes of playing time, but he grabbed 9 boards and had 4 assists. So far, this is the best that the Cavs have used the big fella game in, game out. They're consistently getting him the ball in the post, they're actually using his passing out of the high post and he even hoisting 3s. I though Z's defense was great and I really like how he rebounded the basketball.

Brook Lopez will be a starting NBA center for a number of years. Shocking, I know but I was impressed by the kid (he had 15 points and 13 boards). Now, he got schooled a number of times by both Z and Varejao, but it looks like once he gets used to the league, he'll be fine.

Delonte West passed his first test. The 6-3 West was matched up against the 6-6 Vince Carter and I was really interested to see how he stacked up. Well, Carter finished with just 12 points on 3-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Delonte scored 16, hit all 4 of his treys and grabbed 6 boards. West has been nothing short of awesome this season.

I have a fun game for everyone. Whenever Wally Szczerbiak checks in, count the number of possessions the opposition has before Wally's man hoists a shot. Don't worry, you won't have to count much more past one. Also, Szczerbiak is Derek Zoolander.

The bench was solid, again. Varejao continued his strong play (his confidence looks sky high right now), scoring 8 points and 5 boards while being an all-around pain in the ass. Daniel Gibson had 7 points, but not much else (though he hit two treys, one of 'em ended up being a 4-point play). The aforementioned Szczerbiak had 4 points in 14 minutes, which was exactly what Sasha Pavlovic put up (I thought Pavs has done well in his limited amount of PT this season). Unfortunately, J.J. Hickson didn't see any action until garbage time, but he did get 4 points and a block in his 3 minutes.

and finally...

Detroit tomorrow. The Cavs are finally doing what good teams should do: beat the bad teams soundly, so you can rest your star players. LeBron was under 40 minutes again while the Cavs cruised to their 8th win in a row (and Ben Wallace was under 30). The Cavs are playing at an extremely high level right now and I'm really interested to see how they handle the Pistons. Which brings me to my next item: I'm not going to be able to see how they handle the Pistons. I'm gonna be out of town for the next 5 days or so (driving out to Colorado), so I won't be around for either the Detroit game OR the Atlanta game on Saturday. Thankfully, the Cavs have some off days, so I won't be missing a lot of action.

This whole Chalupa mess

Brian Windhorst:
Before the game some reporters were making small talk in the locker room and LeBron said he was still a little upset about being booed the other night when he dribbled the shot clock out in the last few seconds when the Cavs had 99 points against the Bucks. 100 would've meant free Chalupas, which really seems to fire up the crowd no matter what else is going on. Truth is Mike Brown told LeBron to dribble it out. A couple years ago in the same spot -- I think maybe against the Jazz, but I can't be sure -- Andy Varejao went down and got a cheap layup to get to 100 in the final seconds. Brown was not happy and slapped Andy across the wrist. Anyway, LeBron said "I can't believe people who buy season tickets get worked up over a g-- d--- $1 (blank) taco." LeBron, take a look around during timeouts and see how people go after those 25 cent mini basketballs. Oh and those vouchers for lottery tickets, I personally got clocked in the head by someone leaping for one in the season opener.
OK. Not a big deal. However, for some reason Jim Rome ran with this story for at least the first hour of his show today (I went to work, I dunno if he kept going at it or not).

Rome's main point was that it's not smart to boo a guy who just got 41 points in 43 minutes (he also thought James should man up a bit). But he had these people call up bitching that LeBron likes getting digs on Cleveland fans (OMG!!! Yankees hat!!!!), that he's prepping reasons to bolt and blah blah blah. There was one guy who thought this was an affront to Clevelanders everywhere and James should leave.

Couple things:

A) No one was actually booing LeBron James. They were booing not getting a free taco. If Sasha Pavlovic was dribbling out the clock, they still would've booed.

B) They were sarcastic boos to begin with. I highly doubt anyone was actually angry.

C) If any Cleveland "fan" wants to kick LeBron out of town because he doesn't like the Tribe or the Browns, they can go jump off the 480 bridge.

D) For some reason (hmmm), I really don't like Cleveland fans. I really don't. A lot of front running, no nothing loud mouths (I knew a lot of Bulls fans growing up who now love the Cavs). If you don't like this city's best shot at a championship because he doesn't like the same baseball team as you, you're an idiot.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'll take it!

Beggars can't be choosers:

NEW YORK—A happy, triumphant, and visibly relieved LeBron James accepted the
2009 NBA Championship trophy from commissioner David Stern at a small ceremony in New York Wednesday, just hours after the NBA announced that it would be canceling the remainder of the 2008–2009 season to give itself, and sports fans, a much-needed break.

"On behalf of the Cavaliers, I'm glad I could bring them the title, but mostly I'm just glad I don't have to play all that basketball," said James, who wore street clothes to the 15-minute presentation and left without taking questions. "You have to admit, 80 games is a lot of damn basketball. I'm still tired from last season."

Raise that banner!

Cavs are good, I'm not

Sorry about missing the last two games, I've been quite busy. If it makes you feel any better, I've had the time to actually watch the (tivo'd) games after the fact, but I haven't had the time to watch 'em AND write about 'em. So I have opinions, you just aren't aware of them (Wally sucks! LeBron is good!).

Also, I should have something for tomorrow's game (New Jersey!), but I'm gonna be MIA from Wednesday thru Monday (and, if it makes you feel any better, I won't even be able to watch the Detroit game). Sorry, what can I say, I gotta drive across country (well, to Colorado anyways).

I should have something up this week, but we won't be back to regularly scheduled programming until Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No Recap

I was at a bar...

Cavs look good, eh? Boobie bounced back.

(also, heck of a catch by Randy Moss. That guy is pretty good).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cleveland 99, Milwaukee 93

Five in a row! This is really nice. The Cavs have had a pretty favorable schedule to start the season (especially when compared to last year) and they've taken advantage. Now, all is not perfect (they've actually been outrebounded in the last three games (127-102) and I think LeBron has been relying too much on his jumper in crunch time) but they haven't had let downs against teams they should beat.

41 is apparently the magic number. For the third time this season, James dropped in 41 points. James also added 6 assists, 5 boards and 3 steals (before checking the box score, I figured his other numbers would be higher, because A) he was really active and B) Austin Carr mentioned that James could be closing in on a triple-double. Good call Austin). While there was some Le-Iso, I thought it was better than previous games; LeBron shot some jumpers, true, but they were 2s, off of a jab step move (aka he wasn't hoisting long treys).

Anderson Varejao had another solid (no, great) outing. Andy had 13 points (5-5 FG) and 10 boards in 23 minutes. He was active on the defensive end (2 blocks) but he picked up a lot of ticky-tack fouls (5 in total). Now, I don't really blame him for most of the fouls, the refs weren't exactly kind to the Cavaliers in general (and especially in the first half) but Andy got the worst of it (he was not pleased). Andy was also really active on the offensive end, he and James worked the pick and roll to perfection througout the second half.

But besides Varejao, the bench was bunk. Gibson: 23 min, 0 points, 0-8 FG, 0-6 3pt. Szczerbiak: 24 min, 0 points, 0-3 FG, 0-1 3pt, 0-2 FT(!!). Wally also picked up 3 fouls in the first half, so we got see Sasha Pavlovic for 5 min. Turns out, Sasha was the second leading scorer off the bench, with a whopping 2 points. J.J. Hickson also saw some action, scoring a single point in 5 minutes of play.

Z sat for the 4th quarter (thanks to Varejao) but he played a solid game as well. It's nice to be able to play Illgauskas for just 23 minutes, especially when he scores 15 points and grabs 10 boards in that short amount of time. Z has had a great start to the season and I really like how the Cavs are using him; they're getting him regular touches in the post, setting him up for jumpers at key spots on the floor and even using him in the high post to utilize his passing (Z had 3 assists).

For a quarter there, Luke Ridenour looked like Mark Price. Ridenour torched the Cavs for 14 points in the third period. He was on fire, hitting 3s, setting guys up. The Cavs didn't help by going under some screens, but I gotta give the man credit, he was killing 'em.

Let's forget about the 3 point shooting, shall we? The Cavs were 3-20. Three for twenty. Gibson was a brutal 0-6. Wally missed both he took. Williams was 1-5. West 1-3... and LeBron was 1-4. It was not a pretty night from beyond the arc.

Williams had a nice game against his former team. 16 points and 5 assists ain't terrible, right? While Mo hit his free throws (9-10- btw, isn't it nice having a PG who is money from the line again? I've miss this), he was just 3-11 from the floor. His shot wasn't falling, but he forced the issue and went inside, creating points for himself and others. Another nice sign was that he got in both Z and LeBron's faces when they got chippy about some early fouls (I like seing him assert himself out there).

Andrew Bogut sucks. 20 minutes, 2-7 FG, 7 boards, 5 fouls. Well done.

Delonte West has been nothing but solid. West was efficient, scoring 11 points on 5-7 FG, but also aggressive, pushing the ball when the time was right. I've said it before, but it makes a world of difference having guys with high ball IQ out there night in night out. For instance, West made a great entry pass to Z in the post, which directly led to Z getting an easy bucket. This would've never happened with their guards last season, the Cavs always screwed up the entry pass. I wasn't a fan of starting West at the 2, but he's made a believer out of me; West has been great.

and finally...

They're handling the teams they should beat. While Milwaukee made a run or two throughout the game, the final outcome was never in doubt for a second. The Cavs had complete control over the game. They go for six in a row against the Nuggets this Thursday on TNT. I'm interested to see how Denver plays with Billups (I like the trade better for Denver to be honest), but if the Cavaliers play their game (and if the bench scores some points) they shouldn't have too hard of time with the Nuggets.

Monday, November 10, 2008

MMQB Quote of the Week

"This is a man's game. Some people need to check their egos at the door and find some heart and come out here and play hard.''-- An angry Jamal Lewis, running back of the Browns, after Cleveland's defense allowed a huge rally for the second time in four days to lose at home. In Week 9, Baltimore scored 24 points in the last 17 minutes to beat the Browns, 37-27. And last Thursday, Denver scored 21 points in the last 14 minutes to come back and win 34-30.

I don't disagree, but I'm not sure he's a guy who should be talking shit. You know, a guy who got stuffed numerous times and only averaged 3.2 yards over his 19 carries.

Though, to be fair, I'm not sure which Brown can really stand up and say he's doing his job. I mean, no one on offense or defense certainly... Josh Cribbs? Phil Dawson? Who else is actually carrying their weight?

('sup Jess)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cleveland 106, Chicago 97

Streaky game. The Cavs came out strong and built a 14 point lead (24-10). The Bulls then responded with a run of their own, got their lead up to as many as 7 (51-44) before going into halftime up 54-51. The Bulls came out of halftime ready to play (Cavs... not so much) and by midway through the 3rd period, the Bulls had pushed their lead up to 10 (70-60). The Cavs countered with another run to tie the game at 74 before heading into the final period trailing 77-74 (that's right, they broke even in the 3rd quarter).

Then LeBron scored the first 8 points of the 4th quarter. LeBron came out firing and got the Cavs a 5 point lead before heading to the bench with about eight minutes to play. Then the Cavs actually built the lead while LeBron watched. Gibson had 5 points, Varejao stepped up and the Cavs got up 91-79. I'd like to say that they never looked back... but the Bulls eventually got the score to 96-94 with two minutes to play. I wouldn't say the Cavaliers closed this game out as much as they held on.

The Cavs offense down the stretch... Le-Iso. To their (and LeBron's) credit, it worked. But I hope they don't come to rely on it. James was great, leading everyone with 41 points (again), 13 boards and 4 dimes. He dominated early (scoring 9 points in the 1st) and late (16 in the 4th) and was active at both ends of the floor. His jumper showed signs of life (to say the least) and he made 4-7 from behind the arc (including three of 'em in the final twelve minutes). But while him knocking down treys of isolation looks sweet, they can't rely on that shot (and offense) to win ball games over the length of the season. I'm worried that since it's happened in back-to-back games, we might be seeing more of it in the future.

The bigs played really well. Z was effective in the first half, where he scored all 16 of his points on a variety of post moves and spot ups, but he seemed to tire after halftime (Brown rested him for most of the second half, Z finished with 22 minutes). Ben Wallace was also decent, scoring a season high 7 points to go with 4 boards in 25 minutes. And Anderson Varejao... was awesome. Again. Andy scored 13 points (5-8 FG), grabbed 4 bounds, blocked 3 shots and drew lord know how many fouls. With LeBron on the bench, Andy scored 5 points in the key run to help push the Cavalier lead to up to 12.

Maybe the Bulls just got tired.... Rookie coach Vinny Del Negro had an eight man rotation going but two of 'em received less than 20 minutes (and center Aaron Gray played just eight minutes). The Bulls were without a handful of players, including Kirk Hinrich and former Cavaleirs Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes (surprise!).

Cavs needed to guard Ben Gordon better. Sure, the guy is a chucker, but there were too many times where he was left wide open (Nocioni too). Gordon finished 10-19 (though 1-4 from downtown) and he basically kept the Bulls in the game with his 29 points.

Williams and West were so-so. West had about as non-descript game as you possibly can have in 34 minutes, scoring just 2 points (1-4 FG, 0-2 3pt) to go along with 2 boards and a lone assist. Williams finished with 11 points, 7 dimes and 4 steals in 37 minutes. Mo got lost a few times defensively, as both Derek Rose and Gordon got the better of him over the course of the game.

The three man bench was solid again (though I wonder how long they can keep an eight man rotation going). After suffering through some subpar shooting nights, Boobie Gibson bounced back with 8 points on 3-7 shooting (2-3 from trey). Wally was decent as well, going 2-4 from the field and only having one terrible drive (that I can remember). I lied about the three man bench, J.J. Hickson got some PT in the 1st period, scoring 2 points and a couple boards 4 minutes.

Austin Carr had a new word: Bird. Whenever a Cavs player got a man to bite on a pump fake, Carr let loose with his bird comments. And it just kept happening. By the way, if Ty Thomas is ever guarding you, use the pump fake. Trust me. It'll work.

and finally...

If there's one thing to worry about, it's that the effort isn't constant. When the Cavs decide to play defense, they can suffocate teams and simply take over games. However, they often drift in and out of focus on both ends of the floor, leading bad offense (long jumpers) which lead to poor defense (not getting back). They also got out-rebounded again, losing the battle of the boards 36-38. The Cavs spent much of the 2nd period bitching to the refs (not without cause, the Bulls ended with 9 blocks but at least 3 were complete bullshit) and they lost their composure. They still won, which is the important thing (and it's always nice to win when you don't play your best), but they have room to make improvements.

Power Forwards


McDyess, who was sent to Denver with Billups, has made it known he doesn't want to play for the Nuggets and is working on a buyout to become a free agent. There have been reports that if a deal can be reached, McDyess will head back to the Pistons. Perhaps, but that's far from assured for several reasons, which is where the Cavs come in.

Still a little concerned about their big-man depth, the Cavs will likely make a pitch to McDyess if he becomes a free agent and they will probably not be alone. Other than the Pistons, who must wait 30 days to re-sign him under league rules, the Celtics and Spurs are among other teams that may pursue McDyess.

So why would he consider the Cavs? McDyess has a good relationship with Ben
Wallace stemming from the time they played together in Detroit. The Cavs are also a contender, which would likely be a prerequisite for McDyess. But there's also money and that may well be a big factor.

McDyess has two years and nearly $14 million left on his contract. The Nuggets would prefer he play it out with them but he has made it clear he wants to become a free agent. Just a few million above the luxury-tax threshold and not wanting to pay him not to play, the Nuggets are driving a hard bargain that might require McDyess to give up a significant portion of his salary.

The Pistons have just $1.6 million left from their mid-level exception or their $1.9 million bi-annual exception to offer McDyess. The Celtics also have 15 guaranteed contracts on their roster and have $2.4 million left to offer. The Spurs have just under $2.1 million. The Cavs, though, have just over $5.1 million, which they could use in whole or part.

However, this is the final year of Gooden's contract and for the first time he will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Whether or not the Cavs would be interested would depend on what happens with Anderson Varejao, who can opt out of his contract at season's end. But Gooden, himself, may have some interest. "I really enjoyed playing here and the people here," Gooden said. "If they called, I would listen."

McDyess would be an absolute perfect fit for this team. The Cavs could always use more inside depth, simply due to the bad backs of Ben Wallac and Zydrunas Illgauskas. A big man rotation of Z, Wallace, McDyess and Varejao would be extremely formidable come playoff time. And at this point, I'm banking Wallace or Z (or the wild Varejao) to miss some time due to injury and I don't really think that this would slow Hickson's development all too much (plus, having McDyess around would't be a bad thing for him either).

Lord help me if the Cavs make a push for Drew Gooden next offseason. I don't miss his basketball IQ, his stupid hair or his 20 rebound games that get followed up by 3 rebound games. I'll be shocked if he ever plays for a championship team.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Cleveland 111, Indiana 107

I have real mixed feelings about this game. On one hand, the Cavs won a game where they didn't play their best. They were down by 10 a multiple junctions and they fought back take the lead and the game. However, their deficits were entirely of their own doing; the offense reverted to last years form (lots of jumpers and standing around) and they let Indiana out hustle them for loose balls and they gave up a lot of second chance points.

LeBron's gonna get the pub, but I wasn't exactly thrilled with his play (Le-Iso reared its ugly head). Now look, the guy had 27 points, 9 boards, 8 assists, 4 blocks and a steal. The man is a beast, this has been established. But James seemed to settle for jumpers (11-24 FG, 1-6 3pt) and he was rarely seen in the post (especially considering how he's started the season). Down the stretch, the Cavs played a lot of the 1 on 5 offense, which ended up working out in the end, but I don't think they can rely on that set for any length of time.

That's not to say he played poorly. For a stretch in the 3rd period, James put the Cavs on his back and dragged them (and the crowd) back into the game. With 8:00 left in the third, the Cavs trailed 57-48. 9 points and 2 assists later, the Cavs had a 64-63 lead with 4:39 to go. A lead which the Cavs promptly coughed up and they went into the final period trailing 74-71.

Anderson Varejao was great. Great I tell you. With the Cavs energy and effort severly lacking, Varejao gave them the shot in the arm they so desperately needed. Andy was everywhere, scoring 18 points, grabbing 8 boards, netting 3 steals and flopping to get rookie Roy Hibbert (who was suprisingly effective) into foul trouble. After the Pacers stretched their 4th period lead back up to 7, Varejao scored 9 of the Cavs next 14 points to tie the game at 86.

Mo Williams was solid. Williams scored 10 points in the final period, including 8 points over the last six minutes. He's really starting to knock down his long twos (especially from the left side) and he's starting to develop some chemistry with LeBron. They're playing a two man game, where one sets the pick for the other. I like this a lot; first of all I enjoy having LeBron roll to the hoop and Williams can shoot the pick and pop as well as anyone on the roster. My only complaint with Mo was that he coughed the ball up too many times (5).

For some reason Wally was playing crunch time. Well, I know the reason: Szczerbiak was on the floor when the Cavs made their run, so Brown wouldn't switch lineups. Which is fine. Wally had 11 points on 3-4 shooting (1-1 3pt, 4-4 FT) and he hit a big 3 early in the 4th to keep the Cavs in it. Now, I think Wally has played fairly well, but lord help me if he keeps putting the ball on the floor. No. Bad Wally. I really don't need Donyell Marshall flashbacks.

Ben Wallace played 19 minutes and didn't record a rebound. Awesome. This could've been a reason why the Cavs were outrebounded 44-30 (ouch!). The Cavaliers gave up a ridiculous 19 offensive rebounds (hell, the Cavs had 23 defensive) and they're gonna need Wallace (and quite frankly, the rest of team) to show a better effort.

Danny Granger was pretty god damn sweet. Granger scored 33 points (13-21 FG) and kept going at LeBron throughout the game. James didn't stop him. Now, late in the game, James and Granger got into it a bit, and of course James came out the victor, but Granger played great. He's the reason why they had the early lead (16 points in the 1st quarter) and every time the Cavs made a run to get back into it, Granger would make a few shots put the Pacers ahead once again. Now, he didn't exacltly stuff the rest of the stat sheet (3 boards, 1 assist) but he shot the lights out.

It looked like the Cavs thought they would show up and the Pacers would simply keel over. The offense on Friday didn't look like the previous four games. James was setting up away from the rim, the Cavs settled for jumpers (even down the stretch) and they never kept their intensity where it needed to be. They still won the game (which they should've), so I don't want to come off as harsh, but they didn't play their best ball and this wasn't really a spectacular game (despite what FSNOhio would have you believe). They had to climb back in the game at least three times, they let themselves get down by double digits twice and, oh have I mentioned this yet, they got outrebounded 44-30.

and finally...

Rematch against the Bulls on Saturday. It would've been nice for the Cavs to have a relatively easy win against the Pacers at home, especially before heading to the Windy City. The Bulls will be tougher on their home court and the Cavs can't afford come out with the same effort they showed on Friday. The more they play with a better effort, the more likely it is that they'll keep LeBron under 40 min/game for the season. Not having to expend crunch time energy against bad/mediocre teams will go a long way (now, maybe I'm not giving the Pacers their due, but it was fairly obvious that whenever the Cavs turned up the pressure, they took the Pacers out of the game. It was only when they stepped off the gas that Indiana made their runs).

Kellen Winslow Made Me Look Like An Asshole

Right before the Browns' last drive, I was making a point at the bar, that K2 has the best hands on the Browns, if not the NFL. And then the 4th down pass goes through his hands. Awesome.

Also, what the fuck did Jerome Harrison do to Romeo? Hit on his daughter? I don't understand why he doesn't get more touches.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Cleveland 107, Chicago 93

This was the definition of a solid victory. There was nothing really spectacular or amazing about the Cavs win over Chicago. Sure, LeBron had 41 points and every starter but Ben Wallace score in double figures, but this was a business-like win (and don't worry about Ben, he finished with 14 boards). They knew they were better than the Bulls and they went out there and played like it.

LeBron was a beast. 41 points. 9 boards. 6 assists. 4 steals. In 36 mintes. He's setting up closer to the basket, so A) he has to fight through less guys B) he's drawing a ton of fouls (he was 15-16 from the line) and C) he's having to work a lot less to get his points. This is allowing James to play under 40 minutes a game, which is going to keep him fresher for longer as the season goes on.

Delonte West is really playing well. The kid is all over the court diving for loose balls and causing havoc AND he's shooting a ridiculous 55% from 3 pt range this year. West finished with 16 points, 3 boards and 3 assists. He knocked down 3 of 6 treys and he set up LeBron for a sick dunk off a break (he also tossed a nice alley-oop to J.J. Hickson during garbage time).

Ben Wallace looks healthy. Big Ben had zero points but grabbed 14 boards (6 offensive) in 29 minutes of playing time. Wallace was challenging shots all over the court, hanging out by the rim, stepping out on Drew Gooden and even picking up rookie Derek Rose on a couple of switches. Under Mike Brown, the Cavs are always going to have a good defense, but if Wallace can keep his activity at close to this level (and Brown keeps him under 30 minutes a game) then their defense could be sick.

Best part of the game? The 3rd quarter wasn't vomit inducing. The Cavs went into halftime with a 12 point lead. And then they went into the final period with another 12 point lead. Now, the Cavs did have a couple stretches in the 3rd and 4th where they let off the gas and let Chicago hang around, but the outcome of the game was never seriously in doubt.

Z had a slow start, but rebounded (literally and figuratively) nicely. Illgauskas finisehd with 15 points and 10 boards, but shot just 6-16. But when you consider that he started off the game by shooting just 1-7, 6-16 ain't terrible. Zydrunas also nailed a 3 from the corner which A) wasn't a last second hoist and B) looked like a drawn up play. Ya, this guy is pretty skilled.

Derek Rose will be pretty good, huh? The Bulls rookie put in 20 points and dished out 7 assists. He started off the game by nailing a few jumpers, forcing the Cavs to pay attention to his shot for the rest of the game. Rose had a quick first step and seemed to get to the hole whenever he wanted. Now, sometimes he'd finish, sometimes not, but the kid can get inside on a regular basis. I did feel bad for him a couple of times, because there was a stretch where Rose got switched to guarding LeBron... and it was about as pretty as Drew Gooden's stupid beard.

Ben Gordon kept this game from being larger blowout. Gordon came off the bench to throw in 31 points. He shot a smokin' 11-19 from the floor and was 5-9 from beyond the arc. The game was never really in doubt, so it's not like I'd say he kept them close or in it, but he kept it close enough that garbage time wasn't too long.

The bench wasn't awesome, but they did their jobs. Varejao play pretty well, being annoying on defense and moving constantly at the offensive end (however, he only finished with 2 boards in 28 minutes- though the Cavs did out rebound the Bulls 46-35). Neither Gibson (1 pt, 0-6, 0-2 3pt) or Szczerbiak (8 pts, 2-6, 0-2 3pt) really lit it up, but I thought they both played nice all around games. Both guys moved around on offense (didn't just camp out in the corners) and played solid defense. The rotation was eight guys again, Pavlovic didn't see any action until the game was well in hand.

and finally...

This team is talented. A lot of people still lament that the Cavs don't have LeBron's Pippen yet, but it's fairly obvious that this team's level of talent has risen over the past year. Having guys like Williams and West out on the court gives LeBron a ton of different angles and options when attacking the basket. Having guys like Varejao, Gibson and Szczerbiak coming of the bench means that the Cavs don't suffer a huge talent drop off when the starters sit (I mean, does anyone miss the Marshall and Jones substitution? I always groaned when those guys checked in). They played with a ton of confidence and I think that the 19 point win in Dallas really showed them how good they can be.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Cleveland 100, Dallas 81

Now that was impressive. The Cavs dominated this ballgame in every way imaginable; the only Dallas lead was 2-0, they outrebounded the Mavericks 52-35 (including 18 offensive), they had more assists, more steals, more blocks and they had five players in double figures.

The one issue: the third quarter. Now, I will say that the Cavs weren't completely awful this time around, but they led by 9 at halftime (51-42) and let Dallas climb back to tie the game at 63. But they never let the Mavericks get the lead; after the tie, the Cavs outscored 9-3 to end the quarter and went into the fourth with a nice 6 point lead.

LeBron was awesome, but not spectacular- if that makes sense. In 34 minutes, James was just 8-20 from the floor (0-2 from 3pt) but he finished with 29 points, 8 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block (and just one TO). He repeatedly set up on the block (while not letting himself get pushed to the perimeter), allowing him to get some easy baskets and draw a ton of fouls. The free throws weren't an issue Monday night, as LeBron was 13-15 from the stripe. The Cavs had a few possessions where LeBron dominated the ball, but they were few and far between.

This was what the Cavs look like when they're clicking. James was on the block, Delonte West was just about everywhere (especially in the first quarter), Mo Williams was knocking down jumpers, Ben Wallace was doing the dirty work (he held Dirk to 3-11 FG and also grabbed 13 boards) and Z was hitting his open looks. The defensive intensity never wavered (even when Dallas made the run to tie the game, it was due to Cavalier turnovers) and the Cavs played with a focus that I haven't seen all season (though, to be fair, I've only seen the Boston game).

Williams looked really good. Mo finished with 14 points (6-12 FG, 1-2 3pt), 6 assists and 4 boards in 34 minutes. That's exactly what you want from him. Williams was the reason the Cavs went on a 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter (and basically put the game away). During their 13-0 run (with LeBron sitting), Williams hit three jumpers and a trey (all from roughly the same spot on the floor) and dished out 2 assists.

The bench was great (and the rotation was just eight guys). Varejao looked like the guy we all fell in love with two seasons ago; he was active, he was annoying and he was productive (2 points, 6 boards, 4 steals and only one cringeworthy jumper). Wally Szczerbiak also had a good game, scoring 10 points on 4-6 shooting AND he wasn't abused on the defensive end quite so much (still finished with 5 fouls though). Daniel Gibson was effective as well, scoring 7 points (just 1-4 from downtown) and dishing out 2 assists. The only other bench player to play while the outcome was in doubt was Pavlovic, but he wasn't in there for too long. I expect Brown to end up with an eight or nine man rotation (as opposed to ten) once he figures out if he's going to play J.J. Hickson on a regular basis.

Did I mention how good Delonte West was early on? Delonte had 9 points in the first period and he was really active at the defensive end, beating everyone to loose balls and getting himself in the passing lanes. West finished with 14 points (4-5 FG), 6 assits and 4 boards. All in all, the Cavs got 28 points (10-17 FG), 11 assists and 8 boards from their starting backcourt. Not too shabby, eh?

Z had a nice game too. The Cavs got 17 points (8-15 FG), 11 rebounds and 2 assists from the big fella. He gave up some offensive boards early on (though it wasn't just him), but cleaned the glass really well as the game went on. Z wasn't really a threat down low (though he had a couple close buckets) but his jumper was falling and the Cavs kept going back to that well throughout the night.

Honestly, this was really nice to see. Sure, the losses to Boston and New Orleans weren't awful, but we were still wondering just how good this team is (they've either had great competition on the road or really really really crappy competition at home). Seeing the Cavs dominate the Mavericks, in Dallas no less, really eased the stress levels a bit. This team is good with a chance to be great. They looked like a team that knew what it wanted to do and went out there and executed it. Guys weren't trying to do too much (including James) and everyone seemed to know their role and embrace it. Granted, Dallas isn't what they one were, but a 20 point win in Big D is nothing to sneeze at.

and finally...

Speaking of Mavericks.... go vote on Tuesday. I'm actually gonna be working one of the polling stations near my house. Gotta be there by 5:30. It's gonna be sweet...

But how does the Iverson trade affect LeBron leaving Cleveland?


Down, the road the Pistons becomes the driving force of big-time free agency as soon as Iverson's contract comes off the books next summer. The Pistons will combine a winning environment, one of the most respected general managers in the game, and -- depending on salary cap levels that are yet to be set, and extensions that may yet be given to existing Pistons -- likely enough cap space to sign two free agent players to max contracts over the next summers of 2009 and 2010.

Feast your eyes on this list of players who will be available. 2010 free agents include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Ray Allen, Tyson Chandler, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Redd.

The two that jump out to me are, of course, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. They played together nicely on Team USA, and now Dumars can at least entertain the notion of signing not one of those two, but both.

Let's say both the Cavs and Pistons offer both James and Bosh the maximum allowed. Who do you think they'd sign with (assuming they want to play together). The Cavs will have a 27 year old point guard in Mo Williams and a 21 year old big man to play power forward to Bosh's center in JJ Hickson (nevermind the fact that they're coming off of back-to-back championships! har!). Now remember, the Cavs can offer James more than any team in the league.

So, where do you think they're signing, Detroit or Cleveland?

(and seriously, LeBron's quest for big city stardom is going to lead him to Detroit? Really? You think Nike is going to give him extra money to move to Mo-town? This shit is getting stupid)

Iverson to Detroit

I actually shocked today to hear that the Pistons made a trade:
The Pistons and the Denver Nuggets have finalized a trade that sends guard Allen Iverson to Detroit in exchange for Pistons mainstays Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess.

That's a really good trade for... the Nuggets.

Obviously, Iverson-to-Detroit is the big story here, but I really don't see how much better the Pistons actually get. First of all, Iverson dominates the ball and he's notoriously difficult to play with. The Pistons are breaking up a TEAM to take on a shoot first point guard; the Pistons have enough other talent (Sheed, Prince and Rip Hamilton) that AI can't constantly have control of the ball. The Pistons now have the skinniest backcourt in basketball and I can't imagine that'll help them on the defensive end. Plus, your now trusting your rookie head coach to deal with both Rasheed Wallace and Allen Iverson. Good luck with that.

Now, could this work out? Of course. The Pistons could gel really well together and their talent could push them past the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2005.

But right now, as a Cavs fan, I feel that while this makes Detroit a much tougher single game matchup, it doesn't really worry me for an entire series. AI can go off at point in time, and I don't trust the Cavs to be able to stop him on a random night in February. But I do trust Mike Brown and co. to find a way to stop Iverson over an entire seven game series.

And to be honest, I see this as a better trade for the Nuggets. They get to add proven winners around Carmelo Anthony and it's not like they were going anywhere with AI anyways. Plus, I've never really been a huge AI guy to begin with. I loathe shoot first point guards like you cannot believe (well, when you grow up playing center...) and I've never felt he's played 'winning' ball (sure, he made the Finals, but that team was A) completely built around him shooting 90 times a game B) in one of the crappiest conferences in the history of the NBA).

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see how this trade really pushes Detroit over the top.