Friday, January 29, 2010

Am I gonna have to learn to spell "Iguodala"?

Over the years, I've had to memorize how to spell names like "Ilgauskas" and "Szczerbiak" (still got it!) and now Marc Stein reports that the Sixers are trying to interest the Cavs in Andre Iguodala:
Another recent topic discussed in this cyberspace: Philadelphia's attempts to interest Cleveland in a deal for Andre Iguodala.

Open to any trade that will help them convince LeBron James to stay in Cleveland -- as witnessed by their early season run at Stephen Jackson and their well-chronicled interested in a floor-spacing power forward such as Antawn Jamison or Troy Murphy -- LeBron's Cavs are on the short list of teams that would consider absorbing the four years and $56 million left on Iguodala's contract after this season.

The determined pursuit of Jackson until his November trade from Golden State to Charlotte only makes it more apparent that the Cavs are not solely focused on “stretch fours,” as they’re known in the modern game.

Iguodala, though, is difficult for Philly to move because of all that money he’s still owed. Not as difficult as moving Elton Brand or Samuel Dalembert, but all of the teams that like Iguodala – Houston, Dallas and Cleveland are known to have shown varying degrees of interest – have reservations about taking on a deal that big.

The Cavs have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Would they still want Iguodala on their payroll if LeBron leaves and plunges Cleveland into that worst-case position?
Iggy could be the perfect number two for LeBron. He's young (just 26), he's uber-athletic and while he's really talented, he's not quite a number one option. Could he be the fabled "LeBron's Pippen"?

Brian Windhorst confirms that the Cavs are interested:
According to several league sources, the Cavs and Sixers have been in talks about Iguodala. The talks remain open and it is still possible the Cavs could trade for him, contrary to other reports at the end of the last week. At this point, however, the two sides are just in discussion and have not progressed to the serious stage.

The Sixers are probably at that stage with a lot of teams. Over the last several weeks, when the Sixers actually starting making calls offering Iguodala, some teams were taken off guard. They had not done research into Iguodala because recently it didn't seem sensible. After all, it was less than two years ago that the Sixers signed Iguodala to a six-year, $80 million deal and hoped he'd mature into an perennial All-Star.


But then there is the prospect of getting a player like Iguodala on the cheap. This is the kind of deal the Cavs like to pull. Willingness to take on salary got them O'Neal for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. And Mo Williams for Damon Jones and Joe Smith.

Iguodala is like a younger version of [Stephen] Jackson, who they missed out on. He's just an average shooter but a strong defender, rebounder and distributor for someone at his size (6-6) and position. This year, a terrible season for the 76ers, he's averaging a career high in rebounds (6.8) and assists (5.7). He's also shown good leadership skills.

Those are all desirable traits, but he's the type of player that it may take a while for the Cavs to adjust to. Right now, as they are on a seven-game win streak and display their depth nightly, this acquisition might not make sense.

Iguodala and the Cavs? It is complex, to be sure. But it is also quite possible.
In a throwaway line in my Amare post, I called Iguodala "Larry Hughes with muscles,"(meaning he's slasher but not a great shooter) which isn't quite fair. After some heavy lurking over at Real Cavs Fans and a discussion with my brother, I've warmed considerably to the idea of adding AI2.

Now, comparing anyone to Larry Hughes during his Cleveland tenure is a bit misleading. There's a lot of reasons why Hughes didn't work here (his shot selection, attitude, and injuries to name a few) but he wasn't helped by the fact that the Cavs literally had no point guard. Ferry and Brown did Larry no favors by pairing him in a backcourt with Eric Snow. Those were the days, eh?

With Mo Williams on board, Iguodala would, unlike Hughes, immediately step into a situation which plays to his strengths, rather than exacerbates his weaknesses. A trio of James, Iguodala and Williams is just a tad stronger than LBJ, Hughes and Snow, no? Plus, I'd bet Iggy's shooting numbers would go up when he's getting wide open looks and not trying to be the hero every night (as with Jason Kidd in Dallas).

Yes, Iggy isn't a stretch four, but he sure is a beast of a wing (imagine the crunch time, lock-down D they could play with LeBron and Iguodala *drools*). The issue for Ferry and Co. is whether or not you trust LeBron and Andre to work together. Best case scenario, Iguodala pushes the Cavs over the hump, LeBron re-ups and the Cavs have a long term solution at shooting guard. If LeBron ends up staying, Iguodala's contract length becomes a strength (he's signed through 2013/14) but, as Stein mentions, if LeBron decides to bolt, the Cavs are stuck with paying Iguodala all that money.

At the end of the day, Antawn Jamison still seems like the best fit for the Cavaliers. Jamison gives the Cavs another shooter and he'd plug directly into their starting lineup while replacing their weakest link. If things don't work out, he's only around for another two seasons (compared to Iggy's four). But lord knows if the Wizards will cooperate.

According to Stein (same link), the Wizards are demanding the Blazers give them both Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum for Brendan Haywood. Yikes. If that's what they're demanding for Haywood, I doubt they'll take Z and J.J. for Jamison (as far as I'm concerned, you either get J.J. or a 1st round pick, not both).

I go back and forth on whether or not I think the Cavs have to make a deal. This team is really freaking good as currently constructed; they passed every test you could ask for and not only survived, but thrived. However, I'd sleep easier at night knowing they added another offensive piece.

In the end, it really comes down to Washington's asking price and which crunch time position you feel more comfortable about, power forward or shooting guard. You really can't go wrong with trading for either Jamison or Iguodala; either addition would push the Cavaliers over the top. The Cavs are already the best team in the NBA and, in my opinion, adding either AI2 or Antawn makes them the no-brainer favorites.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This Doesn't Make Sense to Me

From Chris Mannix's Power Rankings (Cavs are #1):

While the Lakers are widely considered the class of the Western Conference, the Cavaliers are in for a dogfight in the East playoffs. Atlanta plays tough against them, and Orlando is largely the same team (sub in Vince Carter and a healthy Jameer Nelson in, sub out Hedo Turkoglu (!!!!!!)) that bounced the Cavs from the conference finals last year.

But if you ask NBA scouts, Cleveland's path to the Finals will be blocked by one long obstacle: Kevin Garnett.

"If KG is healthy, Boston is a better team than Cleveland, period," a West scout said. "That defense is light years better when he is in the lineup."

The Celtics and Cavaliers haven't seen each other since opening night, when a stifling Boston defense limited the Cavaliers to 89 points on 41.4 percent shooting. Garnett didn't defend LeBron much that night but he did, an East scout said, "coordinate the attack against him."

"Boston can score with Cleveland without Kevin," the East scout said. "And [Kendrick] Perkins is a very good interior defender. But KG is the guy who moves the pieces around out there. When he's in the game, Boston is rarely out of position. And you need to play smart defense when LeBron is in the game or he will carve you up."

Look, I don't deny that Boston is a great team or that their defense is superb. But "Boston is a team better than Cleveland, period" with a healthy KG? How do you figure? (and nevermind the whole "Orlando is largely the same team (sub in Vince Carter and a healthy Jameer Nelson in, sub out Hedo Turkoglu) that bounced the Cavs from the conference finals last year." Um, Turkoglu ran their crunch time offense and the Cavs had no way to defend. In no way are they close to the same team that knocked out the Cavaliers).

I could be extremely mistaken here, but I'm not worried about Boston at all. A worse Cavs team faced a more talented Celtics squad in the second round of the 2008 playoffs and still took them to seven games. This was a series where the home team won every game (the games were close in Boston, blowouts in Cleveland), LeBron was awful for the first two games and yet the Celtics still needed P.J. Brown to save their asses in Game 7.

Two years later, LeBron is better, the Cavs are improved, and the Celtics are older. Maybe I should be concerned with Boston but really, I'm not. I don't think anyone would argue that LeBron hasn't improved in past two years. I don't think anyone would deny that the Cavs are a better, more well rounded team with the additions of Mo, Shaq and guys like Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker. Meanwhile, KG has no knees and while Rondo and Perkins have improved, I'm really not sure if they actually expect Paul Pierce to check LeBron for a full seven games or not (remember, no James Posey to take that burden).

Yes, Boston's defense is really good... as is Cleveland's. But really, if you're taking anything away from their first meeting this year, you're an idiot. It was the first game of the season and at that point, the Cavaliers were still figuring things out (half their team was sick during the preseason and they didn't have a lot of on court time together). I'm not saying toss that game out completely, but you've got to take it with a pinch of salt, no? Hell, Coach Mike was throwing Shaq and Z out there together without practicing it beforehand. Things have improved.

The Cavs still have another month until they face the Celtics, when they travel to Boston on the 25th (my birthday. That'll be neat). Who knows what these teams will look like at that point (post-trade deadline) but I think it's safe to say that the February, March (14th) and April (2nd) matchups will tell you more about these teams than a game on October 27th.

Maybe I'm over confident. The Cavs have met nearly every challenge thrown their way and they still keep winning. They've beat the Lakers twice, they've won in Orlando, Miami, Phoenix, Portland and they have as many road victories as Lakers have road games. I feel really good about this team.

They're better than they were two years ago when they nearly stole the series from Boston while Celtics are worse (re: older). I don't want to come off as dismissing Boston, because they're really really good (I even respect Kendrick Perkins. This pains me) but if they were to meet up in a series, I don't see how the Cavs couldn't be favored (especially if they own home court advantage, as they currently do).

Cleveland 92, Miami 91

Save this one on the DVR (or in my case, don't record over the VHS tape). This was a classic. If you didn't enjoy this game, never watch basketball ever again, cause there's not much more you could ask for. The ending was spectacular; down 91-90 with under 1o seconds, LeBron stole Dwyane Wade's behind-the-back pass, raced down court, got fouled and made both free throws (Wade could've/should've been called for goal tending for hanging on the rim). The night was full of highlights; Wade went off for 30 in the first half and he and LeBron traded baskets late in the second quarter (in which LeBron dropped 20). All in all, these two put on a spectacular show and the Cavs snuck out of there with a victory (they trailed the whole game until Gibson's three put them up 76-74 with just under 9 minutes left).

I'm amazed that I continue to be amazed by LeBron James. The dude is just unreal. I simply shake my head and just laugh to myself. I mean, he followed up his game saving block on Kevin Durant by stealing the ball from Dwyane Wade and giving the Cavs the lead on two free throws. The fact that there's even an argument about on who's the Best Player in the NBA boggles my mind. James is a absolute monster; Bron-Bron finished with a 32-9-4 and his dunk over Wade (32-10-5) in the second quarter was insane. James wasn't perfect (there were some bad Le-Iso possessions) and while he didn't have a field goal in the fourth quarter, he did make all of his free throws in the final period (which proved to be the difference).

Wade played great but man, he gets some ridiculous calls. Yes, LeBron shot more free throws (17) than Wade (16) but from watching the game, you felt like LeBron at least earned his. Wade gets a lot of touch fouls called away from the rim and, at his size, he can careen into people at full speed and end up shooting freebies (whereas if LeBron runs into someone at full speed, he knocks their ass over). Wade torched the Cavs for 30 in the first half but finished with just 32 for the game. I don't know if Mike Brown actually made an in-game adjustment (not his strong suit) or if Wade's shot simply stop falling (he made a ton of jumpers early) but the Cavs held Wade in check for the second half (they were doubling him early in the possession and getting the ball out of his hands). Unlike LeBron, Wade didn't do himself any favors late in the game, missing two freebies with 40 seconds left (would've put the Heat up 3) and followed up his turnover and LeBron's free throws by clanging a jumper off the rim. Not his best ending.

Back-to-back good games from Shaq. O'Neal was a force, scoring 19 points on 9-13 shooting in just 27 minutes. He was effective early on (scoring the Cavs first 8 points) and was a factor late in the game as well (blocking Jermaine O'Neal's shot with 3 minutes to go and giving the Cavs a 90-89 lead off a jump hook with a minute left). Shaq finished with 19 points, 5 boards and 2 assists. The Cavs still force feed him the ball at times but they're going to need Shaq to produce with both Mo Williams and Delonte West out with injuries. I don't know if this means anything, but the Cavs haven't lost to any of Shaq's former teams this season.

Daniel Gibson was solid. While he's still not a point guard, Boobie sure can shoot the hell out of the ball. Gibson finished with 15 and he gave the Cavs their first lead of the night with a triple with about 9 minutes to go. Gibson was 5-10 from the floor and 4-6 from behind the arc but he only had 1 board and 1 assist in his 43(!) minutes of court time. I love his moxie (he's not afraid to take big shots) but he's got to give the Cavaliers more than just scoring. At time the Cavs let Anthony Parker have the ball handling duties while Gibson played off ball and ran around screens.

I don't know when exactly this happened, but Anderson Varejao is a downright crafty offensive player. While Andy's jumper is still scary, I've been really amazed at how he finishes around the basket. Varejao gets himself in great positions to score and his footwork is ridiculous. He finds the holes in a defense and exploits them with an array of hooks, finger rolls and layups. Andy finished 13 points (5-8 FG), 10 boards, 2 assists and a steal. He scored 5 points in the fourth quarter and had a huge three-point play to tie the game at 79.

This team is good, like really really good. The Cavs were without two rotation players, including their second leading scorer (though Jamario Moon returned), they got a combined two points from their starting shooting guard and power forward and yet still pulled out a victory in Miami. They weathered Wade's early onslaught and they kinda, sorta executed the offense down the stretch (they were throwing Shaq the ball late in the game, which was nice to see). They're 35-11 and have now won in cities like LA, Orlando, Miami (twice), Atlanta and Portland. They just beat Kobe, Durant and Wade in three straight games, all while shorthanded. Yikes.

and finally...

Dear LeBron and D.Wade, Please never ever join the same team, as it would mean missing out on games like these. Sincerely, NBA Fans. This game was f-u-n. The second quarter was a blast and the ending was amazing. Wade and LeBron bring out the best in each other (there was a palpable buzz in the arena during the second quarter) and it'd be a shame to miss out on that. The basketball fan in me wants to see these guys face off in a seven game series, just to see what would happen (and the Cavs fan in me wants nothing to do with Wade and playoff officials). At 23-21, the Heat are currently 5th in the East but the 8th seed, Charlotte, owns a record of 20-21, so a first round matchup is definitely in play. The Cavs next game is against the Timberwolves at home on Wednesday night.

Cross-posted at Follow me on Twitter @BenCox83

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dream Big

I love the pie-in-the-sky trade speculation this time of year. Brian Windhorst has the latest:
The Arizona Republic reported late Sunday night that the Cavaliers are one of three teams to be in talks recently with the Suns about trading for star Amare Stoudemire. The reporter on this story is the Republic's Paul Coro, which why there is a blog going up on this topic now and it is not being regarded as common fodder. Coro has a good reputation for being credible. For example, was the first to report the Cavs and Suns had re-started trade talks for Shaquille O'Neal last June.


It would be surprising that the Suns would want to do another salary dump trade with a star but it isn't impossible. This move potentially could save team owner Robert Sarver another $10 million and perhaps more. The natural trade that makes sense here would be Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson for Stoudemire. The Suns could also ask for draft picks, the Cavs own their full slate of first round picks in the future. The Cavs and Suns talked about Hickson the O'Neal deal but the Cavs wanted to keep him. So the Suns have a history of interest in Hickson.


The Suns and Warriors nearly pulled a deal for Stoudemire last June before the draft but it fell apart. There is little doubt that both the Wolves and Warriors could put together more talent-rich offers for Stoudemire. The Cavs cannot and will not offer the same package of young players.

But with Stoudemire having the right to become a free agent this summer, it would be foolish for either team to trade for him without an agreement he'd re-sign with them. He already made it clear he didn't want to go to Golden State last summer, which was one of the sticking points to that failed trade. It is hard to believe he'd want to stay in Minnesota, which is in the middle of a large rebuilding project.

That factor reduces Stoudemire's value on the trade market and why such a deal would make some sense for the Cavs. Stoudemire has said he wants to play for a contender but probably would also be attracted to New York or Miami in the offseason. So the danger is the Cavs may find themselves renting him as well.
Yikes. Amare Stoudemire! For Z and J.J.? Yes, yes and yes.

While I'm (still) not the biggest Amare guy out there, I have to admit that the dude has talent. A lot of talent. All-star level talent. He just happens not use it on the defensive end.

I'm not one who advocates giving up draft picks and young players (I'm completely against giving Washington anything but capspace for Jamison. No #1 picks, no J.J.), but for a player like Amare, you do it. He averages 20 and 8 at the age of 27. Amare is what you hope J.J. becomes, he's Hickson's best case scenario.

But there are concerns. Defensively, if you're the Cavs, you hope Amare's poor defensive attitude is due to the Suns' run-and-gun philosophy and that Mike Brown (and LeBron) can get Stoudemire on the right page. But I'd be very concerned about starting Mo Williams, Amare and Shaq every night, defensive pick-and-rolls could be brutal.

Offensively, he may not be the perfect fit either, John Krolik:
First of all, Amare isn’t the most cerebral offensive player. His assist ratio ranks 61st of the 68 listed power forwards. His turnover ratio is 46th out of 68. He’s not as good of a finisher in traffic as he used to be, either. He only makes 56% of his layups, and doesn’t have a left hand to speak of, but he’s more than willing to try and force a right-handed shot in traffic. If the ball gets tossed to Amare, it’s probably not coming back. And those numbers come in an offense with amazing spacing and a directive to rotate the ball back to Steve Nash at the first sign of trouble. Do you really want a player like that on the floor with LeBron James, especially late in games?
Not only that, but we'd get to watch Mike Brown retool the offense on the fly (something I don't think he'd necessarily have to do with someone like Jamison or Troy Murphy). So that should be fun.

All of that being said, I'm 10000000% behind trading for Stoudemire. Yes, like LeBron, Amare could leave after the season. But if you're the Cavs, you have to think that bringing in Amare would be quite an incentive for LeBron to stay (and vice versa). A core of Mo Williams (27), Stoudemire (27) and LeBron (25) is more than solid.

While I doubt the Cavs end up with Amare, I do think it's within the realm of possibility. The Suns and their owner are nortoriously cheap, it makes no sense to trade him to a bad team (since he'll just walk), Danny Ferry and Steve Kerr have a familiarity both on the court and as GMs (Shaquisition) and the Cavs have just enough salary relief and young talent to make things interesting.

At the end of the day, I just can't see the Suns trading a 27 year old big man for Z, J.J. Hickson and late round draft picks. You gotta think there'd be a better offer out there but a guy can dream, right?

And I gotta say, I like this rumor a lot more than the Andre Iguodala one. Iggy is Larry Hughes with muscles (defensively they'd be ridiculous, offensively... notsomuch).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Best Player in the NBA

Who else blocks this shot? Who goes for 37-9-12 and blocks the game clinching shot? I mean, look at this picture, he has to jump over Anthony Parker in order to make this play. Fucking ridiculous.

I think it's safe to say that we're now into LeBron's prime, no? He put the Cavs on his back and willed them to a win last night. The Boobie Gibson experiment had its ups and downs. Gibson didn't have a particularly good game but he hit the go-ahead trey to give the Cavs their final lead.

While LeBron will deservedly get the headlines, this was a solid team win. Boobie hit the big trey, Shaq was imposing his will (sorta), J.J. Hickson put up 9 and 9, and Jawad Williams scored a career high 12.

It's not going to be easy missing Mo Williams and Delonte West but the Cavs should be somewhat OK. It's going to mean and increased and more consistent role for Shaq, who dominated stretches of Saturday's game. The big fella finished with 22 points (on 1o shots), 6 boards, and 3 assists but was only 5-16 from the stripe. As a team, the Cavs were just 20-40 from the line and it very nearly cost them this game (the issues at the line worry me. It hasn't really cost them a game yet and I hope it doesn't cost them a game they need down the road).

All in all, good short handed win. The Cavs finished up their 'best player other than LeBron' three game run on Monday night when Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat come to town.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cleveland 93, Los Angeles Lakers 87

No Mo, no prob- ok, there were some problems. The Cavs did not start off well and the Lakers jumped out to a 9-0 lead; the defensive effort was lacking (poor rotations), they gave up offensive boards and the offense definitely suffered without Williams (Cavs scored just 18 points in the first period). The Cavs clawed back to get to 13-12 but L.A. finished the quarter on 14-6 run. James scored 12 points in the second quarter and the Cavs had no business going into halftime trailing just 46-44.

Things were much better after halftime. Kobe torched the Cavs for 20 points in the first half (reaching the 25,000 point mark in the process) but was held to just 11 in the second half. Bryant made only four baskets in the second half and finished just 12-31 from the field (the Cavs gave Bryant a variety of looks, including doubling him with their bigs). LeBron was great in the fourth; in one stretch he made three straight jumpers (followed by a few of his dumb heat checks) but he put the Cavs up for good by going inside for a layup (at Shaq's urging) with 40 seconds left. In a nice change of pace, the Cavs executed down the stretch while the Lakers didn't (Pau Gasol missed a couple of layups and two free throws in the last minute).

Ron Artest doesn't seem to bother LeBron very much, eh? James finished with 37 points, 9 assists, 5 boards, 2 steals and a block. LeBron went 13-25 from the floor and made 10 out of his 13 free throws. That 13-25 is even more impressive when you see that LeBron was a disgusting 1-9 from behind the arc, meaning Bron-Bron went 12-16 on two-pointers. James had 12 of his 37 in the final quarter but his biggest play may have been his block on Gasol with 53 seconds left. That's the stuff that LeBron can do that Kobe no longer does; James ended with 37-5-9 while Kobe put up 31-2-4. LeBron needed 'only' 25 shots to get 37 points while Bryant took 31 to get 31. Kobe may have better fundamentals and footwork (and he does) but LeBron does so much more.

In a surprise to just about everyone, J.J. Hickson had a big night. J.J. played exactly the way you'd like; he hustled, he got himself open and he didn't try to do too much. Hickson finished with 13 points and a career high 14 boards. He got himself open for dunks and his effort led to some easy baskets and free throws. Hickson's 11 first half points (only Cavalier besides James in double figures) helped keep the game close while Cleveland fought through their early, Mo-less, struggles. The issue for Hickson is keeping up this level of effort. The Cavs need this kind of energy every night from him.

The guards were OK. Not great, not awful. Delonte West had a rough night, scoring just 3 points on 1-4 shooting, but I really like what he gives the Cavs. Delonte played 43 minutes in his first start (mostly being guarded by the bigger Bryant) and stuffed the stat sheet with 4 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks. I go back and forth on Anthony Parker (missing point blank layups david Wesley style doesn't help him much). On one hand, he knocks down that corner three as well anyone in the LeBron era (Parker's trey late in the third got them over the hump and gave them their first lead) but he doesn't seem to do much else. Parker was guarded by Derek Fisher (so Kobe could harass Delonte) and never really took advantage of his height. In their first game without Mo Williams, the three Cavalier guards (Boobie made a cameo, hitting the only three he took) scored a combined 14 points.

Meanwhile, the Cavalier bigs did their jobs. Shaq finished with 13 points, 6 boards and 3 assists. He abused the Lakers in the second half, going right at Bynum and Gasol for easy buckets (both were in foul trouble). Off the bench, Z gave them a 5-5-1 in just 18 minutes (he hit another trey) while Varejao was awesome per usual, scoring 11 points and grabbing 7 boards (plus, he forced a loose ball foul off of missed freebie from LeBron with 20 seconds left). Paul Gasol was just 5-14 from the floor and all three of Andrew Bynum's baskets came in the first five minutes of the game. Solid, solid night from the Cleveland big men.

and finally...

Last year, the Magic won both regular season meetings with the Lakers. Obviously, the Cavs winning both games against the Lakers is a Good Thing. The Cavs have been beating the good teams all season and it's nice to see continue that trend Thursday night. They matchup fairly well with the Lakers and Cleveland's physical style seems to frustrate Los Angeles. But this doesn't mean jack when it comes to the playoffs. Hell, in 2007 the Cavs swept the season series from the Spurs and look how that turned out (not that the 2007 squad was anywhere near as good as this team, but still). The Cavs are 33-11 have put themselves in a good position to get home court throughout the playoffs, now owning the tiebreaker against the 32-10 Lakers (enjoy that road trip, fellas!). The Cavs next game is Saturday against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Cross-posted at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mo Williams injured against Toronto

I was shocked (shocked I say!) that Mo Williams returned to the game after injuring his shoulder on Tuesday night against Raptors. The way Williams held his shoulder and the fact that he doubled over (same thing I've done whenever I've dislocated mine) led me to believe his shoulder popped out.

Well, Mo didn't dislocate his shoulder, but he did strain it. So, um, good news?

Brian Windhorst says Mo will miss 4-6 weeks:

Williams suffered a left shoulder sprain Tuesday after reaching for a steal against the Toronto Raptors. After getting an MRI today at the Cleveland Clinic, team doctors have determined Williams will miss 4-6 weeks. That would put his return some time after next month's All-Star Game.

It could have been worse, the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade suffered a nearly identical hit reaching for a ball two years ago and it ended his season with surgery.

I concur, it could've been much much much worse.

I don't think Cavs fans should be too bummed out about this (this isn't Jim Chones' foot). Obviously, having Mo miss six weeks isn't ideal but it's sure as hell better than him missing the rest of the season. You really couldn't expect the Cavs to go injury free for the whole season and Mo will be back shortly after the All-Star Game.

Mo's absence means big changes for both Delonte West and Daniel Gibson. In theory, West moves into the starting lineup and Boobie becomes the backup point guard. However, I wouldn't put it past Coach Mike to start Boobie rather than mess up his rotations (keep Delonte coming off the bench). [Edit: Delonte is starting]

I'd like to see Delonte get the majority of Mo's minutes, but who knows how he's going to respond to the increased workload. Meanwhile, Boobie hasn't played in three weeks and who knows the status of his jumpers.

The fact that the Cavs will have to adjust to being Mo-less against the Lakers doesn't help things much.

But every contender has to deal with injuries. The Cavs have been praised for their depth all season, time to see if it was deserved.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cleveland 108, Toronto 100

The Cavs survived a trap game. In their first game back from their trip out West (and the game before their rematch with the Lakers) the Cavs played just enough defense to outlast the Raptors. Toronto scored 60 points in the first half but only tallied 4o after halftime (and just 17 in the fourth). The Cavaliers' offense ebbed and flowed (there were stretched of Le-Iso but they weren't tolerated for long) and they used Shaq really well.

LeBron was at his usual great level. James didn't seem too bothered by the trip, scoring 18 points in the first half and finishing with a game high 28. There were parts of LeBron's night I really like; James shot a whopping 14 free throws (made 12) and he finished with 11 assists, 9 boards, 3 steals and 3 blocks (including a monster one on Chris Bosh). However, James missed every three he took... and he hoisted seven (to be fair, some were some end-of-quarter situations). The offense broke down midway through the fourth as James dominated the ball without really doing anything. He went away from what worked (driving, getting inside) and bailed the Toronto defense out with bad jumpers. Thankfully, Mike Brown got things straightened out and utilized Shaq late in the game.

Shaq had a solid, solid night. O'Neal scored 16 points to go with 5 boards and 2 assists in just 24 minutes of court time. In a change of pace, the Cavs actually moved when they threw the ball to the big fella (including two great plays in the 4th where played off Shaq and he netted Mo a trey and LeBron a dunk). There's really no one on Toronto who can guard Shaq, especially not Chris Bosh (who had a solid game himself with 21-10-3), and O'Neal simply had his way inside, going 7-10 from the floor (the Cavs had 50 points in the paint overall). Shaq also became just the 5th player ever to top 28,000 points. (Though, I gotta say, my favorite part of the entire Shaq in Cleveland experience has been his hard fouls. I get an extra bounce in my step whenever Shaq clobbers a guy who comes into his paint. I love it. He also got Bosh with a nasty pick in the open court).

The Cavs showed, yet again, that they can play any style. On one hand, I like it; Cleveland shot 52% overall (62% on non-threes), had 25 fastbreak points and had multiple guys finish in the open court (LBJ, Mo, Delonte, Varejao, J.J.). They're athletic and they can be deadly when they run. But the Raptors had no answer for Shaq inside (or for any Cavalier really) and Cavs didn't seem to consciously exploit it until late in the fourth quarter. Being flexible is one thing but why should 31-11 Cavaliers play the style of the 21-20 Raptors? I don't get it, exploit your size and strength advantage (the Cavs won the rebounding battle 43-32).

Good game from Mo though I thought we lost him there for a sec. Williams finished with 22 points, 3 boards and 10 assists. While making a swipe at the ball (a common occurrence for the Cavs on D), Mo wretched his shoulder and had to be taken to the locker room. I would've sworn he dislocated it. Thankfully that wasn't the case and Mo returned to the court (said it was a shoulder strain) and eventually knocked down a big trey (pushed the Cleveland lead to 98-94 with just over 5 minutes to play).

It was nice to see the bench play well their first game back home. The Cavs were in the process of blowing a 10 point lead when Delonte West had a break-away dunk midway through the fourth that stopped a 9-0 Raptor run. Anderson Varejao continued his solid play, notching 7 points and 4 boards while Z went 3-4 from the floor. I again liked what I saw from Jawad Williams (5 points, 2 boards and a steal in 19 minutes) but he had a +/- of -10.

I like a lot of the Toronto players. Obviously Bosh is great and I have a begrudging respect for Hedo Turkoglu (Hedo had a rough night shooting 1-6) but I like a lot of their other guys. Andrea Bargnani shot well and scored 19, (but, like Bosh, is soft inside), Jarrett Jack had a solid 11-2-3 and Marco Belinelli went 6-12 and stun the Cavs for 14 points (the Cavs have some trouble with quick point guards- Mo can't stay in front of them and neither Shaq nor Z can cover them off of picks).

and finally...

Can't play like this on Thursday. The Lakers are in town and will be looking to avenge the Christmas day shellacking they received at the hands of the Cavaliers. The Cavs need more consistency on both ends of the floor; they'll have to defend for more than just 8 minutes and I doubt they'll overcome stagnant offense with bad turnovers. While it seems like they haven't been playing great (they've definitely developed some bad habits offensively), the Cavs are 12-3 over their last fifteen games and those three losses are by a combined 7 points. Folks, this team is good.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wheel of Cheese Moment

Look, I'll be honest, if the Cavs are going to lose (97-96) because a guy just signed to a 10-day contract hits a last second three to win the game, so be it. And to tell ya the truth, the Cavs didn't deserve to win this game. Had they won, it would've been in spite of their bad play (23 turnovers, stagnant offense, missed free throws) and because LeBron went full Video Game James for 3 minutes. Tough loss, but not surprising.

(Plus, if you can't feel at least a little happy for rookie Sundiata Gaines then you have no soul. The dude hit the game winning shot in his first ever NBA game against one of the best teams in the league. That's special).

Overall, it was a weird game. While the Cavs held the lead for most of the night, it wasn't exactly a joy to watch. The third quarter was particularly brutal; Cleveland scored just 13 points while Utah countered with a whopping 15 (it was a combination of good defense and horrendous offense). The Cavs entered the fourth with a 60-55 lead but Utah made a run and with just under four minutes to go, the Jazz led 81-69.

That's when LeBron took over.

Over the next three minutes, LeBron scored 18 of Cleveland's next 20 points (Varejao hit two freebies) and the Cavs stormed back to take a six point lead. James was simply nuts. With around a minute to go, he hit back-to-back treys and, after two more freebies, the Cavs held a 91-85 advantage with 32 seconds to play.

How do you squander a six point lead with half a minute to go? Well, the Cavs sure made it look easy. They missed their free throws (AP went 2-4 and Z was 1-2), ran uninspired inbounds plays (nothing to waste the time) and twice they fouled Utah, allowing the Jazz to put points on the board with the clock stopped. Just not good execution down the stretch.

On one had, I'm pissed they lost this game. There's no excuse for losing a game where you have a six point lead with under a minute to play. Just awful. On the other hand, you can't really make the case that they deserved to win either; Shaq and Z combined for 6 points (2-8 FG) and 6 boards and their starting guards shot 6-18 (and 2-7 from downtown).

West coast swings are tough, no doubt. This loss hurts but if they can win Saturday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers, they'd end up going 3-2 on their trip. I can live with 3-2.

Cross-posted at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Post Master General

Brian Windhorst:
The Cavaliers' victory Monday night over the Golden State Warriors has the potential to mean more than just a tally in the standings. There's a chance, at least the team's coaches are hoping, that the results of the game also serve as a revelation for LeBron James.

With the outcome still undetermined and the Warriors deciding to play without a true center or power forward in the fourth quarter, James became ruthless in the post. Time after time he got in position on the block, both right and left, and called for the ball. Time after time he scored or drew fouls on Corey Maggette, who was not given help by teammates.

It wasn't just that James was successful working his 6-8, 260-pound frame, although he certainly executed brilliantly in scoring 15 of the Cavs' last 19 points in the 117-114 win. It was that James was the one who requested -- no, demanded -- the ball to be given to him in that position with the game on the line.

The Cavs coaches have called post-up plays for James for years when they have felt he has an advantage as he had on Maggette. Often he hasn't used the chances, preferring to operate with the ball out on the wing while facing the basket. This time he didn't just accept it, he embraced it.

"That is who he could be every time he posts up, if he wants," coach Mike Brown said
This is definitely a good sign. We've seen glimpses of James on the block before (like on Christmas against Ron Artest) but the Golden State game was the first time I can remember LeBron repeatedly returned to the post.

I'm always skeptical when the Cavs or LeBron tout his work in the post. I've seen him do it mostly early in games or against crappy teams but whenever the game seems to be on the line, LeBron ends up dribbling 25 feet from the rim. Hell, even against Golden State, the Cavs (and LeBron's) last shot was a three from the wing (a bad shot, there was no ball movement and James just stood there). So even in this great game where James dominated the post, when push came to shove and the Cavs needed a basket, he retreated to the one-on-five stuff.

I really do hope the Golden State game is a sign of things to come and not simply LeBron punking Maggette possession after possession (those two don't get along). Nearly every time I've seen LeBron go to the block, he's been effective. He's so big, so quick and so skilled that he's a monster to handle down low. It makes the Cavs harder to guard (especially compared to the 1-on-5 shit) and he's a willing passer, not a black hole like a lot of post players.

But call me when he does it against a good team in a game they need. Maybe I'm cynical, but I want to see him do it against the Bostons of the league before I start dreaming of turnarounds and baby jump hooks. I'm very interested to see how James follows up his San Fransisco performance against Utah (on national TV).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Scary Backcourt

The Cavs are one of the teams interested in Kevin Martin:

Executives around the league will be watching closely, with many teams hoping to land Martin by the February trade deadline should the Kings make him available.

League sources indicate Houston, Toronto, Cleveland, Phoenix and Dallas are among those keeping watch.

The Kings, who are believed to be looking for a significant frontcourt addition, have given no indication they intend to move Martin.

Imagine a backcourt of Mo Williams and Kevin Martin. The shooting, the scoring, the speed, the absolute lack of defense....

Don't get me wrong, I'd love Kevin Martin. He's 26, he's from Ohio (Zanesville!) and he averaged nearly 25 points last season. I'm all for adding young, talented players to this roster.

However... He's not good defensively and he doesn't do much else besides score, averaging 3.6 boards and 2.7 assists last season.

I do believe that the Cavs need a shooting guard but I think it's imperative he can play good (if not great) defense. They need a big athletic wing who can guard the NBA's elite players so LeBron doesn't have to (think Ron Harper, Ariza, Bowen, etc). Anthony Parker could be that guy, but I'd be more comfortable if he was 4 years younger (I just don't think he can keep up with the quicker guards) and Delonte West would be absolutely perfect if he was 3 inches taller.

I wouldn't poo-poo a Martin acquistion but I don't think he's their most pressing need.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's 1:30 AM, so I maybe I'm dreaming

But I'm pretty sure I just saw the Cavs beat the Warriors with LeBron dominating the post and playing center. Yikes.

James finished with 37 points, 8 boards, 11 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks. God damn... just... god damn....

He's scary good in the open court, he artfully set up his teammates and he was a beast on the low block. I'd usually be more excited for his wonderful post play but I need to see it more often. Dominating the post, in the middle of January, against a notoriously bad defensive team is one thing. Doing it on a consistent basis (especially against the Bostons and Orlandos of the league) is what deserves praise. (Though in post game comments, Mike Brown said LeBron "demanded" the ball the post. So that's a good sign.

Shaq had 13, Andy had 15 (Varejao was great), Z scored 14 (he hit another three) and Jawad Williams scored a career high 11. The Cavs bench outscored their Golden State counterparts 52-11. Well done boys.

I'm tired as hell but that was a fun win. The Warriors' running style makes for a lot of exciting plays (god forbid the Cavs force a team to adapt to their style). G'night.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Denver 99, Cleveland 97

Frustrating game to watch. The Cavs didn't play particularly well and while they were in the game til the end, they never put together that four or five minute stretch of good basketball to finish the game. If the Cavs were scoring, they weren't defending and when they defended, the offense broke down. They couldn't keep the Denver guards out of the paint (Chauncey Billups especially), gave up too many easy buckets and they failed to execute down the stretch. Meanwhile, as the Cavs went full Le-Iso, the Nuggets got some huge buckets in the last two minutes from Arron Afflalo (the game tying trey, 91-91), Kenyon Martin (the go-ahead jumper, 93-91) and J.R. Smith (the 27 foot back breaker, 96-91). LeBron made some late threes to make the score respectable but the Cavs ran out of time.

Can a guy with 35 points have a bad game? Sure, James will finish up with a 35-6-7 but he needed 28 shots to get that 35, he turned the ball over 8(!) times and he made just 9 0f his 13 free throws (61%). LeBron seemed to be forcing the issue; I dunno if it was because they were on ESPN but LeBron tried to do everything himself (I was having Orlando flashbacks. Mo and Shaq combined for 2 points in the second half and LeBron took 18 of the Cavs 38 shots after halftime. He was forcing passes, taking bad jumpers and driving head on into traffic (when they obviously weren't getting the benefit of the doubt from the refs). One bright spot was the fact that LeBron utilized the high post to varying degrees of success. It was still James doing everything himself but at least he was starting from 18 feet out as opposed to 30.

Not Mike Brown's best night. In the third, he kept Shaq in the game even though he had four fouls and Shaq picked up his fifth with about seven minutes to go (Shaq's third, fourth and fifth foul came in a one-minute span. The fifth foul, while jostling for post position, was particularly weak). Shaq finished 4-5 from the floor (though the miss was embarrassing) in just 16 minutes of court time. LeBron and the offense was a concern all game and Brown just let it happen (and really, it's a concern every game). It's great that the offense looks crisp and effective against teams like the Wizards but it still reverts to this Le-Iso stuff against good teams. The Cavs went small for roughly 30 seconds in the fourth (well, Varejao plus the other starters) but Brown quickly subbed in Z for Hickson. Going small might been a decent idea, as the Cavs had trouble staying with the Denver bigs on pick-and-rolls (Nene had 20 points, Kenyon Martin had 19 and Chris Anderson pitched in 8 off the bench).

Anderson Varejao should get some kind of award after the season. I don't care if it's Sixth Man or Most Improved Player or they have to make up some new award just for him- he's been great. Varejao came off the bench and gave the Cavs 9 points and 15 boards. He's not longer just a flopper; he makes great rotations, he picked the pocket of J.R. Smith (one of Andy's 3 steals) and he blocked Kenyon Martin. The guy brings loads of energy and he's the only Cavs player who moves on offense no matter what. You're starting to see some of Varejao's hustle rub off on J.J. Hickson; I thought J.J. did a great job hustling for boards (2 offensive) and not giving up on the play but he still needs to find his man and box out on every shot (the Nuggets had a couple of easy putback dunks- not all Hickson's fault- as Billups would get inside and draw help defenders, leaving K-Mart open).

LeBron: 28 shots. Mo, Delonte, Shaq & Z: 29 shots. Not good. Delonte's game, in particular, seems to suffer the most when LeBron dominates the ball. West had 5 points (2-5 shooting), 3 boards, 2 blocks and zero assists in his 26 minutes on the court. Delonte is one of the few Cavaliers who can create shots for both himself and his teammates but when he's relegated to hoisting corner threes, he's much less effective. The Cavs don't need LeBron to play off the ball for the entire game but they have to get the ball to their guards and let them run things.

I'm getting sick of the Cavs having to relearn the same lesson. The offense has to keep moving! You have to utilize the post (either with LeBron or somebody else). You can't take nights off just because a team is missing their star (who else feels that the Cavs would've played differently had 'Melo suited up?). Maybe the Christmas day Laker game spoiled me but I want to see more of that team. I want to see LeBron running down court and posting up near the rim, I want to see tight defensive rotations that don't inexplicably leave the opposing power forward unchecked on rebounds, I want to see the Cavs utilizing Shaq to the best of his ability. Instead, we'll see the Cavs play a great game and then two nights later lay an egg by going full Le-Iso. What gives?

and finally...

Well, they started this way on their last West Coast trip too. I'm skeptical that the Cavs can rebound and sweep the rest of this trip (as they did after losing to the Dirk-less Mavs to begin their last visit out West) but here's hoping. They let a very winnable game slip through their hands (seriously, 18-29 free throws is just unacceptable) and it doesn't get any easier coming up. The Cavs play in Portland on Sunday and even though the Blazers are hurting, they beat the Lakers Friday night (in fact, the Celtics and Magic lost on Friday as well).

Cross-posted at

Thursday, January 07, 2010

At least he's not Marty Mornhinweg

I'll be honest, I did not expect Eric Mangini to remain on as Browns head coach. I thought he did a decent enough job and the Browns were better at the end of the season than it was at the start, which is a credit to Mangini. That being said, they started off 1-11 and despite their season ending four game win streak, there are still significant problems on both sides of the ball. I figured Mike Holmgren's emphasis on everyone being on same wavelength and dismissal of in house fiefdoms signaled Mangini's exit.

Guess not.

Not that I though Mangini had to go but it would make sense cut cord. Holmgren could honestly say that this isn't a statement about the job that Eric did but that they simply had philosophies that couldn't mesh. People may have groused about Mangini's unfair shake but it's not exactly difficult to build a case for his ouster. The blown second round draft picks, the absurd handling of the quarterbacks, starting Jamal Lewis over Jerome Harrison and the horrendous offensive playcalling are reasons enough to show him the door.

But Mangini stays (with his entire staff).

In some ways this is a win-win. If Mangini does a good job and the Browns play well, all the better. They did show marked improvement as the season progressed and it wouldn't be fair to give Mangini just one season (and I think Holmgren, being a former coach, knows this). If the Browns do poorly, Holmgren will already have a GM and front office in place and they should be able conduct a thorough, proper search (guys like John Fox and Jon Gruden could be available, nevermind Holmgren himself).

My one is concern is the length of Mangini's leash. I do believe that Mangini will try to make things work, it's really in his best interest. He's gotta know that if he flames out here, it's probably his last chance at a NFL head coaching gig. I just wonder if the Browns start off 0-4, how quick is Holmgren's trigger (and how strong is his itch to put on a headset)? I'd rather they just fire Mangini now than at some point during the 2010 season. Doing that just seems like a waste of time.

In other Browns news, Josh Cribbs has been whining about his contract over Twitter and saying that it's over. Great.

I love Josh Cribbs; he's far and away the best player on the Browns (he's basically their offense) and you gotta love having a guy from Kent State scoring TDs on Sundays. That being said, chill out man. The Browns just hired Holmgren and they don't even have a GM yet (you know, the guy who negotiates the contract with your agent). No offense, but figuring out the coaching situation takes precedent over a contract dispute.

I will say that I can't really disagree with Josh's complaint. If the Browns really did offer him $1.3 or $1.4 million, I can see why he'd be miffed (when his side offered $3 million per). However, I can't help but feel that these public outbursts are coordinated and part of a strategy. He may really feel that he won't be back next season and he's not wanted but getting the fans all riled up certainly helps his bargaining position.

I can't imagine Cribbs not playing for the Browns next year. It's extremely early in this process (the regular season hasn't been over even a week) and I imagine that the two sides will eventually come to some sort of agreement.

Cleveland 121, Washington 98

Night and day from Sunday. The Wizards are a team in a bit of turmoil (in case you haven't heard) and the Cavs simply took it to 'em. It was a complete turnaround from the Charlotte game. The Cavs were quick, active on the boards, spread the ball around (not a lot of standing) and just demolished the Wizards. The Cavs had six players end up with double figures and LeBron didn't even have play during the fourth. It was nice to see the Cavs blow out a bad team like last season.

The offense looked crisp. It was fairly obvious that the Cavs got some rest and put in a practice or two (also, they played the freaking Wizards). Guys were moving without the ball, setting baseline screens and cutting back door. They got Shaq the ball while in motion and everything just looked more smooth. Also, the Cavs posted up, not just Shaq, but a variety of people throughout the game (like Mo, Delonte and even J.J.) and it was very effective. The Cavs shot a whopping 57% from the floor (44% for the Wizards) and an even 50% from behind the arc (11-22).

The starters got some rest before their trip out West. James had 23-7-8 in just 31 minutes, Shaq has 17 and 6 in just 17 minutes and no other Cavalier broke the 30 minute mark. Three Cavaliers off the bench scored in double figures; Z had 12 (5-8 FG, including a corner trey), Varejao had 12-8-3 while posting a +22 and Delonte (sporting a +21) gave 'em 14 points, 4 boards, 6 assists, a steal and a block in 25 minutes.

The Cavs played sorta rough with Future Cavalier Antawn Jamison. Shaq was nailed with a flagrant 1 on Jamison, Varejao seemed to be giving him an extra bump when possible and the Cavs ran islo plays for J.J. Hickson against Antawn (and J.J. responded, 8 points, 6 boards). Meanwhile, Jamison went about his business, scoring 26 points, making 9-10 free throws and going off for 18 in the third quarter alone (3-4 from three). He was the only Wizard to show up (not entirely true, Randy Foye scored 18 points on 8-12 shooting); Caron Butler sulked his to 8 points on 3-9 shooting, Nick Young scored 14 points but needed 18 shots to do it and Andre Blache needed 14 shots to get his 10 points.

Some other Cavaliers stepped up. Anthony Parker had his best night as a Cavalier, scoring 16 on 6-8 shooting (4-5 from downtown) though he only notched an assist and a couple blocks otherwise. Jawad Williams got his first extended minutes and made the most of 'em, going off for 7 points, a rebound and 4 assists. All in all, this was a team win and everyone who played, contributed. Yes, it's against a free falling Wizard team but the Cavs did what they need to do- beat the bad teams.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the uniforms. The Cavs wore their "Cavs Fanatic" jerseys, aka the throwbacks that never happened. Gotta say, I loved 'em. It's the Price-Daugherty jerseys but mixed with the wine and gold colors. Awesome. Would anybody object to the Cavs wearing these things all the time? It's the best of both worlds (for me anyways); the classic uniforms I grew up cheering for but without the Knicks colors. Me gusta.

and finally...

Going back out West, for the last time. The Cavs start their final West Coast trip of the season (except for a two game jaunt to New Orleans and San Antonio) against the Nuggets on Friday. After Denver, they fly to Portland, Golden State, Utah and then back out to L.A. to face the Clippers. While their opponents aren't nearly as scary as their last trip out West (Mavs, Suns, Kings and Lakers) but since they went 3-4 on that trip, my expectations have been raised. Obviously, you'd like to see them at least go 3-2 but 4-1 shouldn't be out of the question, no? The Cavs return home on January 19th to face the Raptors.

Cross posted at LeBrowns Town.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Delonte vs Gilbert

David Stern came out today and threw the book at Gilbert Arenas:
Gilbert Arenas was suspended without pay Wednesday by NBA commissioner David Stern, who determined the player's behavior made him "not currently fit to take the court."

A day after the Washington Wizards guard was photographed before a game in Philadelphia pointing his index fingers, as if they were guns, at his teammates, Stern warned the former All-Star that his conduct will "ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse."

Arenas is under investigation by federal and local authorities after admittedly bringing guns to the locker room. Stern originally planned to wait to take action, but he tired of Arenas' behavior.

Arenas met with law enforcement officials Monday and said the next day that he feared Stern more than the authorities because the commissioner was "mean."

"Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game," Stern said in a statement. "Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA."

With the Cavs playing the Wizards tonight, expect to see a fair amount of comparison between Gilbert's situation (suspended indefinitely) and that of one Delonte West (still playing).

The situations differ in a couple of key aspects:

Some would argue the same about Delonte West, but don’t get too far ahead of the game (Alan T.) The circumstances are vastly different than what happened to West.

West’s incident didn’t occur during the course of the NBA season. Nor did he bring his firearms to work. Lastly, whether anyone wants to admit it, extenuating circumstances exists around West’s legal problems.

At least one NBA insider agrees. Arenas doesn’t suffer from any known mental illness and while they both acted with extremely poor judgment, from everything I know, there is no way to explain away pulling a gun on a teammate.

But that's not all.

Yes, Delonte's arrest happened in the offseason and he wasn't on NBA property. And yes, he has a history of mental illness so there may be some leeway there. You haven't seen Delonte tweeting and acting like the whole thing is a joke.

On the other hand, Arenas did himself no favors with the constant interviews, finger-guns and ridiculous tweeting.

Maybe it's not fair that Arenas gets suspended because he pissed off David Stern but what did you think would happen? For all his faults, Delonte West hasn't been joking about it or walking back apologies via Twitter.

Arenas could've saved himself a ton of grief had he simply shut up and let things take their course. By acting like an ass and making light of his situation, Arenas proved (very publicly, which is a big Stern no-no) that he doesn't feel sorry for anything. Sitting down and shutting up probably wouldn't have saved Arenas from a suspension but there'd likely be a timetable for his return.

Of course, West isn't out of the woods yet either. There's still a decent chance he'll miss some time at some point this season.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

For what its worth

Also, Terry Pluto:

4. Lerner's approach has been to hire a guy and hope that somehow, the new leader fixes everything. When he hired Holmgren, he never saw the four-game winning streak coming. It seems the Browns were headed for another off-season where everyone is fired and it's time to start over, just like a year ago. Holmgren is giving no clues to his plans, other than he will wisely hire a general manager who can immerse himself in the draft.

5. Here's the situation: Holmgren is coming to Cleveland to build a basement/foundation, especially in drafting and securing players. The house itself is the coaching staff and the general approach to the game (the 3-4 defense, a run-style offense, etc). Can he put in a new basement but not tear up the house in the process?

6. It's fair to assume that when Lerner began discussing the job with Holmgren, a new coach would be hired. Don't be surprised if Holmgren is in a mighty struggle trying to decide what to do about Mangini -- something he never imagined a month ago.

4pm press conference. Should be interesting.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Charlotte 91, Cleveland 88

Not their best effort, to say the least. I was 'lucky' enough to attend this game (with my dad and bro) and to say the game was boring was an understatement. It was a 6pm start time (a little off their normal routines) and the Cavs more or less slept walked through the evening. The Cavs were routinely down by 3-5 points for much of the second half and we kept waiting for a run... and waiting... and waiting... and by the time the Cavs did make a little push (with about 4 minutes to go). The crowd was kinda loud near the end but for the most part we seemed just as tired as the Cavs (in our defense, it's hard to get excited watching guys stand around and shoot jumpers).

The Cavs really shouldn't lose a game where LeBron and Mo combine for 56 points. James led everyone with 29 points and Mo pitched in 27. The maddening thing was that both guys shot the ball extremely well (13-21 for LBJ, 10-17 for Mo) and the Cavs still lost. But that's the thing, they shot the ball extremely well... but that was it. Mo and LeBron combined to hoist 15 threes between them while only shooting two free throws each. LeBron's freebies didn't come til the last two minutes of the game and could've given the Cavs a lead but James split and they had to settle for the tie (the next play, Flip Murray hit a trey to give the Bobcats the lead and pretty much the game).

I really don't want to put this loss on LeBron but... James had a pretty good game stat-wise, going for 29-7-6 with steal and a block. Though again, he shot his first free throws with 1:15 left to go in the game. That's inexcusable. He needed to put pressure on the opposition's defense and instead was content to hoist jumpers all night (sure, some went in, but I'm pretty sure Larry Brown was thrilled he kept taking them). As a team, the Cavs made 9 threes and 9 free throws... while attempting 21 treys to just 13 freebies. Guys like Delonte West (9 points) were regulated to the corner as a spot up shooter for much of the fourth quarter. For what it's worth, we did see LeBron play the four next to Shaq, which was the first time this season (at least that I know of) that LeBron played power forward next to anyone but Varejao.

You want some excuses? I got 'em! The Cavs looked visibly tired and in their defense, this was the second night of a back-to-back (both with abnormal start times) and they traveled the night before (so this felt like an away game rather than a normal home game). Also, the Cavs have played more games (by a whopping four) than anyone else in the league. It would make sense that they were tired. To the Bobcats credit, they slowed the pace down and the Cavs clearly weren't prepared for their press and their pressure on the passing lanes (lack of practice time?). The Cavs take a while to get into their offense anyways and the Charlotte defense only compounded the problem (the length of Wallace, Jackson and even Diop didn't help).

Not a good night from the bench. The bench gave the Cavs a total of 12 points. If you take out Delonte (who was 3-6), the bench shot a dismal 1-17 (Z and Moon were 0-4 and 0-5 respectively while Andy went 1-8). I'm not sure what the problem was but none of these guys looked in any sort of rhythm. Meanwhile, Charlotte's bench got 10 points (and the backbreaking trey) from Flip Murry, 6 points from D.J. Augustin and somehow let DeSagana Diop score 8. Maybe Boobie (DNP-CD) could've provided a spark but who's he guarding out there? Gerald Wallace? Stephen Jackson?

Nothing inside. In general, the Cavs offense was perimeter-based; the only picks were on the ball (no back picks), there was very little posting up (some by Delonte, nearly none by LeBron) and the Cavs seemed content to keep shooting jumpers all night (and they made enough of 'em that apparently Mike Brown was cool with it too). What was maddening was the fact that when the Cavs did drive or post inside, they always kicked it back out for another jumper. Which is fine every now and then but what's the point in beating your guy, getting to the hole and passing it for a 23 footer? Sometimes the kickout is the right play but not always. It seemed like the Cavs were looking for it because they'd kick it out without even drawing in Charlotte's defense (meaning that shooter didn't always have a clean look).

The execution down the stretch wasn't good. The Cavs are down three (89-86) with 12 seconds and two timeouts left and they call timeout and go for a quick two (I'm OK with this). They run a play, LeBron gets a lay and the Cavs trail by one (89-88) with 9 seconds to go. Charlotte inbounds the ball to Flip Murry (63% FT) and the Cavs.... pressure him? There's 9 seconds left! You aren't seriously trying for a 8 second violation, are you? Are you going for a steal? Somehow Murry gets rid of the ball (despite having two guys pressuring him, one being Shaq) and the Cavs end up fouling Stephen Jackson (80% FT) with just 2 seconds left. Great. The Cavs wasted a solid 6 seconds for no reason and were left with a quick shot to end the game. In a surprise to no one, James got the ball and hoisted a three (from the corner?) and that was all she wrote. Now, LeBron was having a good shooting night and was 2-5 from three at that moment... but Mo Williams was 5-9 seemed like he couldn't miss.

and finally...

While it was a frustrating game (especially since I was at the arena), it's not the end of the world. This isn't a loss that exploits any major weakness of the Cavaliers (unless you count slowing the pace down). The Bobcats played better, the Cavs didn't execute their offense (21 3FGA to 13 FTA) or defense ('Cats shot 49%) and they simply didn't have the energy. Now, if you want to argue that they should bring it every night and all that jazz, I'll listen to that. But the Cavs had won 7 in a row, have been traveling all over and still nearly pulled this out at the end. A loss at home isn't the end of the world (last year's 39-2 record was nice but once Orlando won Game 1 everyone lost their mind) and hopefully this game can help fix some bad habits before yet another (their last!) West Coast trip (they face the Nuggets, Blazers, Warriors, Jazz and Clippers).

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Big Ten in 2010

Gotta love the way the Buckeyes and the rest of the Big Ten entered in the new decade. Ohio State won the Rose Bowl, Penn State topped LSU and while Northwestern didn't win, they played a hell of the game, losing to Auburn in OT (I'm OK with faking the field goal in OT but I thought the play they ran sucked. They didn't look ready at all). Wisconsin set the tone for the rest of the conference by beating Miami (15) on Tuesday. I'm not usually so pro-Big Ten but I was fired up today (though to be fair, I didn't have to watch either Purdue or Michigan).

Great game by Pryor (I enjoyed Musburger's "Pryor is growing up in this game" comment 4 plays into the game. Give it time man), great gameplan from Tressel and the coaching staff and another excellent game from the Ohio State defense. It was fun to see them close it out by running off the clock. I'm too used the Browns, I forgot how fun that is.

I saw the game with some college friends down in Columbus (it's just not the same watching in Cleveland) and had a lot of fun (New Years Eve was a delight as well). Know what wasn't a lot of fun? The drive back through the snow that took over three hours (it's usually 2ish). Yikes.