RAISING THE CADAVALIER - many, many thoughts on the Cleveland Cavaliers by ROBERT ATTENWEILER

NBA Basketball

2013/10/01

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As anywhere between none and all of you may know / have pieced together by now, my basketball writing has moved over to ESPN’s TrueHoop Network as part of a splendid collection of writers for Cavs: The Blog.

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NBA Basketball

2013/04/28

This is Cleveland. This is Brown’s Town.

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I’ll admit, my first reaction to learning that Mike Brown was returning to the Cavaliers in the very rarely attempted repeater role as head coach was … (how do I put this politely?) … not overly enthusiastic. It’s still too soon for me not to remember his atrociously uninventive offense or the way in which his quest for height on the wings kept Sasha Pavlovic as a regular rotation player far longer than was necessary. I remember how his teams almost never stepped up, as good teams almost always do sometimes, when fielding a LeBron-less lineup (no matter the joyful infrequency with which that happened). I remember him getting categorically outcoached: by Stan Van Gundy in 2009 and Doc Rivers in 2010 (we’ll give him a pass for the 2007 Finals and the 2008 Celtics series that were really more about the better team winning than they were about any of the coaches involved). And I remember LeBron quitnessing him out the door.

***

Whew. That is a lot of professional sports viewing baggage to get past. Thanks, Mssrs. Gilbert and Grant for giving me that to chew on for the next several months/years. No, seriously, thanks. Thanks. I mean it. Thanks.

***

The more I thought about the hiring, though, the less entirely abominable it seemed (ah, there’s the politeness again!). For starters, I have to give Mike Brown a little bit of slack. For, as nearly all of his successes are viewed through glasses with LeBron-colored lenses, so too should his weaknesses.

***

A lot has been made about Brown’s prior-run comment about LeBron “letting me coach him,” but much surrounding that statement is understandable. Mike Brown, by all accounts, is a passionate, if mild-mannered, man (though I will admit that the first moment I started to thaw on his re-hiring was when I saw a clip of him getting tossed from a game for arguing a call … how deliciously un-Byron of you, Mike) who entered an entire organization built almost exclusively around keeping LeBron James happy. His authority was already suspect, so there are ways in which Brown’s teammate-enforced accountability – or “buddy-buddy” management – approach with the players was legitimately effective if, in the end, possessing some fatal flaws that would lead to the collapse of Brown’s initial run with the team. In his 2009 Coach of the Year Season, Brown was often praised for the mature way he handled his players. It was the mirror image of that maturity, though, the meat of the perception that this was the players’ team (or, more accurately, a player’s team) that seemed to stop Brown just short, not rushing off a cliff because he was never exactly sure which of his players would follow.

***

But he was also a young coach and younger people in positions of authority often have to grow into a complete understanding of how authority works – how to get it, how to best use it, etc.

***

Mike Brown will always (or, if not always, then still for some time now) be battling the perception that LeBron was 100% of what made Brown a successful coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Changing that perception for this current roster (if not, immediately, for us) must be his first priority. Mike Brown is an experienced NBA head coach who has gone through two stops (in Cleveland with LeBron and then a strike-shortened season, playoffs and 5 games with the Lakers) that would have effected exponential change on even the most resistant coach, and Brown has never seemed resistant. He can coach a good defense (which, clearly, we need and which is singularly important to success in today’s NBA) and he’s shown flashes of being a good manager of players, treating his players like the grown men they are. If he has learned his weaknesses and has both improved on them and made relationships with the right coaches who can handle what he cannot, then it doesn’t seem like Mike Brown will be the cause should this team continue to fail.

***

The biggest thing will be gaining this young team’s respect (which is not an unrealistic thing to ask … I mean, he’s gotta earn mine again and I’m far from the most important cog in his coaching success wheel). Once he’s done that (and I suspect Brown’s oft-reported work ethic will appeal to several of the team’s new core players … Tristan Thompson, I’m looking at you) Brown will walk into every practice, meeting, game and post-game as the member of the Cleveland Cavaliers with the most proven track record of NBA success – and it won’t even be close. It’s just important that Brown know that and convince Kyrie, Dion, et al that they can all have it to if they just commit to rushing off a cliff… just so long as Coach Mike Brown does too.

NBA Basketball

2013/03/14

The Answer to the Uncle Drew Question…

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With the news earlier this week that Kyrie Irving had suffered a sprained shoulder in a collision with one-time Cavalier’s draft target, Jonas Valanciunus, I couldn’t decide what depressed me most about the injury expected to keep the Cavs’ star guard out for 3-4 weeks, if not the rest of the season: was I bummed that I wouldn’t get to see Kyrie play for (another) month or was I dreading the slew of “Kyrie is injury prone” articles we’ll get between now and … sigh… whenever?

***

I, for one, am leery of making the argument that the fact that Kyrie’s injuries are so varied – that he does not, say, keep blowing out the same knee … or pair of knees … or feet – means that he is not injury prone. Don’t get me wrong: I love that argument. But I’m leery of going to that well too strongly this time because the very same argument blew up in my face just earlier this year. That’s what everyone (everyone who I chose to agree with, anyway) was saying about Anderson Varejao before … you know, Anderson Varejao ended up hurt again.

***

Still, there are reasons to not jump off the now-slightly-faster-moving Cavs wagon:

***

I’ve been racking my brain to find a comparable talent to Kyrie whose career was derailed by a continuous series of “minor and unrelated” injuries that came because of the way he plays (except … you know, that guy Kyrie shares a locker room with) and I can’t do it. “Derailed by injury” are the devastating ones – the Odens and the Jay Williamses and the (sorry) Livingstons and the Ilgauskuseseses.

***

The closest comparison for a guard who misses games for “getting a little beat up” (a nice way of putting it” – and it’s a comparison I’ve been hearing more and more to Kyrie – is Allen Iverson.

***

Iverson was a fearless on the court, constantly driving through (and sometimes bouncing off of) much larger defenders on his way to the basket.  He did this, in part, because he was awesome … and, in (large) part, to compensate for the fact that he was never a great shooter. I remember commentators praising Iverson’s grit, determination – and, hell, he was just so damned fast – but worrying about the beating he was taking game after game. Iverson was listed at 6’0”, 165lbs. and just rammed himself into the defense seeing what offensive opportunity might crack open up for him. Remember how Iverson spearheaded the body-sleeve craze? By the end of his career, he had both arms and both legs wrapped in protective sleeves and looked like he was balling in a wetsuit.

***

Allen Iverson also only played in 82 games twice in his 14 NBA seasons (via basketball-reference.com). But he did have eight seasons where he played more than 70 games (including the strike-shortened 1999 season where he played the statistical equivalent). He only played 48 games in 2003-04. But, excluding his lost final year in Memphis/Philly, he only averaged 12.3 games missed a year.

***

Conventional wisdom is that Iverson’s career could have been longer if he had adjusted the way he played – or developed other strengths (a consistent jumper, the willingness to involve teammates, etc.) to off-set the drop off in his speed that came as a result of age and NBA-inflicted abuse. But, still, it’s a career you’d take. Just under 27 points a game. Just over 6 assists. One NBA Finals appearance. One MVP. Four-time scoring champ. 11-time All-Star. Two-time All-Star MVP. When he hit the wall, though, he really hit the wall. But, still…

***

If Kyrie is, in fact, done for the season, he’s played 49 games this season. That’s 2 games fewer than last year. It’s one game better than Iverson’s most injury-riddled campaign. But the team is clearly taking a long-term approach with Kryie in particular and team-building in general, so it’s not crazy to imagine a world in which the Cavs are in playoff contention – or, heaven forbid, in a playoff series – and some of Kyrie’s injuries don’t keep him out for as long as they do now (same, frankly, with Varejao). Byron Scott repeatedly refers to the player development that is made between seasons, rather than in-season, and it’s long been agreed-upon that the organization saw this season as another chance to pick up a lottery pick before going all-in on making the playoffs with their new core.

***

That assumes your new core can actually get to the playoffs in one piece, though.

***

I’d be shocked to ever see him play a full 82 game season. I think something in the Iverson-ian neighborhood (where, coincidentally, I’m now looking to purchase property … right down from Ricky Davis Way) of 70-ish games a season might be what we end up getting (if we’re lucky). The organization’s hope, though, has to be that the core they’re building will eventually still win 50-60% of games when Kyrie’s out and more like 75% when he’s in. And I’ll take that. I’m less concerned with his ability to hold up for 82+ games a year, than in his ability to perform well (and at all) in the games that matter, when they matter.

***

Assuming the injury bug regulates for Kyrie at some point, he’s already ahead of Iverson in developing the more mature game. He’s already a deadly shooter and shows a developing understanding on how to get his teammates involved. But, hopefully, we’re talking about a drop-off that’s still 12-14 seasons away and that a combination of “getting stronger” and “maturing physically” (Byron Scott’s go-to salves), along with a well-constructed supporting cast that allows Coach Scott to dole out the physical toll on his star more judiciously, will keep Kyrie on the floor more … and keep the “freak” injuries from becoming the “derailing” kind.

***

Next up: how Kyrie falling down after converting contorting difficult shots at the rim will ruin everything (and not just our transition defense)!

NBA Basketball

2013/01/30

It’s Oscar Season: a kinda, sorta, almost defense of Byron Scott

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I started my defense of Byron Scott a couple weeks ago. It was not a defense, really, as much as it was me typing “you try to coach this roster” over and over again. Of course, now times have changed now with Speights and Ellington turning the Cavs back into the (cough…cough) fringe playoff team we all believed they’d be at the start of the season. But Bryon Scott’s (in)ability continues to be the post-Varejao-injury hot topic, so I’ll throw in, hat to ring:

*****

My argument for Coach Oscar (named for the awards statue that seems just as animated during a Cavaliers game as our coach – though I should point out that I do differentiate between “talking Byron Scott” who is generally funny and intelligent in interviews and post-games with Coach Oscar who, perhaps unfortunately, is the one who actually gets to coach our professional basketball games) mostly rides on the idea that there are different kinds of coaches, as well as different kinds of good coaching. While I think it’s safe to say that we’d all feel a little bit better if Coach Oscar kicked and screamed and yanked Dion Waiters after yet another continental drift away from his man on defense, I think it’s also safe to say that Coach Oscar doesn’t particularly care about what would make fans feel better (at least not per se), just as I think it’s safe to make the statement that Phil Jackson’s impact as a head coach has always been less attributed to Xs and Os strategy and more about figuring out how to make his pieces mesh, improve and (cough…cough) ride the coat tails of whatever Hall of Fame player(s) he’s coaching at the time.

*****

Am I saying that Coach Oscar is a great coach. Ummm… I am saying that he has had some success as an NBA head coach (which is usually not a complete coincidence) and that he has either had or developed two of the best leaders in the NBA in Jason Kidd and Chris Paul (both of who may also have been great at leading to Oscar’s ouster, but then who’s counting…). I am saying that his coaching philosophy seems to be more in the “build players up” mode (unless you’re Omri Casspi) and that he is the steady hand – and has to be – of a roster that would be a train wreck (okay … let’s just say train wreckier) if, say, a young PJ Carlesimo tried to steer us toward defensive respectability and a couple extra wins. The players all seem to respect Coach Oscar (unless you’re Omri Casspi) and his NBA/championship pedigree and, based largely on Tristan Thompson Year 2 and the snail’s-pace-though-noticeable improvement in Kyrie’s defense (he’s trying, people … sometimes), this seems like a young team that is given plenty of room by their coach to mess up and grow and learn which is what, by in large, the players seem to be doing (unless, of course, you’re Omri Casspi).

*****

If what I’m suggesting is true and Coach Oscar is, in fact, the steady, fatherly hand guiding a very young team (3rd youngest in the NBA in 2012-13) toward steady growth and eventual maturity (even if much of that growth is only noticed between seasons, not within them), then some of the credit has to be given to Chris Grant. What did Chris Grant do? He gave Coach Oscar a roster too lousy for him to have any other choice but to play the young guys. Are you really going to bench Kryie Irving for some porous defense? And replace him with who? Shaun Livingston?? (note: we all love Shaun Livingston, just as we’re starting to love Luke Walton and Marresse Speights … because these are veterans who are better able to win some games, but are not the solution to when, if ever, the Cavs become consistent winners. They will do that if/when the young players learn the game the way that Livingston, Walton and Speights have learned it and become more talented versions of our new bench mob). That’s not a solution. Are you really benching Dion Waiters for Wayne Ellington? What happens when Ellington gets lit up?

*****

No one knows if this rebuild will be as much of a success as we dream it might be. But, for better or worse, Coach Oscar’s alter ego, talking Byron Scott, keeps reminding the players what they’ve done to get here: mainly shoot 42.3% from the floor while giving up 47.3%. And little by little they, at least, seem to be listening (I’m looking at you, Dion) if not always successful (I’m … cough, cough… looking at you, Dion).

I don’t know if Coach Oscar or talking Byron Scott will be with us at the completion of this journey, but if he’s really as terrible as some have suggested … well … you try to coach this roster.

NBA Basketball

2012/11/27

2 Things About the 4 and 5…

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1. I won’t necessarily say I’ve done a 180 when it comes to the “trade Anderson Varejao argument.” I never fully thought it would net the Cavs a player that came close to doing what Andy does – and is doing even more of this season – for this particular team. I did think (and, partly, still do) that the team would feel the need to move him, likely at or around the 2013 Draft. I think he still might be traded at some point while still under this contract to this team because he’ll be coming off this contract right around the same time that the team will be figuring out how they want to divide their duckets among its new core crop. Andy will be 32 and staring at what will likely be his last contract. I don’t see any reason for his production to drop off while under his current contract, so you’re looking at a guy (CBA willing) that could command a 3 or 4-year contract at a hefty clip. This could be like a less crazy, more offensively useful Dennis Rodman hitting the market at right around his prime. That is what Andy is playing like now—and that player is useful no matter what team he plays for and, you’d think, especially if he plays for a team of up-and-coming wing players who might appreciate a good number of their outside misses being snagged. But using him to bring in some additional picks (those LeBron picks won’t last forever … the trick to this thing is to always have some accrued first rounders to look forward to) should the CBA make re-signing Andy less sensible for the Cavs (though, let’s face it, if the Kyrie Era’s getting it done, Gilbert will likely pay), they might see flipping their biggest asset as sensible, if they don’t see being contenders in the next 5 years. The biggest problem is equal value, since the league-wide perception of him is still that he’s a perfect off-the-bench “energy” guy, not one of the best centers in the East playing efficient offense, active defense and just sucking in rebounds.

Meanwhile, watching Andy play this year has been nothing short of amazing. If the young guys continue to progress (i.e. learn to play defense), Andy absolutely has more value here than anywhere else, because of how perimeter and pick-and-roll oriented they are/will be and how fun a Irving/Varejao/Waiters combo could potentially become (and, let’s face it, sometimes is already).

2. Now, Tristan Thompson…? Everyone I’ve either talked to or read can see all the problems with Thompson’s game this season. It’s that obvious: to slow making decisions, still too often blocked, not blocking shots, often out of position, still bad at free throws, still no shot at all. All that said, he’s averaging about 9 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes a night with a PER just a click or two below the league average. His FG% (always one of my worries with him) is up to 47% (needs to get well over 50%) and, even given his struggles, he looks like he could get into the 12/10 range that was reported as the goal he was set by coaches this year. I think the biggest thing with Thompson is that he probably shouldn’t be playing as many minutes as he is right now. The Cavs are tossing him out into the fire and he is getting more than his share of burns. But it’s waaaaay premature to label him “bust” or try to trade him (or even, really, to bring up the Valanciunas non-pick). He’s not an instant player – and non-superstar big men in particular need time. The test with him will be steady progress on his weaknesses – and we’re more likely to see that stuff in March of 2014 or 2015 than in 2013 … unfortunately. But there’s some Kurt Thomas potential to him that I think has value to this team going forward.

NBA Basketball,Uncategorized

2012/11/03

2 of the roughly 358 Things I Think…

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About the Cavs first 2 games.

The start of the NBA season began for me (and, let’s be fair, for millions of others) a few days later than it should have. With Hurricane Sandy plunging me into a dark, cold, connection-free existence of reading books by candlelight like some petty 18th century criminal (or, let’s be fair, some 18th century king) the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers campaign kicked off about an hour before their second game, at home against the Chicago Bulls. And, through the magic of a still maddeningly inconsistent NBA Broadband experience, I did some watching and rewatching and here, viewership, I am with you again, as it should be.

I will keep these brief because a.) two games tell you very little about the big picture stuff of a season and b.) everyone’s already written stuff about these games … so, you know, there’s that. So, welcome to the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers season here at RAISING THE CADAVALIER (which will be our third season covering this blessed little filthy child of a basketball team that I love so dearly) and here are a couple things that may not (or, let’s be fair, may) have been said yet.

1.) Anderson Varejao’s single greatest basketball skill is his ability to execute a reverse lay-up off a pick and roll. Yes, Andy has many great basketball skills and, often, I’ve found myself wondering what this team will look like once they trade him (because I’m resigned to that happening by the 2013 draft). His activity and rebounding and defense and … activity are such great teaching points for everyone on this team but especially a couple of offensively limited, but athletically gifted, big men (okay, mainly one of those big men, Tristan Thompson, but we’re willing to make the reach and say Samardo Samuels might be, in a very basic way, if not in a basketball way, considered athletically gifted). But watching Andy work the pick and roll with Irving and Waiters, even against the Bulls, Andy’s reverse lay-up seems like his most indefensibly weapon. That might, in fact, be the team’s most indefensible play. If this team can consistently get Andy buckets like this – and can figure out a way for Thompson to excel in this area, as well – they’ll be able to get easier baskets than they have been able to the last couple of years.

2.) These are the things I like most about Dion Waiters: a.) I do believe he can get past a great variety of NBA players and I like his instincts – especially passing – once he’s past the initial defender b.) he seems like he’ll be an above average on-ball defender and, maybe, he’ll break the curse of Syracuse players not being able to adjust to the man-to-man pro game c.) it actually looks like someone shoots him in midair every time he takes a shot – like there is a sniper in the rafters whose only job is to shoot Dion Waiters when he takes jump shots – that’s how awkward his shot looks. Luckily, though, some have gone down. I might just start calling him Bulletproof, though and d.) I mentioned this during Summer League – I think Waiters has amazing body control for a slasher. In Summer League, he was trying to finish a drive when a defender slid in front of him and Waiters seemed to pull back to avoid making enough contact to commit an offensive foul. He also converted the shot. In the Wizards game, it was Bulletproof driving through the defense, jumping, finding that he’d jumped just a bit early for a slam and half-rolling/half-willing the ball through the hoop. I’ll admit, I look for reasons to like this guy. But, so far, he’s giving me enough. Very excited to see what/if anything he can do against a less-than-interested defender in Monta Ellis.

Misc,NBA Basketball

2012/10/22

Cavs 2012-13 Roster Outlook Pt.2: The Assets Phase

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Much of the talk about the “Oklahoma City Model” of team building centers, understandably, on Sam Presti’s drafting of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden – all top level NBA talents — in three consecutive drafts.

The amount of attention that their three draft day home runs makes sense, because (as any NBA fan — perhaps, especially a Cavs fan — knows) you need 2-3 high level NBA players to compete at a high level in today’s NBA. But a GM getting his franchise’s cornerstone, buttress and gorgeous bay window all through the draft – meaning that he doesn’t have to part with any additional resources (i.e. money or other good players) – frees that GM up to maximize Phase 2, The Asset Phase.

See, OKC had another lottery pick in that incredible draft run from 2007-2009 (that also got them Serge Ibaka, though later in the 2008 draft at #24). Jeff Green was taken with the 5th pick in the same draft where Kevin Durant went #2. Originally the Celtic’s pick, #5 went to OKC in the draft day trade that sent Ray Allen to Boston. Green has developed into a nice player, but he’s never really lived up to the promise of a top-5 selection. So, why aren’t we saying, “Gee, Sam Presti nailed those Durant, Westbrook and Harden picks. But, clearly, he’s fallible. Look at Jeff Green”? It’s because Presti’s draft success in 2008 and 2009 allowed Green to not have to be a big-time player to justify his selection. He was no longer part of OKC’s 2-3 star future. Jeff Green was now an asset and he let Presti go out and get Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics when his team was one very wide body from taking the leap from up-and-comer to contender.

All this is to say that, while local and national writers spend quite a bit of time connecting Chris Grant’s rebuild of the Cavaliers with what Presti did with the Thunder – and Cavs fans spend a lot of time wringing their hands about if the trio of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters will develop into as strong a foundation for this team as Durant-Westbrook-Harden – what Grant is doing with The Asset Phase of the rebuild is almost more interesting.

Assets, to think of them very generally, are not things that increase a GM’s chances of success as much as they are things that decrease the terrifying prospect that every decision they make has to be the right one. Assets are wriggle room – and with enough of them (be they draft picks, promising young players on rookie contracts, diamonds in the rough and, while less so now, big-money expiring deals) a GM should have a much longer length of rope, even if the results are that he still hangs himself with it.

So, in Presti’s case, downgrading Green from “Top-5 pick(!)” to “key asset” was fine because he’d found the stars he needed elsewhere – and it allowed him to cover over another of his rare draft whiffs (or, to be more fair, while the jury may still be out on the long-term success of center, Cole Aldrich, he was not good enough fast enough for a Thunder team ready to take the leap and needing a quality center) by turning Green into Perkins. The lesson, clearly, is this: in the NBA, if you manage your assets well and hit well enough on enough of them, you receive what few GMs really have—the necessary ability to fail.

If you’ve paid even modest attention to Chris Grant’s tenure with the Cavaliers, you’ve heard the same words over and over: “assets” and “flexibility.” And when we look at the team he’s assembled – talented young players like Irving, Thompson, Waiters and Zeller – we spend, perhaps, too much time inventing scenarios in which they all achieve the ceilings of their draft day promise or they just fail miserably. What has to be kept in mind is the middle ground – the Asset Phase – where a talented young player, even if he does not become Serge Ibaka or Russell Westbrook still has value and can help this team going forward (of course, they help them much better if they all just become All-Stars, but y’know…).

That’s also why Grant is being smart about bringing in undrafted players, like Kevin Jones or Michael Eric (or, in the past, like Samardo Samuels, Alonzo Gee, Donald Sloan or Manny Harris). While the odds are against these players reaching the promise or performance levels of a player picked high in the draft, the risk is very low and the reward, should the organization be able to develop this player into someone who can help the Cavs or (sometimes more importantly) interest another team, is very high. The true payoff of this is down the line when you can see if, say, Samuels is included in a draft day deal that helps net us a higher pick – or Eric develops into a rotation big, soothing the sting when Grant trades Varejao – or if Gee is included in that Varejao trade, getting us something more (another player to develp, more picks, etc) back. And, maybe, none of those things happen. Likely, none of those things will happen. But Grant is lengthening his rope – bringing in high-level talent, as well as developmental projects that should (should) allow the team, once it’s ready, to be competitive in the long term because they’ve done enough that’s smart to allow or make up for the riskier moves.

Or maybe I just want Waiters to be as good as Russell Westbrook. Yes. That would do, as well…

Uncategorized

2012/09/01

Cavs 2012-13 Roster Outlook Pt. 1: This makes sense HOW?!

Trying to figure out how the Cavs 2012-13 roster will eventually shake out leads one to dark, unfamiliar places. How else would you describe the walk you have to take when asking the inevitable Will they go with Donald Sloan or Jeremy Pargo as Kyrie’s back-up question? Or maybe they’ll keep both. Is Daniel Gibson still on the roster? How does Michael Eric make this team even as a project? Jon Leuer?!?

You stare at this roster enough, the backwards-talking midget appears and, the next thing you know, you’re losing days, then weeks, then months only to wake up in ill-fitting clothes wondering why you smell of Harangody.

It may be that kind of season, viewership. Still, let’s give sense-making a try.

The following players are on the books for real real. Like guaranteed money real (via HoopsHype’s salary page): Anderson Varejao, Luke Walton, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Omri Casspi, CJ Miles, Tyler Zeller, Luke Harangody, Jeremy Pargo, Leuer and Eric.

That’s 12 players waiting on guaranteed money. One slight wrinkle in this is that, as of last year, NBA rosters can carry 13 active players instead of the 12 they could previously. The team may also have 2 inactive players on the roster, one of whom can be sent to our D-League affiliate, your Canton Charge, at a time (note: I am reciting this rule completely from memory, so I might not have it spot-on. Still, the information was not falling all over itself to let me find it and this seems correct – so, enjoy swapping “reporting that you can trust” for “writing that means well”). So, we’ve got 3 more players to come from the pool of: Daniel Gibson (team option at $4.8 million), Alonzo Gee (qualifying offer for $2.7 million – rumored to be signing a 3-year/$10 million dollar deal), Kelenna Azubuike (team option for just under $1 million) and Kate Moss … er, I mean, the now so-waifish-he’s-practically-see-through Samardo Samuels (team option for $854,389).

Now, no one’s been saying “Boobie’s outta here,” which makes some sense. Not only is he the longest tenured Cavalier after Varejao, Boobie actually does something on his better days that no one else on this roster (or maybe just no one on this roster not named Kyrie Irving) can do with a degree of purity: shoot. That being said, Chris Grant sure hasn’t ignored the 2-guard spot this off-season by drafting Waiters and signing the swing-man, Miles. And as much as no one is talking about Gibson being gone, there’s not an awful lot of talk of him as an actual existing entity either. Still, safe money’s on The Boob being on the final roster.

Same for Gee. Eventually, he and his agent will have to accept the fact that Landry Fields money only (and inexplicably) happens to Landry Fields. Yes, Alonzo, you’ve worked really hard to carve out a place for yourself on an NBA roster. Unfortunately, that place only pays between $2-3.5 million. But, on the flip side, you have the chance, even if everything else goes wrong from here on out, in excess of $10 million before you’re 30. Not a bad pay-off for all that hard work, huh?

Which leaves us with Azubuike who, if you listen to the endless stream of positivity that has become Off-Season Byron Scott, is fully-healthy and has a chance to return to the form that made Cavs fans regret giving up on him years ago.

Then, Donald Sloan, by all accounts, will also be invited to training camp.

Of all those players, the least likely to be with the team when it opens the season are Azubuike and some combination of Sloan and/or Pargo.

All of this uncertainty is actually pretty smart on the part of Chris Grant. They don’t need to pick up Boobie’s team option until he gets into camp. If something were to happen to one of the unsigned players before the start of the season – accidents and legal run-ins do happen in professional sports – the team wouldn’t be on the hook for that player and would have other options already in-house at the position.

If, say, Samardo has gain back 50 of the 11,000 pounds he lost this summer, you can cut the cord and only have the picture of him in the team’s swimsuit calendar to remember him by.

And, finally, if, say, Azubuike looks great – but maybe he doesn’t look like he’s in the team’s long-term plans – well, let’s just say that Chris Grant has never said no to a second-round draft pick for a fringe roster player – and Azubuike is/was good enough to get that (and me with all this practice spelling Azubuike…).

So, barring any moves outside of re-signing Gee and picking up the options on Boobie and Samardo (if he performs), we’re looking at a roster like this:

Tier 1 (The Rotation – the players who the team counts on to play every game): Irving, Waiters, Gee, Thompson, Varejao, Boobie, Miles, Zeller, and Slo-go (my Sloan/Pargo hybrid).

Tier 2 (The Fringe – the players who could see some occasional action): Casspi, Samuels, and Walton.

Tier 3 (The Charge – these players will bounce between the 13th active player, the inactive list and your Canton Charge): Michael Eric’s biceps, Leuer, and Harangody.

Welcome, viewership, to you far-from-complete-but-I’d-be-willing-to-bet-some-small-amount-of-money-on-it 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers!

NBA Basketball

2012/08/07

Doing Danny Ferry’s Porch…

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Scott Henkle and I attended the NBA Draft (and wrote about it here). Henkle, then, trumped me one better by goin’ out west and watching himself some NBA Las Vegas Summer League action – specifically, the Cavs team where he anticipated seeing Kyrie Irving and the other 2/5 of our likely opening night starting lineup. He wrote about the experience of summer league for The Classical. We played dueling laptops to talk about his Cavs-centric observations:

Robert: You saw the third and fourth games in person, right?

Scott: Fourth and fifth. And I watched one and two on TV. I never saw three.

Robert: Okay … so you never saw the one where Waiters remotely resembled a professional basketball player.

Scott: No. I don’t believe that happened. I saw Waiters dribble to the three point line a bunch of times, take three steps in, pass, and then stand there waiving for the ball at the three point line.

Robert: You’re describing a solid NBA skill!

Scott: Then I saw him smile his charming-devil smile at everyone while sitting the bench

Robert: And how about his awkward-as-hell jump shot?

Scott: I barely saw it!

Robert: Really? He shot, like, 700 times a game. He was, like, 3-700 every game.

Scott: Like Kobe. But without the good parts. And Kobe wasn’t taken as high.

Robert: So, you’re saying Waiters should end up better than Kobe.

Scott: There’s no doubt. But my summer league experience was not about him, because I missed that one game that you said he was good in [and they rested him the last two games].

Robert: Fine. But I have a sneaking suspicion that even if Waiters turns out to not be as good as we’d like, talking about Dion Waiters is going to be really fun. I’m already crossing off the next three years of my life. I won’t be able to get anything else of substance done. But… sorry, what can we take away from this summer league for the Cavs?

Scott: I think, there’s really only two real basketball things that you can see in summer league. First, you can see someone who is faster, stronger, etc. in ways that don’t depend on defense. Case in point: Damion Lillard. He could have done what he did with no one on the court and I would have said fucking hell that guy’s good!

Robert: Please tell me the other thing you can tell is motor.

Scott: The other thing is comparison– looking at players taken earlier, later or not at all. In this regard our boy [Waiters] did not come out well against the other guys we might have picked.

Robert: And you can compare fat Samardo to slim Samardo.

Scott: Who I would like to marry, by the way. He is 94% head at this point. He still has a fat man’s head.

Robert: And still a fat man’s ass, if you can believe it.

Scott: Oh yeah.

Robert: He now has legitimate “hot woman curves”

Scott: Hot woman curves, lady shoulders… What is it with you?

[Editor’s note: “lady shoulders” comes from many previous conversations we’ve had about players lacking broad shoulders – in my defense, the official term is “Chris Bosh shoulders. This, as it turns out, is one of my biggest worries about Tyler Zeller. Total Chris Bosh shoulders.]

Robert: But, to your point about comparison … I read this [link to article] which takes some quotes from David Thorpe to say the only real red flag – especially for rookies – in the summer league is lack of hustle. Or, I believe he said “motor.”

Scott: Basically people—our friend Adam is a big one–love to do [the comparing]. That’s just fun for fans. And why twitter was invented. But I feel like I watch a lot of basketball and can, at this point, judge talent okay for a regular person and still I wouldn’t base anything on what I saw there. [pause] Except for Lillard.

Robert: Right. Because none of these players will have the same role come the regular season – not even Lillard (who Terry Pluto has been crushing on since February).

Scott: Right. Role playing is not highly valued there. Which brings me to… are we going to give a contract to Michel Eric?

Robert: You saw him in person. You tell me? What’s your scouting report?

Scott: I’m going to do your woman curves thing and say, “That man’s got some fine arms.” He’s like Ben Wallace. No offense, but an NBA body, for sure. There’s a place for a guy like that.

Robert: Yeah, just looking at the pictures of him in all the “who the hell is this guy” articles … well, you said it: those are some fine arms.

Scott: But he may not be a fit for a team that’s likely to average16 more points than Kyrie scores per game. Is that a stat? “Points over Kyrie”?

Robert: Yes, but it’s one of the advanced stats that I don’t understand.

Scott: Of the guys not [guaranteed to be] on our team he was the only one I liked. Turns out being tall is a real advantage in the NBA.

Robert: How about the guys who should be on our team next year: Tristan, Samardo and Zeller?

Scott: Zeller was the one I paid the most attention to. I like him. He’s solid. He’s in the right place. He moves smoothly and he runs well. I’m not making any super-predictions, but he’s solid.

Robert: I agree. I didn’t trust all of that “he’s great in transition” talk as … well … he’s a 7ft white guy.

Scott: He still is a 7ft white guy. But for a 7ft white guy… he’ll be trailing along nicely when Kyrie gets to the rim.

Robert: Zeller will probably struggle defensively against some bigger guys, but I can see him working into a Kurt Thomas-y guy. Save, of course, Zeller’s Chris Bosh shoulders… and lack of obvious crazy.

Scott: Who do you think he’ll struggle against?

Robert: Tyson Chandler will kill Zeller.

Scott: Yes.

Robert: Cousins will kill Zeller.

Scott: But what about, say, the Lopezs?

Robert: Brook Lopez might be Tyler Zeller’s dream match-up, right now. The additional upper body weight of Robin Lopez’s hair, though, might be tough for Zeller’s shoulders to handle.

Scott: Now you’ve crossed the line, sir.

Robert: But, I think Zeller looks like he could absolutely be a top-8 rotation player on a very good team, agree?

Scott: Oh, yeah. Wait. Do you mean a contending team? You mean the Heat?

Robert: He would absolutely be in the Heat’s rotation.

Scott: The 7ft white guy thing is pretty old fashioned.

Robert: 7 footer who can run with them in transition, rebound and hit an outside shot to open up the lane.

Scott: Sounds very 2000. Windhorst says the heat are going smaller. Mugsy Bogues is gonna be at the four for most of the year.

Robert: But he could play in that system, is all I’m saying. The Heat are going smaller because their best big might be Eddy Curry.

Scott: I agree.

Robert: You talk a lot about the experience of summer league in the Classical piece. Anything Cavs-centric that you want to tell that you had to cut from that?

Scott: Well, I got rejected by Ilgauskus. He was the first cavs-ish person I saw, and I more or less blanched and was all star-struck, and Adam pushed me to go up to him and I did and I was up there with my arm half around him (well, his thigh) and then he said ‘no no pictures’ and I walked away with my head down.  Like a child.  I thought it was me, but then I saw him reject a ten year old kid.

(pause)

Also, I think he weighs 17 pounds.

Robert: Gotta be kind to those feet of his. The docs say they can’t structurally support anything even closely resembling a healthy grown man’s weight. How was meeting Danny Ferry?

Scott: That was funnier. Adam shouted to him – and Adam has this whole thing about trying to force me to take pictures with people, which you probably already sense – but I’d just been rejected by Z earlier in the day, so there was this incredibly awkward moment with Ferry where I was like, “Is it okay? Is it okay?”  and he just wanted us to take the damn picture, and certainly did want to talk about whether it was okay. He had the smile on already and everything. And then Adam paused to look over the camera and  explain to Ferry:  “My brother-in-law did your porch.”

(pause)

Adam’s brother-in-law is a contractor in Cleveland.  But still.

(pause)

I do not know if Danny Ferry knew exactly what to think about that.

Robert: Is it still Ferry’s porch? Does he still live in Cleveland?

Scott: I would guess no? And that was the part I thought was the most confusing. Danny Ferry had no reason to think we were from Cleveland. Maybe Adam said it but, you know, Ferry was trying to make the experience as quick and painless for himself as possible.

Robert: Danny Ferry does not care where you are from.

Scott: Absolutely not.  I would guess Danny Ferry does not think about me much at all.

You can follow Scott Henkle on Twitter (@scotthenkle) or by just keeping a reasonable distance behind him. He also met Byron Scott.

NBA Basketball

2012/06/26

Anthony Davis: A Cautionary Tale

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Here we are again, viewership, mere days away from a series of decisions (both by our guys and by others) that will determine much of the course of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise for the next several years. That’s right, it’s NBA Draft 2012: where every player’s a winner … until he’s not (or until he’s named Andre Drummond).

There’s plenty of information about the draft out there – player breakdowns, list of team needs, mock draft after glorious, glorious mock draft. But, I thought you could use a break from all of that. Give your brains a sip, sit back and imagine the following:

The New Orleans Hornets, after systematically rejecting the Cavs’s offer of … well, everything for the first pick in the 2012 draft, blink for just a second (possibly, Dell Demps receives the anonymous tip that Davis’s unibrow is actually the demon, Zorn, taken human follicle form and waiting for the concentration of voodoo magic in the Big Easy to wake him from his slumber and … well, you know what happens in these “demons wake to feast on human souls” scenarios…), reconsider and take the Cavs up on their offer.

Cavalier fans choke on their collective tongue, but quickly recover and start predicting that a Kyrie Irving/Anthony Davis team will soon take us to places never before imagined (by which I mean, “imagined as recently as three years ago”). And you know what? They look pretty damn good for much of the season. Davis is a dynamic finisher at the rim, displays a surprisingly smooth jumper from 15 and teams with Anderson Varejao to form one of the best (if unorthodox) defensive frontcourts in the league. No one is getting to the rim with Andy and Anthony guarding it, which allows Kyrie and the rest of the wing players to play an exciting, gambling style of pressure defense and the Cavs, while they still struggle to score consistently when Kyrie has an off night, look to have the pieces and settle into the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.

But, come January, Anderson Varejao suffers his annual season-ending injury (this time a particularly scary fractured skull when he lands on his head after being undercut on layup by a Dwyane Wade who, robbed further of his athleticism by a knee injury he can’t solve, begins patterning his game more off teammate Dexter Pittman and is increasingly involved in a series of hard fouls and opponent injuries) and Davis is moved to center where he splits time with sophomore-slumping Tristan Thompson.

Davis continues to play admirably, but teams start to use their stronger, wider body players to push him away from the action and beat him up on the boards. Then, in a game in late-March against the Lakers, Andrew Bynum steps on the top of Davis’s foot while running back on defense. This breaks several of the small bones in Davis’s skinny foot and shelves him for the rest of the season.

The Cavs still make the playoffs as the East’s 8th seed, where they get swept by the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. Kyrie looks amazing, but the Cavs, missing both Davis and Varejao, get destroyed in the paint and, well, most everywhere else.

Davis reaches a set-back in his rehab in late-summer 2013 and, after that, is only featured in stories titled something to the effect of “Cavs’ Ilgauskus Serves As Constant Reminder To Keep Fighting.”

So, viewership, remember something come draft day: no matter who we end up with at 4 (or wherever we end up picking), we could have the misfortune of getting the best player in this draft.

Whew… dodged that bullet.