Well, that was fun, right? BRI, flex-cap, super-max-rookie-contract-extension… Every single last wonderfully, dripping piece of legal or financial jargon that had us all in knots of anticipation about what each new day would bring. Decertification, competitive balance… Days where I got to read that wonderful word “escrow” were, by far, my favorites. Now we just have basketball to talk about – that boring, boring game of basketball – and those lock-out days of yore are just a sweet memory. Here’s to hoping that some B-issues get in the way and we can keep the lock-out dream alive!!
Well … um … yes, clearly that sucked. But we are now (by all reports) less than a month away from seeing real unionized basketball players playing for actual NBA teams (sorry, Canton Charge, you had me for about 7 hours…) and that calls for a quick look-ahead at some of the issues facing your 2011-2012 Cleveland Cavaliers.
1.) Amnesty, shamnesty… There are already reports that the Lakers are hoping that Baron Davis is a victim of the new amnesty clause that allows teams to waive a player with an undesirable contract. The team will still have to pay the remainder of said player’s contract, but the contract would no longer count toward the team’s salary cap. Said player would then, clearly, take the league minimum to get a ring with the Heat, Lakers, Thunder, Mavericks or Knicks (who will not be netting said player a ring, but you get the idea). So, after an off-season griping about competitive balance, the owners who have mismanaged their team in giving big contracts to currently unproductive (or underproductive) players can sit back and see a Heat team starting Baron Davis, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Eddy Curry with Brandon Roy and Elton Brand coming off the bench (but no longer Mike Miller who will, himself, likely be an amnesty casualty). There are ways this clause can be useful to teams (who can exercise it at any point during the new CBA, though only on players signed before July 1, 2011) but not for the Cavaliers. Yes, Baron Davis makes a crap-ton of money over the next two years. It’s definitely more money than his on-court production warrants. And, it’s been argued, no owner would want to have Beardly’s bad attitude and overall … well, fatness … negatively affecting his young team if he didn’t have to. However, as far as my eyes could see, Baron Davis was nothing but an asset when he got to this team last year. Remember how the Cavs actually started resembling a competitive basketball team at points once Beardly’s leadership and *ahem, again* talent came on board. Oh, and there was that number 1 overall pick that came with him. But the point is that if I’m Dan Gilbert I a.) just belched up a handful of gold dubloons … sorry, it’s reflux and b.) don’t see the point of paying a good player to play for someone else. Sure, the team that picks up a member of team amnesty will be taking the amount of his new contract off his previous team’s books, but it just doesn’t make sense for teams who don’t have to get below the cap to sign a big free agent. And that’s not us.
That’s why the same thing goes for Antawn Jamison. Both he and Baron are still more talented than many other points on our roster, so keep them, hope that Byron Scott keeps telling his young players to ignore Jamison when he gives them defensive tips, and use them in trades down the line to continue to improve the future of this team.
Not to tip my hand too much, but I’m a little obsessed with our getting one more first round pick in the 2012 draft. In fact, with the lock-out on, I spent most of my free time reading articles about how stacked this draft is likely to be (though not so likely if the NBA, as part of their B-list of issues, raises the minimum draft age). If the Cavs can have a top-5 pick (based on their own performance) and another one in the 10-18 range, that’s a lot of added talent over the past two drafts. Now, that pick may come through Sacramento making the playoffs *cough … cough…* or it could come by some team needing Jamison to shore up their push for the playoffs. We can’t assume that all rival GMs just became smarter because of this new CBA. In fact, whether this deal makes for more good moves or bad will be interesting to see once free agency and trades can begin again on Dec. 9.
2.) Health… Now there is the possibility that the Cavs caught a break with the delayed start to the season. There were reports that, while healthy enough to play, Kyrie Irving’s bum toe would not be fully healed until mid-December … exactly when he is now going to begin playing competitive professional basketball. I don’t think I’m nervous about the toe, but I have been making jokes like “Now that there’s a season, we can just sit back and wait ‘till Kyrie’s toe explodes” which maybe proves otherwise. Besides “The Toe” (sorry Mr. Groza), we’ve got Anderson Varejao coming back from his injury last season (where he missed enough time for me to do a double-take to make sure I spelled “Varejao” correctly) fully healthy. Likewise for Omri Casspi. While, Semih Erden just had surgery on his broken thumb, so we’ll have to wait at least 6 weeks to see if he’s worth anything at center for us. Other than that, there are no reports that Baron Davis has ballooned to 312 pounds during the summer+, but we’ll just have to wait and see on that.
3.) Not Jonas… I think I have a reasonable expectation for Kyrie Irving’s play this season. That’s not saying he’s always going to play as I imagine, just that I think he’ll shoot pretty well, show some rust, struggle against the stronger/faster guards, but have some games where it will make sense why he was the number 1 pick (of that draft, anyway) and we’ll be happy to have him. Tristan Thompson, though, is a bit more polarizing. Now, I said after the draft that Chris Grant’s got me drinking his juice a little bit, so I’m willing to see what he thinks he got in Thompson. If I’m a betting man, though, I bet the rookie’s gonna go through some rough patches this year even if, in the end, he proves to have been the right pick at 4.
I’ll also be looking to see 1.) if we have enough competent players to actually run Byron Scott’s Princeton Offense this year (not that I could necessarily recognize it) and 2.) if we can shore up our … how shall we say … impactful (negatively, but still…) perimeter defense.
Basketball is back, boys and girls (even though basketball never left, just this particular professional version of it … okay, I’ll shut up now)!