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

Posts Tagged ‘Byron Scott’

NBA Basketball


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


Byron Scott and the Myth (?) of Player Development

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There are things that we think and things that we know.

We may think that Kobe Bryant is a better player than LeBron James.  We think it because we want to think it.  Part of us wants it to be true.  It’s the same part that made the exact opposite argument when LBJ was playing for CLE and Kobe was a tad more in his prime (and, viewership, if any of you ever tells Kobe, even 20 years from now, that I ever insinuated that he is passing his prime, I swear to god I will drug you, dress you up in my clothes [they’re not bad … you like western shirts, right?] and prop your body in some believably “Robert” position [or, barring that, the Heisman pose] in front of one of my apartment’s windows – because Kobe will be coming to cut my ass [which will actually be your … well, you see what I’m saying]).

But we knew we were wrong then – because the numbers told us we were probably wrong – and we know we’re wrong now, because numbers have always loved LeBron James and no year more so than this one.

Likewise, there are things that we think about Byron Scott as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and what his effect has been on some of the team’s younger players – and there are things that we know. We may think that he’s not the world’s best tactician.  We may think it’s only a matter of time before his style causes his players to tune him out.  We may think that the Cavs are clearly playing better basketball this year and that Coach Scott has to be given some credit for the overall improvement in the team’s culture from last year to this.

Maybe we even know some of those things.

But sometimes it can be pretty tricky to tell the difference.

Now, I always liked Mike Brown.  I liked Mike Brown, mostly, because Mike Brown won more games as head coach of the Cavs than anyone had in a very long time.  He also didn’t seem like a dick, which was nice.  He won with a superstar player playing for him – though he never won so much to cover over his obvious weaknesses as a coach.  He was not overly concerned with offense.  And he was not good at developing young players.

During his tenure, only Daniel Gibson went from rookie to rotation player – and he yo-yoed in Brown’s esteem, partly, it seems, because of injury and partly because Daniel Gibson was never going to be 6’8” Sasha Pavlovic (it’s okay, Boobie … there are worse things to never be in your life).

Enter Byron Scott – and suddenly the same player who couldn’t get regular minutes for a defensive-minded coach has become the team’s best perimeter defender, and a key member of an athletic, versatile bench that – when everyone’s healthy – can help this young team compete.

Now, I’m going to take Bryon Scott’s word for a lot of this, but he talked about taking Gibson under his wing and Gibson has seemed to have a strong relationship with the former shooting guard from jump.

And this season’s “project” player for Scott, Alonzo Gee, is also demonstrating a more polished, effective game and threatening to break into the starting line-up.

Coach Scott, while admittedly dealing with a completely different set of expectations from the fans as the organization rebuilds, seems to be able to target younger players and work with them to become more consistent contributors for a competitive team.

Except, according to the numbers, none of that is true.  We just think it’s true.

Under Scott, Gibson is playing the most minutes per game (in 2010-11 and 2011-12) since his career high-water mark of 2007-08.  But his PER this season (don’t you fall asleep on me!  I know you don’t like it when I talk advanced statistics – I don’t like it either – but I promise I’ll only say PER, like, three more times…) is a career low.  And even last year, when his PER (two more times) was his best in six seasons, it was still short of the average for an NBA player.

And as for Alonzo Gee: his stats are startlingly similar to last year’s. He’s just playing a few more minutes this year.  His PER (one more) is up by about a point but, again, short of the pro average.

Clearly, the point of this is that we should all go back to booing Gibson and Gee, chiding them for being useless at the game of professional basketball and watching as backsides stick to the end of the end of the end of the bench.  Oh, yeah, and Coach Scott makes players the same players they always were – not exactly a ringing endorsement.

But, no, of course, that’s not the point.  The point … and I don’t know that I had one so much as an observation … is that Boobie and Gee are two of my favorite players to watch on this team (along with Kyrie, Varejao and Tristan … sorry to leave you out, Semih) and, while it doesn’t seem like they’re MVP candidates, it does seem like they help this team in ways that you could see them helping a better version of this team.  And both players are excelling on the defensive end – which tends to be under-represented in the statistical world.

Or, maybe, Coach Scott is just building a really nice bench for this team and that part of his reticence to move Gee into the starting line-up has been that Gee is not a starting caliber 3, even if he’s doing nice things for us off the bench – and that being better doesn’t always mean being “better.”

Just another lesson in rebuilding, viewership: when slightly below average is a better slightly below average than the slightly below average from last year, you’re watching the 2011-12 Cleveland Cavaliers.

Oh, yeah.  PER (done).



FORESIGHT IS ALWAYS 20/200 … or, it’s never too early to start thinking about how bad we might still get

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Just when you thought you were done seeing those “worst loss in franchise history” things…

Well, let’s hope that was the “aberration” Byron Scott said it was and look at the bigger picture.

At 6-8, the Cavs have wins against the Pistons, Bobcats (twice), T-Wolves and Suns – and competitive showings against the Pacers and Lakers (though not, unfortunately, in two against the Raptors).  So, they’re beating the teams they are (at least, mostly) better than and showing the resiliency to not roll over against the league’s elite (remember, Bulls game = aberration).

Kyrie Irving is playing better earlier than many people thought.  Anderson Varejao is being a particularly good version of Anderson Varejao.  Antawn Jamison is finding ways to be effective/inefficient.  This team is a professional basketball team again.  In fact, the only people more excited by the way the Cavs are playing might be D.J. Augustin and D.J. Augustin’s agent.

Of course, going forward, there are still plenty of things waiting to upset the apple cart of good feeling (and piss on all of the apples and then set the cart on fire) and get us right back to NBA bottom-feeder (instead of hovering-just-above-the-bottom-feeder).  And I’m not even talking about the schedule.  I’m talking about the trading deadline and/or the off-season and what we’d look like without Varejao, Jamison and Ramon Sessions.

1.)   Varejao: What’s that?  You’ve heard that the 2012 NBA Draft is deep with delicious, delicious talent? You’ve heard that teams have been inquiring about Andy and that a deal could net the Cavs an additional pick which would be better than nothing considering Varejao will be past his prime if/when the Cavs are ready to contend again?

But you also like that the Cavs look more active defensively this year (outside of certain aberrations) and think there are things the younger bigs (Tristan Thompson, in particular) can learn from Varejao? Well, spit out that cake.  You cannot have and eat, y’know?  Here’s the thing (and it’s been written about, I’m just agreeing): there is no sense in trading Varejao if the only thing you’re doing is getting a younger (and quite possibly worse) player.  If you’re trading Andy mid-season, he’ll be going, no doubt, to a contender – so your precious added draft pick will likely be in the mid to late 20s.  And, while this isn’t written in stone, I’m betting that Anderson Varejao is going to be better even 3 years from now (when, hopefully, he’s able to come off the bench again at power forward and slow down his career odometer a little) than the players available with that pick.  Again, not stone writing here – but I’d be willing to lay valid currency on it.  And I’m not sure that half of a shortened season is enough time for him to impart on Thompson the types of “how to succeed as an NBA hustler” lessons.  Give him, at least, a full season.

Might there be a trade proposed in the off-season that makes sense?  Sure. Off-season deals are the ones when you’re more likely to see a decent or up-coming player get moved for the piece that is Anderson Varejao – or a team making the move thinking it will contend but then actually sucking – the deals that, with some luck, end up looking a little better than you first thought.  But Anderson Varejao for late first round pick (even a 2012 first round pick) ain’t getting us any better and sooner than Anderson Varejao.  And, you know, we’ve already got him.

2.)   Jamison:  Well, things couldn’t all be hopeful-outlooky…  Antawn Jamison is (understandably) the focus of the vast majority of fan frustration this year. We’re not frustrated with Irving or Thompson.  They’re rookies.  We’re not frustrated with Varejao.  He’s busting his ass out there and being productive.  Maybe we’re frustrated with Casspi, but he’s still too new (and we were already so used to being frustrated with the guy we traded for him).

Jamison is a former All-Star who – for better or worse – is going to wind up taking most of the shots not falling into the box score under “Irving, Kyrie.”  And, you know what?  He should be.  He’s the only person on this team with a proven track record as a scorer on the pro level.  And, you know what else?  He hasn’t been terrible this year.  He’s averaging 16.1PPG and 5.8REB and, yes, while you don’t want your starting power forward shooting 41% from the floor, Jamison’s always going to shoot way too many 3s and long 2s, bringing his field goal percentage well south of what you’d like from his position.  He’s put up some stinkers (and has been destroyed by big, physical frontcourts since he got here) but, as has been pointed out, when the Cavs are successful, they’re usually getting good games from Irving and Jamisonand that’s the problem.

As a Cavs fan looking forward, I (and I believe everyone else, Jamison included) would love to see him traded to a playoff team for a first rounder.  Using exactly the same logic as with Varejao, Antawn Jamison is (most, most likely) going to be less serviceable three years from now (to the Cavs, anyway) than Player X drafted in the 20-30 range.  But, there are also 25 games this year after the trade deadline.  So, no one should complain about the number of wins we’re getting early.  If Jamison gets moved at the deadline (which, again, is the right move … or a right move) this team will likely go from “not good” to “baaaaaad” real quick as teams play “5-on-Kyrie” until the end of April.  Now, what team needs Jamison?  Does any team need Jamison?  That remains to be seen.

3.)   Sessions:  Ramon’s lost a little of the luster he had early in the season when he was hitting(ish) his 3s, seeming to care just a smidge about his defense, and teaming with Irving to form one heck of one point guard.  He’s still shooting a career high from 3 (31%), but you’d love a little more distance between that number and his overall field goal percentage (32.5%).  I don’t think I’m going out on too long of a limb in saying this: Ramon Sessions is a top-10 back-up point guard.

And that’s great.  The Cavs need top-10 players everywhere, so if their back-up point is one of the better back-up points in the league (and it’s fair to say that Sessions is), then we don’t have to worry about that and we can get back to the business of replacing our bottom-10 starting 2, 3, 4 … well, I don’t have to tell you.  Sessions is still a pretty young player (25), so there’s still the chance he can improve and still be playing at his peak back-up years when the Cavs next start considering the playoffs.  And he’s an upgrade over who many teams have coming off the bench, so there’s going to be rumors about Sessions out there.  I could go either way with this one.  Again, having Sessions keeps us strong at a very important position.  But, you can find guys who can replace enough of what he brings so that (for a team that’s not very good, remember), you won’t be losing a ton of games on account of this one move.  And if you trade him and wind up getting a player you think could start in this league … well, that’s a whole lot of hypothesizing that’s probably not useful at this point.

NBA Basketball



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Cavs 94  Pistons 103

Byron Scott went off on the Cavaliers last night – both during halftime and for 30-minutes after the game (loss number 26 in a row) was given to the Pistons like a heart-shaped box, tied with a pretty ribbon and filled with 30 pounds of manure and flies.

Afterward, Scott said, “I thought we took a gigantic step backwards and it was all because of lack of effort. We had no sense of urgency whatsoever, and that kind of amazes me. When we’ve lost as many in a row as we lost and when you’ve been as close as we’ve been in the last four or five games and to be at home and come out the way we came out — that amazes me.”

Well, Bryon, the NBA is where amazing happens.  But was his anger – and he’s gotta be angry … if this job isn’t enough to drive him to build a Thunderdome-style gladiator cage in his basement to pit kidnapped vagrants dressed up in Cavs jerseys with names like “Hickson,” “Hollins” and “Jamison” on them in nightly bare knuckle fights to the death, I don’t know what would be … but was his anger – on this night – aimed at this team – was his anger directed at the right people?

Couldn’t Bryon just as easily have spent 30-minutes yelling at … say … me – or any other fan who found themselves just staring at an empty wall following the game you really thought had a good chance to be the game they won (at which point, it would be fine to go on and lose another 10 in a row … like I said before, setting the consecutive loss record isn’t really a big deal in the whole scheme of things, but setting the bar at a considerably higher level and, say, trumping the 26 game record of all pro sports by another 12 games or so, isn’t the most appealing prospect to deal with psychologically as we go forward)?  Shouldn’t we be chided for not learning about this team by now?

For those of us who need a refresher:  These are the 2010-11 Cavaliers.  The only game they’ve won that’s had any weight or resonance with the fans was the opener in Boston. And I feel like this game had weight – more weight than even the handful of consecutive record setters before it because we’d been playing better, we were at home and we were playing a very flawed team with a losing record.  And, like Dec. 2 and other dates like it this year, Feb. 10, number 26 in a row, left me feeling like my optimism was unwarranted and that, maybe, I need to spend some time in the gym working on my cynicism game to really properly contribute to this team.

Coach Scott?

“I think all you fans who were feeling anything good about this team took a gigantic step backwards and it was all because of your lack of effort on the pessimism end of the floor.  We had no sense of reality whatsoever and that kind of amazes me.  When we’ve lost as many in a row as we lost and even when you’ve been as close as we’ve been in the last four or five games and to be at home and come out the way we came out, thinking maybe our professional basketball team might win or, at least, play well or, at least, play hard – that amazes me.”

Sorry, Coach.  You’re right, Coach.  I’ll work harder.

NBA Basketball


Maybe J.J. Hickson isn’t terrible…

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… maybe J.J. Hickson is just better off playing cener.

When Varejao went down, Head Coach Byron Scott didn’t immediately restore Hickson to his role as starter.  Hickson got his Starter Reclamation Project underway against the Suns on January 9th.  You might remember that game – assuming they haven’t, by this point, all run together for you – as a not-horrible loss in which Manny Harris exploded for 27PTs and J.J. shouted “I’m back!” into our now-deaf-to-J.J. ears to the tune of 23PTs and 17REBs. Ahem.  17REB.  J.J. Hickson.  Yes, it feels weird even typing it.

J.J. has started at center 13 times since then (he started at power forward as Byron Scott tried to get more length in the lineup for the Lakers game and, well, since that’s one we’re better off not bringing up in evaluating any player on this team, we’ll just say we’re looking at games where J.J. has started at center).  In those games, he has averaged 15PTs and 12.8REBs a game.

I’ll let you swirl that around in your mouth for a bit.  15PTs and 12.8REBs.  Those 12.8REBs, if they were his season average, would be good for 5th best in the league. And those are numbers I’m comfortable (nea, excited) to have my young, developing big man getting.  So, has J.J. finally gotten it?  Has Byron Scott pulled a Ben Linus and found the subterranean cave housing Hickson’s “on” switch lowered his back and, even more impressive than Linus’ moving of the island on Lost, dragged J.J. kicking and screaming into productive basketballness?

The short answer is: … um … well, kinda.  Yes.

I made the half-joke when J.J. was moved to center: Maybe he’ll be able to rebound better because he’ll be closer to the basket.

And his wit will prove prescient…

It’s simple, but having J.J. defending the opposing team’s center is putting him closer to the basket on defensive possessions.  Hickson was a dominant rebounder in college, in part because he’s good at jumping higher than everyone else.  Now he’s getting to show that, given the right starting position, he can win rebounds, even when giving up inches to his man, by being an uncommonly good athlete.

Playing J.J. at the 4 pushed him further away from the basket.  And you can see it now when he floats out past the paint on offense.  If it’s a match between two guys jumping for a ball under the basket, take J.J. early and often.  If he’s outside of the paint for most of the possession, he’ll struggle.

In order to corral rebounds in those situations, he would have had to be an actually good rebounder – which he is not (let’s add a “yet” on there, just for sheer optimism’s sake).  But this team needs J.J. to rebound now more than it needs him to be a good rebounder now.  They need him to physically grab a ball that’s up for grabs.  And, right now, J.J.’s doing that at a really nice clip and with surprising consistency.

More about rebounding:

-My first thought when looking at Hickson’s improved numbers was: “Surely, Antawn Jamison’s rebounding numbers must have tailed off.”  Not true.  Jamison is at 6.6REBs a game on the season, which is about 1.5 under his career average (though, remember, he was coming off the bench at the start of the season and, presumably, playing slightly fewer minutes).  But in the same span of games that has J.J. rebounding 12.8 (I just love typing that), ‘Twan is at 8.2REBs a game, just about where he’s been for his career.

-Don’t be fooled.  The Cavs are still being regularly outrebounded by their opponents.  On the season, they’re averaging 39.8REBs a game to 43.9 for the opposition.  Part of the reason is, even with Hickson and Jamison rebounding the ball pretty well, it basically stops with them.  Ryan Hollins is making me regret every good thing I said about him at the beginning of the season (though, in my defense, most of my praise was about him hitting free throws … after a year of Shaq, you can see how easily I’d be wooed) and they don’t get a ton of rebounding from their guards or their small forwards (Joey Graham has actually had a couple of nice rebounding games since coming back from injury, but I’ll need more before giving “Teddy” Graham the nod there).  But put a healthy Varejao back in the mix and – while it would inevitably mean a drop-off in Hickson’s and Jamison’s numbers – you have to think it would make up the 4  rebounds we’re currently letting the other team get.

-Some of Hickson’s less flattering features: He’s only shooting 44% as our starting center.  “Why?” you may ask.  Does “mid-range jumper” sound familiar to anyone?  It’s not happening this year, J.J.  Repeat after me: Fifteen feet and in.  That’s where you get to operate.  Preferably ten feet and in.

Oh, and he is still an abominably bad defender.  It’s actually kind of fun to watch the variety of ways he consistently gets beaten.  My favorite:  when J.J.’s man posts him up, he loves to try to jump in front to bat at the entry pass.  Nice idea, but it almost always ends in either a foul on J.J. or an easy baseline spin to the basket for the offensive player.  I know, I know … baby steps.

NBA Basketball



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Cavs 77 Thunder 106

Cavs 95 Rockets 110

It must be very frustrating to be a member of this Cavs team. Outside of the fact that as recently as six months ago, most of these players thought they’d be competing for a championship this year, some of these players – as recently as a few weeks ago – thought that they were different players than they are, in fact, proving themselves to be.

J.J. Hickson is getting the chippiest.  Reacting to Byron Scott’s comments that when there were no starters on the floor against the Thunder we were getting “slaughtered,” Hickson replied “Oh, so he’s blaming it on the bench?”

J.J., we understand your confusion.  Why your coach would point to the unit that you should be leading – and, in turn, the only thing you lead in is the wrong end of the +/- with a jaw-dropping -30 – makes little sense to me either.  It’s not your fault, J.J.  It’s not your fault.

(Is Hickson gone yet?  He is?  Good.)

God, this is some bad basketball. I’ve played very bad basketball before (and that was bad basketball on a fundamental “I’m not good at dribbling, shooting or passing the ball … and, you know what, I’m not so hot at this running fast thing either” level) and playing bad basketball is frustrating.  Still, there seems to be a level of deniability on this team that is pretty staggering.  As a fan – hell just as a person – you’d rather see J.J. react to his string of horrible outings with something more like Antawn Jamison’s comments of, essentially, “I don’t know what’s happening, but we’re not getting it done.  We just have to keep working to find answers to these questions.” Yes, comments like that make it sound like the Cavs training staff is pumping Jamison full of sedatives following games (which, come to think of it, would explain some things…), but it, at least, gives the show that the results on the floor are the responsibility of the people on the floor (and the people slightly off to the side of the floor – and the guys sitting on the bench that runs parallel to the floor … but not all of them, to be sure).

Jamison is a highly respected veteran.  It makes sense that he would give this sort of response.  Hickson is 22 years old and hasn’t experienced as much adversity and disappointment over the course of his career as has, say, Jamison or Mo or even Jamario.

Hickson thought he was going to be a big deal this year. Reports around the summer league had him carrying himself with more of a cockiness (or confidence) and he was one of the players who came out and said that he didn’t mind that LeBron had left.  He saw this – as did Mo … or, at least, Mo said so – as his chance to be a star.  Everyone around him was telling him he could do it.  And we all wanted it very, very badly.

But, you know what, J.J.? (Yes, you can let him back in the room.)

You’re not playing good basketball.  Really, you’ve had maybe 5 solid games this whole year (I’ll check on this for real in the near future).  The rest of your games have been riddled with holes.  You can admit that these holes exist and at least pay us the lip service of saying that you’re working on them (here’s a hint: Cleveland fans are suckers for lip service.  This would buy you a good 2 or 3 more years.) or you can get pissed off when your head coach with his three championship rings as a player and his not wanting you to shoot a ton of jump shots and his wanting you to play defense.

I’m not saying you have to believe what Jamison says about what’s happening on the floor.  You don’t.  But you have to say it. This is Cleveland.  This is losing.  Nobody said it’d be easy.

NBA Basketball



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Cavs 83  Bulls 88

See?  You start talking about a team in terms of Ricky Davis and Dajuan Wagner and you start to get results. Maybe the Cavs put life-size Fathead stickers of the 2002-03 Cavs put up in the hall right outside the locker room.  Maybe Bryon Scott caught himself during a meeting, saying “Okay, now on this play, Darius … uh, I mean, J.J, you’ll set the screen.”  Maybe we secretly added Milt Palacio to the coaching staff just to say things like, “Yeah, you guys really sucked tonight.  But I remember this one game where Ricky [insert impossible-to-believe-but-completely-true Ricky Davis story that clarifies why he never succeeded as a player but makes him an entirely more entertaining personality in hindsight].”

Or maybe we just tried really, really, really hard this time.

Tried really, really, really hard and lost, but you can imagine them winning (some) games playing like they did last night and that’s saying something after the week of crap-a-riffic games the Cavs had strung together.

Byron Scott finally made some changes to shake up the roster and the rotations.  Out of the starting lineup were J.J. Hickson and Joey (Teddy) Graham.  In were Daniel (Boobie) Gibson and Antawn Jamison.  Anthony Parker got moved to small forward and we had ourselves a competitive unit.  De-activated was Jamario Moon in favor of Manny Harris and we had ourselves and intriguing rookie who might be able to play some defense and score (that is, when he’s not following the example of every other guard on this roster and blindly driving to the basket from the top of the key never giving the defense even the slightest thought that he might kick it out to an open man allowing them to collapse on him and block his shot cleanly).

Personally, I love Anthony Parker at the 3. At 6’6” and 219 I’m not terribly worried about his height for the position.  The only thing I’m worried about is him getting destroyed by bigger, stronger and better small forwards which is exactly what I was worried about with him at the 2.  So, nothing new to worry about with AP at the 3 and we get Boobie in at the 2 who should be able to better hold his own against opposing 2 guards (meaning scoring while also attempting to keep them from scoring).

And Antawn at the 4 … well, this has been coming for a while.  Until J.J. shows that he understands how to be effective (which is not shooting fade-away jump shots from the elbow or dribbling out the clock trying to make a low-post move where he ends up getting called for traveling anyway) we’re more competitive going with Antawn.  This group of guys has always been our best 5 guys, it just took Byron Scott a while to run them from the start.

Our problem now is our bench … which, you’ll remember, was the only good statistic in the NBA where we ranked first.  The bench was chipping in over 40 points a game on the season.  Last night, they got 8.  This makes sense since the players doing the bulk of that scoring were Jamison and Gibson (along with Ramon Sessions, who got a mysterious DNP-CD last night).  J.J. and Sessions are going to be the keys to this bench going forward.  How about Ramon drives blindly toward the basket – only, instead of allowing the defense to collapse on him and block his shot, he dishes off to a cutting J.J. Hickson for the slam and/or the foul?  Works in my mind… but, then, in my mind, I can see how Communism could work too.

Defensively, for whatever reason, the Cavs woke up for this one.  The Bulls did shoot 45%, which is higher than you’d like, but only Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah really hurt us significantly.  And the Bulls didn’t get a ton of production from their small forward spot, which bodes well that they didn’t pick apart AP playing a new position.  What did pick us apart is that 38% that we were shooting.

But the Bulls are good at defense and not so good at offense.  We fought to be in a position to win the game, but (and I have a sense this will be my motto for the Cavs this year) you don’t trade plays with a team that has playmakers.  The Bulls have Rose.  We do not have a comparable player.  Bulls win, but after what we’d seen from the Cavs recently (I feel motto #2 coming on) I’ll take a loss like that any day of the week.

NBA Basketball



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I took the last few days off to cram my pie hole with … well, among other things, pie.  Here’s a catch-up of the three games I missed talking about.

Cavs 100 Magic 111

Okay, I’ll admit it.  Before this game, I said to myself “I’ll be happy if we lose by ten.”  I’m not infuriated that the final deficit was 11 but, man, you really get the feeling that Orlando didn’t have to play very hard in this one.

Last week’s murmurs were all about our starters vs. our bench.  This week, everyone’s on board the “Can you believe how poorly we defend other professional basketball players?” wagon.  That wagon always had its riders, but it’s standing room only now and it doesn’t look like anyone thinks they’ll be jumping off it anytime soon.  That will happen when you allow a team – even a contending team like Orlando – to shoot 56% from the field and 45% from three.  They always seem a step slow in their rotations and they always seem to play about three feet off even the best jump shooters.  No one will be surprised if, stuck on the wrong end of a 22-0 run by the Celtics next week, Anderson Varajeo lifts up his jersey to reveal several sticks of dynamite strapped to the protective flack jacket he’s wearing and screams something in Portuguese that can be roughly translated into “Now I can finally be free…”

Note to Byron Scott: I believe you are a good coach.  I think you were the right hire for this team, even if you took the job thinking you had a fighter’s chance of stepping right onto a contender.  There are flaws with this team that I believe you can improve on.  But I do not think you can get this collection of players to play effective defense consistently enough to compete against the upper echelon teams in the league.

Another note on Scott: Here are his comments on the officiating after this game-

“[I]t’s hard when you’re playing against eight people. That makes it a lot tougher. I’m just saying. There’s five white jerseys and three with stripes. It’s hard to play against all of them out there.”

It’s also hard to expect to get calls when you are coaching a team without a star, but I respect Scott for trying to get these issues out there.  Especially leading up to the game against the Heat, you really want the refs to be mindful of doling out the fouls fairly.  We’ll see if it works.

Cavs 83 Bucks 81

Mo Williams hit the game winner as time expired and promptly jumped on the scorer’s table in jubilation.  Yes, Mo, your team just outscored the most offensively inept team in the league right now by two points at home.  Good job.  I’d be jumping on things too.

That brings our “a win is a win” total to 5 on the season (Bucks, Wiz, the Nets and the Sixers twice) but, yes, it feels good to not feel too bad, even if it’s only for one game.

Here’s what I liked: Mo Williams starting to make buckets. We knew it was going to happen eventually, but eventually-meaning-now is much better than eventually-meaning-January for this team.  Mo finished going 11-22 for 25 points including 2-6 from three and the aforementioned game winner.  The 5:3 assist-to-turnover ratio wasn’t great and we really need our leading scorer to take more than 1 free throw (especially when he’s as good at that particular type of throw as Mo is).  Some of that is the type of game Mo plays and some of it is the type of stuff (I’d guess) that brought on Byron Scott’s ref comment after the Magic game.  Regardless, Mo had to come up big on a night when our bench was uncharacteristically quiet and he did.  Mo, we like you again … for the time being.

Here’s what I didn’t like: J.J. Hickson sucking.  2PTs, 5REBs, 3TOs in just under 20 minutes.  Maybe it’s because he was playing against Drew Gooden and kept being distracted thinking that he was looking into a bizarre three-dimensional mirror that plays basketball.  This team will never (okay, rarely) do anything super-interesting without J.J. figuring out how to play professional basketball well.  As long as he’s in a funk, this team will continue to play at or below expectations.

Here’s what I don’t understand: How are the Bucks so bad on offense? You’d think having one of the better young point guards in the league in Brandon Jennings, a decent (if unspectacular) shooting guard in John Salmons a couple of good-rebounding scoring forwards in Corey Maggette and Gooden and a solid center in Andrew Bogut (who sat out this game) wouldn’t add up to a bottom of the barrel offense.  You’d think that until you take a look at the last sentence and see the words “one of the better, “decent,” “good,” “solid,” and “unspectacular” to describe their core players.  Cavs fans, the Bucks just might be a roster of bizarre three-dimensional mirrors that play basketball, only their coach hates when teams score … even when it’s his team.  But … yeah … not liking the similarities between us and them.

Cavs 89 Pacers 100

Really quick on this one.

Here’s what I liked: 9PTs and 10REBs on 4-8 shooting from J.J. Hickson in just over 23 minutes of court time.  With both the Cavs and the Pacers committed to an up-tempo style, you figured there’d be enough misses going J.J.’s way, but 10 rebounds is where you want him to be here.  Varajeo will get his.  Jamison will get his.  Joey Graham should be getting more of his (1 REB for Joey, which was easily bested by both Boobie Gibson and Ramon Sessions).  If you have Varajeo, Hickson and Jamison rebounding, you should be in decent shape.  Unless…

Here’s what I didn’t like: Hickson’s +/- that clocked in at a standing-in-place-while-your-man-scores -22. In fact, here’s our starting 1-5’s +/- against the Pacers: -27, -23, -26, -22, -21.  Our bench, by comparison, played pretty well averaging a +9 as Byron Scott went 11 deep.  I’m trying to think of a good nickname for our starters.  I’m considering “The Grave Diggers” because they dig a hole you’re never getting out of.  But I’m open to suggestions.

Here’s what I don’t understand: the Pacer’s success. I have to admit, I’m still not sold on this team being good (though, they have officially moved ahead of us in terms of “teams that could compete for the 7th or 8th playoff spot … if we are, in face, still in that discussion).  But they have a couple of effective point guards (same as us), some quality big men (we do too) and some guys who can really shoot (we do too).  We have the vets who are used to winning, but their “star” is better than our “star” (and I use quotes because neither theirs – Danny Granger – or our – Mo Williams – is that).  We should be really, really similar.  Worth watching as the season goes on.