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

Posts Tagged ‘J.J. Hickson’

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2012/04/08

Tristan Thompson and the Problem of the Hickson Mirage Pt 2

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I won’t bother burying the lead here: it’s all going to be okay.

Or, if not okay, then, at least, it will not be what it was before (which, I suppose, does open the door for “worse” as well as “better,” but let’s turn that frown into slightly-less-frown and put our faith – or our slightly-less-doom – in the “better” here).  Just because Tristan Thompson is seeing minutes at his out-of-position, does not mean that he is a soon-t0-be-castoff like J. Jellybean Hickson was at this time last year (though we didn’t know it at the time).

The biggest thing Thompson has going for him is that he is a rookie. As such, he is under contract for, at least, three more years.  And, while we have all grown to have fan-crushes on the Toronto Tornado, to a fan, no one is sitting here telling you that they expect Tristan Thompson to be a star.  Some people think he will be really good, but most experts talk about him aiming for a 12Pt/10Reb/2Blk career … which, if you think of it, probably is attainable and probably would be just fine. The Hickson Promise, though, had us thinking bigger. He will forever go down as the player who – according to legend – Danny Ferry would not part with to bring a less-broken-than-now Amar’e Stoudamire to the Q to run with LeBron and Shaq (or, more accurately, to run with LeBron and wait for Shaq to catch up … eventually … in fact, in the fast break I’m running in my head they’re still waiting, waiting … waiting – ah, there’s Shaquille!) and even though the Suns dispute that they were ready to make that trade, there were games where the Hickson Promise would just rush to your head same as if you’d consumed an entire package of Peeps.

The problem was two-fold: we thought Jackie J. Hickson was better than he was and he thought he was too.  I don’t think it was J. Jerry’s fault. It was clearly our fault.  Our fault and our fault and our fault.  When we as the collective fanbase buy in to a player so, we have learned, unrealistically, that player’s going to buy into himself just as much, if not more so.  As Hickson’s role would change as Chris Grant and Byron Scott brought in players who could remember plays (although, the player that Hickson was swapped for caused a stir mid-season by admitting that he didn’t know all of the plays.  That’s irony … or miragery … or just funny) and who would not look like they were playing Marco Polo on defense and who had that switch inside them capable of being flipped into the “Understanding the Nuances of Winning Basketball” position, Jabberjaw Jabberwocky Hickson would, no doubt, pout.  By that point, he would believe he was a certain caliber of player and it would be the fans that, given time to have some buyers remorse, would think that notion exaggerated.  By then, it would no longer be our fault that Hickson (I’m giving up the J’s for the rest of the post … I do have some sense of the limits of your patience) inflated his own value.  It would be all on Hickson. Of course, it would be all on Hickson.  We would not remember our role (or management’s role) in getting to this point.  Just another deluded player that we were right about all along.

By then, though, we would also be paying Hickson about $12 million a year.

These are the types of decisions that should make us optimistic as fans of this franchise going forward.  Chris Grant seems to know that a rebuild is a rebuild is a rebuild – and that it’s not that he inherited all bad players from Danny Ferry, but that our perceptions of many of them were clouded with what they could do on a veteran-laden team led by the best player in the game.  That situation tends to make people look good.  Stripped of that situation, Hickson was a player who had ability (just look at his recent stretch as a Trailblazer), but who had to be constantly prodded by Byron Scott to reach anything near his potential.

Tristan Thompson – for lack of a more meaningful term – “gets it.” He seemingly wants to play defense.  He seemingly wants to guard the rim – and rebound – and dunk – and, yes, he seemingly wants to shoot from places and with a frequency that he shouldn’t right now – but, should he continue to develop, he has the potential to be a player who, like Anderson Varejao, is arguably overvalued, but … you know … unlike other players, properly so.

NBA Basketball

2012/03/31

Tristan Thompson and the Problem of the Hickson Mirage Pt 1

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Cavaliers fans have been here before.  Just a year ago, they had a player, an athletic 6’9″ player, a natural power forward in a season-long struggle with any shot outside of 5-feet from the basket, who they shifted over to play center because they’d lost a significant part of Anderson Varejao’s season and were (and continued to be until just recently) staring at Ryan Hollins as their most viable pivot option this side of Kate Moss.

Last year, you might remember this player was one J. Jonah Hickson. And in today’s shrinking NBA where no man may stand taller than 6’11″ and be any damn bit of good (maybe you can be 7 ft, but don’t even think about being 7’1″), he played a good stretch of center for this (if a noticeably worse version of this) team.  In the last 40 games of the 2010-11 campaign, Hickson (yes, the very same J.J. Hickson who was just released by the Sacramento Kings after averaging, essentially, 5 PTS and 5REBS) tore off an All-Starian stretch in the post, averaging 16.6PTS and 11.1REBS.  That’s not bad for an undersized center, you might think.  Byron Scott was finding ways to make J.J. Hickson maximize his positive impact on the game.

Then the season ended.  And Tristan Thompson was drafted.  And Hickson was shipped to Sac-town for a fairly immobile small forward.  And the Cavs lost a significant part of Anderson Varejao’s season.  And Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden might as well be holograms for all they’re able to effect the game (well, positively, anyway … holograms don’t normally fill me up with sweet, frothy rage the way Hollins and Semih “The Sandman” Erden have).  And Byron Scott finally turns to an athletic, natural power forward (6’8″ this time … so, y’know … at least we’ve got getting shorter going for us) to take over the starting center position.  And this player, this Toronto-ian big, this Power T who, we all hope, will be pitying some fools in the NBA for messing with him some day in the very near future, is tearing off his best stretch, though on an admittedly shorter sample size.

So is everything 2012 is 2011 again.  Or better put: how do we know that Tristan Thompson is actually any good?  How do we know he’s not a mirage (not to be confused with being a hologram)?  If J.J. Hickson can stand under a basket and look like a decent NBA rotation big-man one moment and then a hapless scrub the next who, outside of Chris Grant, do we have to tell us that it’s all going to be okay?

Coming up next: Who we have to tell us that it’s all going to be okay…

NBA Basketball

2011/06/30

What Happens When Chris Grant Cockblocks Your Pre-Lockout Post…

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Leave it to the Cavaliers front office to ruin my last pre-Lockout post.  I was all prepped to talk about the team’s lineup following last week’s draft (it featured a bit espousing an Irving, Beardly, Jamison, Thompson, Hickson lineup and talked about how the team’s frontcourt going forward, while log-jammed, was log-jammed with a versatile bunch of bigs, all of whom could play the 4 or the 5 – Jamison excluded here – and that the team was willing to do what I cleverly referred to as “wait and Gee” on its wings – the pun referring to bringing back Alonzo Gee (a move I still espouse) and then waiting on better options to become available).

Well, with just hours left to work a deal that could pass through under the current CBA, Cavaliers GM, Chris Grant, found his better optionHe traded J.J. Hickson (a.k.a. The Hickson, a.k.a. Hicksonmania, a.k.a. … seriously, I’m sitting here trying to think of anything else anyone called him and the best I’m getting is “J.J. Miss-Some” which, I’ll be the first to admit, shows an embarrassing lack of effort and imagination) to the Sacramento Kings for 6’9” forward Omri Casspi (a.k.a. … well, um, nothing that I know of) and a protected (or, if we’re being honest, more well-guarded than the Pope) first round pick.

Later, in a conference call with the media, Grant sited his long-held interest in Casspi’s game, as well as the opportunity to achieve greater roster balance (i.e. make room for a player – Tristan Thompson – they like better than the one they already had – Hickson) and continued financial flexibility (i.e. rhey have a year longer to anticipate Casspi’s crippling contract demands than they had with Hickson).

But when you come right down to it, Grant gave up on a 6’9” player with career averages of 9.1 PTs and 5.7 REBs in favor of a player the same height with career averages 9.5 PTs and 4.4 REBs who is under his rookie contract for another three years and a first round draft pick that they will eventually use in some other trade.  Call me a pushover.  I’m into it.

In fact, Chris Grant is running a hot streak with me.  Fresh off talking myself into the Tristan Thompson pick (hey, if you’ve got the guy rated #3 on your board and he’s available at #4, you take him, right?  Isn’t all the Thompson backlash just “draft the best player available unless you already have a player at that position who drifts mentally, defensively, falls in love with his jump shot and thinks he’s our team’s best player (aside: he thinks it because he’s been told that … so, that’s not on him), then you draft for need”) – and I am on board with Tristan Thompson, Grant turns his starting power forward who – and let’s be clear about this now – will most likely never reach his full potential (or what we have perceived as his full potential) and, in fact, developmentally is probably at about what he’s going to contribute to a basketball team for a player who can actually hit a jump shot, rebounds fairly well for a small forward and has people constantly using words like “tough,” “mean streak,” and “fire” when describing him.  Great.  Bring it.  Grant is taking clear steps to bring in players who are tougher, better leaders, and better defenders than what he had on the roster a year ago.  Of course, Antawn Jamison is still on the roster, so we still suck defensively … but we suck less.  Your 2011-12 Cavaliers: We suck less! Thank you, Chris Grant.

Now, I realize that I’m saying a bunch of stuff about J.J. Hickson that I would never have said if he were still on our team.  But it’s all stuff that I very quickly believed to be true – which probably means I knew it to be true all along.  And I liked watching him play.  Motivated J.J. was a joy to watch – he could out-athleticize almost anyone in the NBA … and then you wouldn’t hear his name for a quarter and a half until he showed back up at the end of a tight game bricking jump shots.

What this means for the Cavs:  They have a roster that makes more sense.  We can probably pencil in Casspi as the starting 3 (although maybe if they resign Gee, they start him because he’s a more athletic defender next to…), defensive sieve, Antawn Jamison, will probably start at the 4 – but don’t expect him to get starters minutes – Varajeo will be our starting center and I’m pretty convinced that we’ll see an Irving-Beardly starting backcourt sooner than later.  Maybe you start Thompson at the 4 and Casspi at the 3 to have an inside-out presence that could benefit by having two gifted passers together in the backcourt – or maybe your bench is Ramon, Boobie, Casspi, and some combination of Thompson, Samardo Samuels and Semih Erden (You know what?  I’m smelling another trade and it’s got Ramon Sessions written all over it.).  That’s not a perfect team.  But it’s got some parts.  It’s got some depth.  It’s got some guys who can do some things on the basketball court.  All we can ask, really.

What this means for Sacramento Jesus… I mean … this could be ugly. No wonder the Kings protected their first-rounder so long.  I can’t imagine this move working for them.  You’re telling me that a Jimmer-Tyreke-Salmons-Hickson-Cousins team works?  I certainly can’t see them stopping anyone … not a single player … I could score on that team.  But I just answered my own question.  I would not want to coach them, but I will sure as hell watch them.

NBA Basketball

2011/04/05

Some Observations From the Live Action…

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I got to be in-person for the Cavs/Knicks game on Sunday.  Here’s the results of my first eye-test of the season:

-Wow, these guys can’t hold onto a basketball to save their lives, can they? I spent most of my time since the Wizards game talking about how Blatche wasn’t even so much beating the Cavs bigs in getting all of his rebounds; the ball just kept bouncing off the Cavs hot-potato-style until, eventually, Blatche (or McGee) just grabbed it to put an end to all the foolishness.  In trying to keep hold of the ball, the Cavs looked like, as a team, they had drank half a bottle of tequila, blind-folded each other and then replaced the official NBA issue ball with a small greased-up piglet. And that looked the same on Sunday.  Hickson, especially, just flat-out struggled keeping hold of the ball.  I liked a lot of Hickson’s game on Sunday (except when he was taken out of productivity by one Ramon Sessions), but if I were to make a to-do list for him this summer it would be: 1.) improve ball handling (he’d be a monster driving to the basket if it didn’t result so much in him dribbling off his or his opponent’s foot) 2.) do whatever it takes (if such a thing exists) to soften up your hands.  Baron Davis is giving you gold, J.J.  You gotta catch those balls! 3.) Don’t talk about your jumper.  It’s improving.  I believe you.  And the couple of jumpers you hit against the Knicks were important to what success the Cavs were able to have early.  Just do 1 and 2 before getting to 3.

-I found myself defending Alonzo Gee’s worth during the game. There are things about Gee Whiz that I really like, but he doesn’t seem to have a sense of how to make his positive attributes translate on the court right now.  I like his strength, his athleticism, his ability to finish … but he doesn’t (and this could be the coaches too) even have that early-Hickson sense of “I’m going to do this one thing – drive to the basket when my guy leaves me to double LeBron.”  It will be interesting to see if Baron can get anything out of Alonzo in the last few games, but he’s an end-of-the-bench player right now (but, congratulations: even an end-of-the-bench player is an NBA player!).

-Okay, maybe Ramon Sessions isn’t a point guard after all…  The team completely fell apart when Ramon came in for Baron Davis when Beardly picked up his second foul early.  This wasn’t all Ramon’s fault.  The Knicks decided to use that moment to start hitting a bevy of three-pointers and sink every free throw they took for the rest of the half.  But I’m worried about Ramon.  He seems to excel at exactly one thing: getting shots for Ramon around the rim.  His moves down there – assuming the defense isn’t interested enough to collapse on him and block him to high heaven – are really, really pretty, but that’s the sparkle to his game.  The spackle to his game is the fact that J.J. floats exclusively on the perimeter when Ramon is in, freeing up Ramon’s driving lanes, the entire team looks nervous when he’s in – not because they don’t trust Ramon, but because he’s moving so fast on the floor just dribbling, dribbling, dribbling that you don’t want to move very much or else Sessions is liable to plow into you at some point during his possession.  Yes, his possession.  Right now, I think Ramon’s skills line up like this: 1.) Can score 2.) Can allow his opponent to score 3.) toughness 4.) sometimes when he passes it ends up as an assist.

-I can proudly say that Sunday night at Madison Square Garden was the first time I’d ever appeared in a crowd shot on the scoreboard of a professional sporting event.

It was actually kind of funny; the man sent to amp up our section by leading them in chants and handing out those loud contraptions once (and maybe still … somewhere) called thunder sticks (now called, at least at MSG, “cheer sticks” (possibly due to focus group research showing that people equate thunder with scared cats … or with subsequent lightning and then with people struck by lightning … or, better yet, by lightning that strikes a tree while you’re in the middle of a furious back-country-road car chase, felling the tree and either allowing the lead car to escape – if you’re the pursuer – or crashing on top of your hood – if you are the pursuant – allowing you to be recaptured and taken back to that creepy cell in the food cellar of that old house you thought had been abandoned and that you’d been trying to escape from every day since being locked in there 18 months ago … at least, you think it’s been 18 months)) …

What was I talking about?  Oh, right, the cheer sticks.

So, the MSG employee who is passing out the cheer sticks does not give them to the two gentlemen in the Cavs shirts … which I suppose I can understand and tells everyone that we’ll be on camera during the next time out.  Now, not to belabor this cheer sticks point too much but, if we’d come to the arena as fans of the opposing team on, say, Toney Douglas t-shirt day, we still would have gotten that t-shirt (that we didn’t want in the first place), right?  Anyway, when the next time out comes, the cameraman hops in front of our section and starts panning around the now-losing-their-mind section until he gets to the front row aisle – my friend, Scott, and me, looking sheepish deep in the Cavs’ 4th quarter deficit – and then the cameraman nervously moves away from us, only to mistakenly include us in the fringes of the next pass too.

I understand that the arena has an obligation to promote pro-home-team hysteria, but … geez … I was excited to be watching a professional basketball game at a great arena as well. Just for that, I should have gotten my cheer sticks.

All of this is to say that it was great to see an NBA game live.  Great arena (have I said that before?  It really is.), great atmosphere, two teams playing basketball ranging from so-so to no-no … it can’t get better than this, can it?

Oh, yeah … that whole winning thing.

Besides that.  You knew I meant besides that…

NBA Basketball

2011/03/05

KRYPTO-LIERS! Cavaliers resemble irradiated chunks of the destroyed planet of Krypton to powered-by-yellow-sun Knicks

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What a difference some talent makes.

If watching Baron Davis in his Cavs debut Friday felt familiar at all, that’s because it should have.  The role that Davis played in the comeback – and, more specifically, the skills he contributed to the comeback – was just a little bit like what it used to be to watch LeBron James.

Please, please, please don’t interpret that last sentence as my saying that Beardly is even close to the same class as James.  As a person generally able to distinguish between reality and fantasy, I haven’t gone so far off my nut as to believe that.

But, the confidence, the driving, the ability to make passes that (arguably) no one else on the floor could make; That was what James was for us.  He was also the ill-advised three-point shots that won us some games and lost us others, but not so many that he’d ever stop shooting them.  And that was what Baron Davis was for us on Friday.

It’s one game, but we seem to have added a (much) lesser version of the major skill set that left us last summer.  Baron Davis is probably 32% LeBron James on a very, very good day (though, I’ll admit, I had trouble coming up with an accurate percentage … shouldn’t even the worst NBA player be, at least, 60% of James?  … aren’t I, as a grown human being able to walk and make basic use of my four limbs, at least, 28% of James? Is Baron really only 4% closer to him than me?  Sorry, sorry … 32 just sounded like the right number…).

But the Cavs have – at least at one roster spot – narrowed the talent gap with the rest of the league. Yes, they narrowed it with an out-of-shape, cranky kneed, only-rarely-going-to-go-all-out player, but even that’s going to help us pull off a win here or there for the next couple of years.  We knew this from watching James, but then very quickly forgot: it’s crazy how clearly high talent shows up on the court.

-Good to see a consecutive strong game from Samardo Samuels (granted, you have to take success against the Knicks defense with the same bucket full of grains of salt that Cavs opponents do when their 9th man lights us up for 29…).  Still, Samardo played hard and – again, we’re going on two games here – seems to know where to be, whether on offense or, as evidenced by the clutch charge he took against Carmelo to effectively seal the win, on defense (or, let me say, “as much as anyone on this team knows”).  It will be interesting to see if/how he and J.J. can blend together.  J.J. led us with 23PTs, but I got the sense that when Samardo hit a few shots early that J.J. felt pressed, like he needed to do something to match.  Probably not the mindset that’s going to be very successful for J.J., but we’ll see.

-Luke Harangody looks like he could be our Landry Fields! Okay, he looks like Landry Fields after 72 knee operations (but, in my defense, I did say OUR Landry Fields … kinda makes sense that way).  Harangody’s tough – can score and rebound – and … well, surely there are less athletic guys who have seen success in the league, right?  Right?! … I mean, there must be.  His skill set is exactly want for a good bench contributor – and you have to love the closet the league’s gotten to a Bryant Reeves look-a-like since Big Country was playing 15 years ago.  Little Big Country doesn’t quite work … so I’ll be calling him Third World Country for a bit, just to walk it around for a few games.  Third World Country with an arc-less three at the buzzer … GOT IT!

NBA Basketball

2011/03/03

Spurs Stuck Firmly in Cavs’ Fatty Backside

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Cavs 99  Spurs 109

Welcome to the NBA, Samardo Samuels!

(What’s that?  Oh … you’ve been in the league for several months now?  Since the start of the season??  Really?  Then how come we’ve never seen you do anything like … Oh, right, right – that power forward that liked to shoot a lot.  Right.)

Samuels really was the story of the game.  The Spurs did pretty much what everyone (including the Cavs coaches and players, I’d imagine) knew they could do.  With the Cavs playing them close for most of the first half, the Spurs turned on “No, seriously, we’re big-time championship contenders” mode and cruised past the young Cavs players and off into the Cleveland night, becoming the first team to reach 50 wins this season.

Samuels showed a nice balance of inside and outside game on the way to 23PTs and 10REBs on 10-18 shooting. I’ll pay him the biggest compliment I’m able with anyone on this team:  He looked like an NBA player.  But, things to keep in mind before we get too excited about Samuels: 1.) Manny Harris had 27PTs against the Suns earlier this season (which is to say, we haven’t seen that from Manny again) 2.) the long-forgotten Alonzo Gee had 18PTs and 7REBs in this very same game and, most importantly, 3.) Trajan Langdon once scored 31PTs on 11-13 shooting going against Detroit on Nov. 21, 2000.  That’s the same Trajan Langdon of the 5.4 PPG career in the NBA.  Just saying…  every player’s got one game in them.

-During one stretch of the second quarter, with the Cavs up 8, it seemed like the Spurs were getting the idea that they would have to, at least, compete somewhat if they were going to avoid becoming the second Western Conference power in two weeks to be knocked off by the league’s worst team.  I made note of that, curious to see how long it would take the Spurs to erase the deficit.  In less than one minute of court time, the game was tied.  Less than a minute more and the Spurs had a lead they would not give up.

-J.J. Hickson struggled in his (partial) move back to the power forward spot.  It was good to see that J.J. didn’t just go back to jacking up mid-range jumpers and, instead, attacked the basket and tried to make stuff happen in the paint.  Of course, he was going against an all-time great in Tim Duncan and, right now, a player like Duncan is a nightmare match-up for J.J.  Duncan is taller, longer, mega-experienced and very, very smart.  Still, J.J., while only shooting 3-10, was able to grab 7 rebounds and, so generally, did not let his offensive struggles take him completely out of the game.  The “non-disappear” from J.J. going against Duncan counts to the two-weeks of good games without vanishing that I’m still waiting to see J.J. put together.

Other Thoughts:

-Did anyone actually think Antawn Jamison was going to come back this year after breaking his left pinkie finger in Sunday’s game against the Sixers?  Take the rest of the year off, Antawn.  You’ve (or, more accurately, your contributions to this team on offense has) earned it.  I’m sure a fractured little finger is painful, but is it really any more painful that having to play for this team for another 20-odd games?  Probably not.  I bet if we look back over the tape from the play where the injury occurred, you’ll see Antawn grab his left hand and then, as it dawns on him that it might be something serious, he looks over toward Varejao on the bench.  Varejao gives him a wink, as if to say “Welcome to the veteran’s early-season out.”

-For anyone who’s keeping track, Cavs fans should also be squarely in the corner of the Pistons and the Bucks for the rest of the season. Why?  Because they are the two teams with the closest record to the Los Angeles Clippers.  As of today, Detroit and the Clips are tied with 22 wins (LA loses the tie-breaker and, so, is higher than the Pistons in the standings) followed by Milwaukee with 23 – good for picks 6, 7 and 8 should none of them win the lottery.  Of course, the team we want to lose the most is not the team that has quit on its coach (Detroit) or the one that can’t seem to score (Milwaukee), it’s the one that just got Eric Gordon back from injury and is incorporating Mo Williams and Jamario Moon into an already talented line-up.  Geez.

-On the flip side, we probably want Minnesota, Sacramento and Washington (all with 15 wins) to get one or two more to ensure the Cavs have the worst record going into the lottery … but, honestly, after the Jamison injury, I really don’t see how the Cavs win 4 more games this season.  Possibly, but not likely.

NBA Basketball

2011/02/26

Cavs don’t look so bad beating new-look Knicks

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Cavs 115 Knicks 109

Just some quick observations on this one, as NBA Broadband blacked it out and I only have my flitting memories of watching it in a bar on the  Lower East Side of New York City to go on.

-This game is another great example that the Cavs have become a team that is now capable of winning “one of those games.”  The Cavs were playing at home, but were down two rotation players and Leon Powe because of a trade and a buyout (though, this was deceiving, since Mo had been hurt, Jamario was only playing one out of every four games and Powe had just come back from injury … so really we were as full strength as we’ve been since No. 26 was broken) faces the newly star-studded Knicks who won in Carmelo Anthony’s debut, but still hadn’t had a chance to practice or feel the inevitable emotional let-down after the last … oh, 7 months of trade rumors finally came true.  Consult your Dictionary of Sports Narratives and you’ll find this scenario trending firmly against the Knicks (though, I didn’t really think the Cavs would win, did you?).  It was just one of those games – and the Cavs nabbed themselves another one of them, now the third of five.

-I thought J.J. was going to get destroyed by Amar’e Stoudemire, especially after his you’re-sure-this-isn’t-an-exhibition-game performance against Houston on Wednesday.  Not only did J.J. not get destroyed, he had a great game.  And, yes, if “great game” for J.J. means letting your opposition score 31 when that opposition is a top-3 offensive forward and All-Star and you score 24 yourself while shooting a higher percentage than your opponent, out-rebound him and match him with 5 blocks, so be it.  I still need to see J.J. put a couple of weeks together without a mail-in game like on Wednesday spotting him but, J.J. I am very close to mixing up the Hickson Kool-Aid in a plastic garbage can, adding fresh cut fruit and grain alcohol, later waking up in a prison cell with someone else’s blood covering my hands and being okay with the whole thing.

-Antawn Jamison’s defense has been the subject of much … um, what do you call “disdain” mixed with “projectile vomit”? … of much “projectile dismit” this season, but drawing those two fouls on Carmelo Anthony down the stretch may have been what sealed the game for us.  With the game as close as it was, I was sure the Knicks were going to make more shots down the stretch and win the game.  Enter Antawn Jamison, who was able to drawn the foul, hit 3-4 shots and (most importantly) frustrate Anthony.  I’m calling game-winner on that sequence.

-There has been some mixed reviews of J.J.’s beard.  I, for one, am all in favor of it and think that, like LeBron’s headband, the beard should be the new sign of solidarity on the team. I know I’m treading awfully close to pro-Baron territory, but I like the thought of Anderson Varejao showing up to camp next year with his wild hair and a nice, thick beard, Bill Walton-style.  If that happens, though, our first order of business should be to resign Drew Gooden.

NBA Basketball

2011/02/17

LAKERS, ASSUMING CAVS REMOVED FROM LEAGUE FOLLOWING JANUARY DEBACLE IN LA, SURPRISED WHEN TEAM ARRIVES, PLAYS … AND WINS!

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Mark it.  Twice, now, in one week the Cleveland Cavaliers have given us cause to give into that rare feeling called elation (even if it is elation tinged with a touch of disgrace that these two wins were such a big deal in the first place).

Oh, yeah, and in between they re-embraced the disgrace … but we’ll look past that for now and say that the past week has given Cavs fans a lot.  In six days, we ended a certain losing streak at 26 (see, I almost had to remind you of that, didn’t I?  You were starting to remember the Clippers game as just a win – which is the point) and we got win number 10 meaning, at least as far as a final tally of wins and losses, we are not the worst team in NBA history.  We’re one game better than that.  Yes, record books, you may suck it.

Oh, and did I mention that win number 10 came against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers?

That’s right, your 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers noticed there was a game on the schedule tonight and decided to come out and play some professional basketball on the way to a 104-99 win over the ’09-’10 champs who … er … did none of those things.

This was definitely one of those games that means more to the bad team than it did to the good (and, really, you beat a team by 55 a month earlier and tell me how easy it is to take them seriously on the last night of a road trip before the All Star Break … Really.  Try it.) but none of that kept Ramon Sessions from exploiting the Lakers’ porous (or maybe just napping) interior to 32PTs and 8ASSTs or from J.J. Hickson continuing his solid play in the paint with 15REBs or from Christian Eyenga exploding for a “my time in Europe, while not really teaching me very much about basketball, did teach me that I can jump higher than ever a really tall Spaniard” pretty, pretty slam over Pau Gasol in the 3rd that helped keep the Cavs momentum from flipping over its front wheel and landing face-first in a mud puddle they are so familiar with landing in by now that they affectionately refer to it as “Puddy.”

The point is: the Cavs played this game the way they were supposed to against the older team who had every reason to overlook them.  They attacked.  They played with confidence.  And players didn’t let set-backs in one area (like, Hickson’s 6-18 shooting) distract them from doing good things on the floor (the aforementioned many rebounds).  That’s how an underdog wins, guys.  Remember this.  You’ll have plenty more chances to give us these little joys for the rest of the season.

My first thought was that this game really did show that the Cavs could compete if only they played with the requisite effort.  I still think there’s a level on which that’s true, but it’s a level tucked pretty far down into the sub-basement of what’s true about this team.  Not that they didn’t play hard.  They did.  And their playing hard has, we’ve learned, generally led to less embarrassing final game scores.  But this was just one of those games.

What we, as people watching the team, get to take away from this game is the sense that the 2010-11 Cavs have turned a corner (albeit a very, very small corner … more that they’ve followed a bend in the road, really).  They are now capable of winning one of those games – and that’s as significant a step forward as this franchise has made all year.

NBA Basketball

2011/02/12

IT TOOK MONTHS OF SPEECH THERAPY, BUT I CAN FINALLY SAY THE WORDS “CAVS WIN” AGAIN…

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Cavs 123 Clippers 119 OT

At the end of the day, this victory doesn’t mean all that much.

Think about it.  Someone has to hold every record, good or bad.  You don’t want your hallmark moment to be tying the longest losing streak in all pro sports, sure, but everyone on this team and everyone watching them has been through better sports moments and things will come (soon?) that make a 26-game losing streak, national joke that it was, fade into the background.

You don’t want to be in the middle of the thing when you don’t know for sure when it will end, but once it’s over it’s over.

So, at the end of the day, this victory doesn’t mean all that much.

But for a 4th quarter and overtime Friday night, it did mean something. It really did.

As the Cavs would battle for three minutes to get a 6-point lead just to give it up in the span of 30 seconds – and then do the whole thing over again – I realized that we really did need this win.  We needed this win because watching a game – any game – isn’t much fun if the outcome is predetermined and if that outcome is that you consistently and royally get screwed. So, I realized, that as much as I talk about basketball being fun to watch – even when it’s this year’s Cavaliers version of basketball – it’s more fun when things go your way … when shots go in … when you grab the loose ball … and that the real difficulty of this losing streak for those of us not actually playing in the games was that good basketball moments couldn’t really be enjoyed because they all ended up in losses.

Being able to enjoy a game is all about doubt – and with the losing streak we too often were in Predetermination Territory.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that we’ve reclaimed doubt for the duration of our schedule.  In fact, we’ve learned to doubt our own good feelings about this team, too – so get ready for some more clunkers in the future.  But when we see this, now, we can enjoy it since it might just be (though it will not necessarily be) a win we’re watching.

Quick thoughts:

-As difficult as it’s been for the Cavs to wade through this loss-fueled season where nothing seems to go right, try being the Clippers.  You think you’ve got your public perception turned around and then you go and let the Cavs off their losing-streak hook.  Clipper stink is real.

-Monster, monster, MONSTER game for J.J. Hickson. 27PTs, 14REBs and 4 blocks – the most astounding coming at the end of regulation as he barely avoided a goaltend in rejecting Baron Davis’ runner.  He established himself as a real force in the paint, especially in the fourth quarter, as he essentially won this game for the Cavs.  Thing to remember from this game: J.J. played solid one-on-one defense against Blake Griffin down the stretch, even with 5 fouls.  Yes, I just used the words “J.J.” “solid” and “defense” all in the same sentence without that sentence being “J.J.’s defense is the furthest thing from solid that you could possibly imagine.  It’s like Jell-O.  Or, more accurately, some manner of noxious gas.”  Hickson didn’t try to do too much.  He didn’t try to jump in front of his man to get the steal.  He just used his size and strength to battle Blake Griffin and then, when the shot went up, he used his length to make it a difficult look.   Thing to remind yourself after this game:  J.J. has never shown us that he can string together a handful of games where, at some point, we don’t resort to making cracks about his basketball IQ.  I wish we lived in metaphor world and there were actually things like “light bulbs” that “turned on,” but we’re in the real world … um … where we only have candles.

-Antawn Jamison still has 35PT/9REB games in him.  See that, New York Knicks?  This was kind of a dangerous game for Antawn, as he was actually connecting on some of his long-range shots.  And I’m worried that Antawn connecting on some of his long-range shots will be the equivalent of Hickson making one jump shot: it means we’re going to see some 7-22 games from Antawn coming up.  Prove me wrong, ‘Tawn.

-Really good to see Mo out there.  Before he went down, I was saying that the team plays fast really well with Mo.  Ramon Sessions has been playing well too, of late, but since neither he nor Mo is a sterling defender, Mo just brings more to the table in terms of the variety of ways he can score and, frankly, big-game experience. 14ASSTs for Mo tonight and Byron Scott was actually playing he and Sessions together for a spell.  This had to be the first game where we had our three guard rotation of Williams, Sessions and Gibson all playing at a pretty high level within the offense.  Mo is not going to save us.  But Mo absolutely helps us when he’s aggressive, knocks down some shots, and isn’t getting completely abused by the opposing team’s point guard.

-Before the game, I was talking to a Clippers fan.  I was assuming we were in for another loss, setting up the UnwinnaBowl between us and the Wizards on Sunday.  He assured me that the Clippers play some pretty crappy defense too.  He was right.

-If Eric Gordon had played, we have no chance.  Just saying…

-This was the Cavs’ 6th home win of the season.  The Clippers, though, have only won 4 road games this season, so they’re not exactly warriors either (not to be confused with not being the Warriors … which they are also not).

-Cavs v. Wizards is now the Frito Lay RarelyWinnaBowl.  Bring it!

NBA Basketball

2011/02/08

HISTORY TO CAVS: “I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned this to you, but you sure have lost a lot of games in a row…”

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If it is true that the history books are, in fact, written by the victors, then anyone out there who is really broken up about the Cavaliers now-record-holding losing streak – 25 games in a row after last night’s 99-96 loss to the Mavericks in Dallas – can take solace in the fact that, when the books are finally written, no one from this team will be asked to write a chapter and everyone else will have better things to talk about.  Better things like winning.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter how bad you are.  If you’re the worst team in the NBA, then you’re the worst team in the NBA.  Historically bad?  By the numbers, yes, but being bad is really the only thing we should be paying attention to.  You don’t fix historically bad, but you can fix “worst team of the 2010-11 NBA season bad.”  You can fix that because, every year, it’s somebody.  It might be us again next year, but it might not.

We now know that much (if not all) of this losing would have happened this season anyway.  Does it really matter that it’s all come at once? And if you look at the roster and the injuries and the psychological exhaustion of The Summer of LeBron and the fact that we entered a tougher part of our schedule and the fact that our key guys aren’t really good at defense and the fact that we’re breaking in some young guys, many of whom aren’t just young but young and undrafted, while another one is young and only knows only slightly more about basketball than he does about English, and … I guess the point is: who could we reasonably expect them to beat?

But we are seeing improvement and greater consistency – from Sessions and Hickson, especially. And Eyenga could very reasonably finish the season averaging 10PTs and 4REBs with a steal and a half and a block and a half.  Knowing how far he had to go when we drafted him, who wouldn’t be happy with those stats for his rookie season?

We’re not seeing good defense, but … well, it actually wasn’t terrible against Dallas down the stretch.  This was probably because the Cavs smelled a possible upset and were playing their collective junk off, but it’s good to know that we can get a stop once every couple of games or so.

The point is that the laughingstock team – the one that this losing streak is most pinned to – was this team in January.  Now, we’re back to just being a team that’s going to have a really slim chance of being competitive in any game – just regular bad, not historically bad.  And that’s who we known we were for a while anyway, so there needn’t be any hand wringing.  When you’re good, it matters how good.  When you’re bad, I’ve realized this year, it doesn’t really matter how much.

Brief Notes:

-That being said, Wow, how long do you think it took Antawn Jamison to look Jamario Moon without vomiting after the game last night.  That last possession was unconscionable, especially when you realize that Jamison – while he just made a big three (though, also had just missed one) – doesn’t hit those shots as much as he might tell you he does.  C’mon, Jamario.  Know how much time is left and have the balls to take the shot.  Even if you miss it, we feel better about you than we do with what ended up happening.

-I’m having a more and more difficult time figuring out if Ryan Hollins does anything good on the basketball court besides take up vertical space.  The adage is: you can’t teach height.  But that assumes that everything else can be taught.  Ryan, you’re tall. Make me understand what’s happening, please.  Don’t make me throw out that adage.  It’s one of my favorite adages!!