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

Posts Tagged ‘Mo Williams’

NBA Basketball


Mo Better Eulogy…

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Yesterday, it occurred to me (mainly because it occurred to the guys at PodCavs in their last episode and it occurred to me to listen to that episode and … wait, you all know how thinking works … sorry) that in the flurry of stories about the moves the Cavs made at the trade deadline, lost in the din of the move that brought Baron Davis and the Clippers’ unprotected 2011 first round pick into the Cavs waiting and loving arms was the fact that we had to say goodbye to a player who had become a pretty important part of our professional-basketball-following lives over the past three years.  We had to say goodbye to Mo Williams.

And, as the man who wrote a defense of Mo earlier this year, I’d like to say a few words beside the Mo Gotti 2 Pyre before setting it respectfully ablaze and letting it drift its slow dark march down the Cuyahoga.

But, first, a special guest:  Sir Elton John (to be fair, I told Elton that Mo wasn’t actually dead and that what had gone on between Mo and Cleveland couldn’t reasonably be considered a tragedy  … but he insisted.)

Cue Sir Elton…

Goodbye, Mo Williams/

Though I never knew you myself/

You had the balls to want to stay/

While those around you left/

Came here from Milwaukee/

The Boy Wonder to LeBron/

We needed another superstar/

But what we got was you/

And it seems to me, you lived your life/

Like a candle in the wind/

Never knowing who to cling to/

When the rain set in…

Okay … it kinda falls apart at the end.  But you get the idea.

I view Mo as a bit of a tragic figure – not because I think it particularly sucks to be Mo Williams (there are very unique ways why it both does and certainly does not suck to be Mo Williams) – but Mo seems to be that rare professional athlete who fell short, not of what we, the fans, expected from him (though he did his share of that), but of what he expected from himself.

Mo seemed to have a genuine joy about being on the LeBron-led Cavs teams.  And, why not?  He left a losing situation in Milwaukee and got to come and win the most games of any team in the regular season over the last two seasons.

He also seemed genuinely damaged when he wasn’t able to come through in the post-season and, after each set-back he claimed that he would come back, he would work harder, he would not fail again.  We could trust him, he seemed to be saying.  He would not let us down.

Then the team (not only Mo) let us down and LeBron left and Mo had his “feel like my heart has been pulled out” and “Pls don’t trade me, I’m not ready to go.  I’m begging.  My work ain’t done yet.  I’m on both knees … pls.  I’m serious” tweets that had people questioning his mental toughness (and, in part, showing me that Mo Williams is one of the more relatable professional athletes we’ve seen in a while … he was reacting like we were reacting … playing for the Cavs was not a just a business, but something that stirred up real, human emotions for him – and we turned on him for it).

After last summer, Mo said many things about wanting to lead the team this year – that he was a player who could be effective as the primary option on a competitive team.  Then he showed up hurt (rumored to be out-of-shape) and clearly had his finger ready to flip the switch when it became very clear that basketball in Cleveland this year was not going to be a thing of beauty, or of fun, or even something that for long stretches resembled professional basketball.  When that switch went from “we can do this” to “damn, this really, really, really, really sucks” there was no going back for Mo because this was no longer a team that allowed his joy of playing to come through and he, bless his head-banded little head, did not have the skills to make this team (or any team) truly his, no matter how much he really wanted to.

Mo Williams is not the guy who thinks he’s better than he actually is; he’s the guy who wishes he was as good as some of the better players he sees and is just good enough to think he might be one of them.  That’s actually a big difference, because the former is insulated from bearing the personal responsibility of failure, while that personal coming-up-short is something the latter, Mo, may never break away from.

I’ll probably always like Mo Williams as a player.  I fell for him in the way we’d all have probably fallen for Larry Hughes if he had anywhere near the positive impact that Mo had – and I wish him the best in Los Angeles.

RIP The Mo Gotti Era.  Now watch that crooked river burn.

NBA Basketball


Baron Davis to Cleveland – Quick Take

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I’ll do a more in-depth breakdown of the Trade Deadline when all the dust settles, but I did want to throw my several cents onto the board regarding the arrival of one Baron Walter Louis Davis to the sunny shores of Cleveland.

First off, I think everyone’s feelings can be best summed up by this e-mail I got from my friend, Scott, this morning: “And you thought Shawn Kemp was fat.  Wait till you see how much weight Baron Davis puts on in between now and his plane landing in Cleveland.  I picture him getting the news and then immediately dipping a chicken leg into a gallon of ice-cream.”

I don’t think anyone is excited to be adding Baron Davis’ well-chronicled surly demeanor (which, when riled, exhibits itself in 3-pointers early in the shot clock, noticeable weight gain in both belly and beard and a generally very clear vibe that he has no interest in playing a given game of basketball for a given team at that time).

However, we should be very interested in that unprotected first round pick in this year’s draft.  Right now, the Clippers have the 8th worst record in the league at 21-37.  Maybe they pick up steam in the last 24 games but, even still, that should be a top 10 pick.  And maybe they fall back and it’s, say, a top 6 pick.  Either way, it’s a level of pick (regardless of how strong – or weak – you feel this year’s draft class to be) that you would not have gotten for Mo Williams in any other known universe – at least not one that we get to use this soon.

Bottom line:  the Cavs, while adding a head-case who, while talented, is expected (by everyone ever) to cause some problems, essentially, accelerate their rebuilding by one year in acquiring an extra lottery pick.  Baron is not forever, people.  It’s on Chris Grant to use the pick wisely.

NBA Basketball



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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



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Cavs 90  Jazz 101

Cavs 109  Knicks 102

It’s becoming clear what we’ll be able to expect from this new “we give some manner of a crap” Cavaliers rotation, who have generally played more spirited basketball since head coach Byron Scott shuffled his starters, shortened his bench and resigned himself to be on constant J.J. Hickson pout watch.  They’re the spoiler, the other team’s “trap game,” who (mainly at home … I can’t see them doing too much of this on the road) will sneak up on a team that has much bigger things to worry about than the Cavaliers.

But spoiler teams don’t win consistently – otherwise they’d be an actually good team.

So, the Cavs saw one team (the Knicks) that was probably still trying to figure out what went wrong in their last two games against contenders Boston and Miami.  Anderson Varejao had an absolutely monster game with 14 points, 17 rebounds and defense on Amar’e Stoudemire that held the Knicks’ star (and early-season MVP candidate) to 8-19 shooting for 23 points.  Mo Williams had a nice little run with 23 points and 14 assists, the Knicks weren’t hitting shots they’d been making (both teams shot 41%) and when you dangle a win in front of this starved team in front of its home fans good things will happen … or, at least, good things are bound to happen sometimes and Saturday night was one of those times.

The Cavs then turned around and were handed a very business-like loss by the very business-like Utah Jazz.

Enjoy the wins when they come.  That game Saturday was extremely fun to watch.  I told myself I wouldn’t get too high or low with this team this year, but Mo got me hopping in front of the TV down the stretch.  But we’re not going to be in many games like that, since we have no way besides blind luck of having a team shoot as poorly as we do. Let’s just be clear about what we are here, folks.

Quick notes:

-Mo’s lines have looked good in the last two games, but his opponents aren’t looking too shabby either. Against the Knicks, Mo had the aforementioned 23 and 14.  Raymond Felton finished with 23PTs, 11ASSTs and 7REBs on 9-19 shooting.  Against the Jazz, Mo had 16PTs, 10ASSTs and 6REBs on 5-15 shooting, while Deron Williams had a very similar looking 17PTS, 10ASSTs and 5REBs on 6-16 shooting.  Point is: Mo’s not stopping anyone, but what he is capable of doing is playing even with some pretty good guards – giving as good as he’s getting.  And it is nice to see Mo being able to score and pass the basketball like he has for the last week.

-J.J. Hickson had a nice line against the Jazz, going 3-4 from the field, leading the team with 9 rebounds and getting to the stripe 7 times (making only four of those, though…).  The bad news: the Jazz’s front line had a nice game too.  At some point, we have to figure out how to get guys to play below their normal level or, at least, below the level of our guys. Right now, Varejao seems to be the only player who can do that and he’s not a talented enough scorer for us to really reap the benefits of his defensive performance (though, here’s a little secret … Andy’s a better offensive player than we think.  Probably time to get him somewhere in the 10 shots-per-game range.  Worth a try, right?)

-Jamario’s back in the rotation! This is partly because of injuries to Joey Graham and Leon Powe.  Jamario needs to defend, rebound and try to score in ways other than shooting 3-point shots to stay in the line-up.  Otherwise, it’s not so much that Jamario is less talented than some of the other players on this team, it’s that his skill-set is pretty redundant.  And when Joey Graham’s beating you in the game of “hell, we have to play somebody” you’re probably not putting your skills together as much as you should be.  Can’t we all imagine Jamario looking great on back-door cuts to the basket?  Am I imagining this?  My holiday wish to all of you: that you never be considered redundant compared to Joey Graham.

NBA Basketball



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Cavs 99  Pacers 108

At some point when you’re losing – and, maybe, game 10 of a losing streak is that point – there’s really not much new to say.  Losses come the same way wins do: often from the same sources with an occasional new element stepping up from time to time.

The Cavs got outrebounded (by 10) and out shot (42% to 47%), their 4 offensive rebounds led to only 3 second-chance points and the Cavs shortened bench gave them very little production (20 points, until the bench was cleared with 2 minutes left in the game – and 7 of those 20 were foul shots by J.J. Hickson).
Not even sure there’s a new element to this loss.  It’s become that typical.

Two things that jump out, though:

1.) With the monster way Varejao’s playing – and with the relatively effective way Jamison’s been playing – if Mo and Boobie ever have a good game at the same time, we might get ourselves one of those … what’dya call ‘em … oh, yeah … wins. Boobie, after having a great game in Miami, was admittedly bothered by the length of the Pacers’ wing players.  Remember, Mike Dunleavy (he of the rumored hair-replacement surgery) is a 6’9” 2-guard and Danny Granger is 6’8”.  Both of those are inches that Boobie just doesn’t have.  He said after the game that he’d look at film to try to figure out ways to be effective against bigger players but, in this one, he managed only 4 points on 1-7 shooting.

Mo, on the other hand, had a really nice game. 8-12 for 22 points and 10 assists.  I like to see Mo rack up those assists and his skill-set in this offense should allow him to do that – especially, if Varejao’s shooting pretty well, if Jamison’s hitting from outside and if one of the Cavs other perimeter players (be it Gibson or Parker) gets anything to fall.  This team basically has to run around like they’re all on fire to create any sort of good look close to the basket, so a lot of what Mo gets is going to be him driving and kicking to a jump-shooter … of which we have many … if you haven’t noticed.

2.) There are people who understand basketball better than me (don’t look so shocked), but how we’re unable to make anything work with Ramon Sessions and Hickson is completely beyond me. This seems like the perfect fit, if both players would stay active for the entire offensive possession (for the moment, we won’t talk about what they do not bring to the table defensively).  You can’t tell me that for a player (Sessions) whose single above-average NBA skill is to get by his man and into the lane can’t figure out that, when he draws attention going to the hoop, he can dish off to Hickson who should be streaking to the basket at every possible moment.  Hickson got to the line a bunch in this one – which is encouraging – but his 2-8 shooting is not going to get it done.  Byron Scott should really just break it down for J.J. like this: “Okay, J.J., any time you find yourself on the court and you don’t know exactly what to do, cut really hard toward the basket.  Should you find yourself unencumbered in that, jump really high.  Hopefully there will be a basketball finding you at some point during that equation.  If so, please feel free to score it.” Yes, thank you, I know I’ve just grossly simplified the game of basketball.  But if even 10% of my faux-Byron-Scott-rant is sound offensive strategy, it needs to get to these guys and if it takes presenting it in a mocking tone from a guy whose best scoring average was .8PPG (and that was in the 8th grade), so be it.

NBA Basketball


WHERE HAVE YOU GONE SASHA PAVLOVIC? (or, our organization turns its lonely eyes to Hughes…)

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It’s hard to believe that some people actually thought that this team was going to play defense. People who said that, since Mike Brown was a good defensive coach, the players under his tutelage, the now remnants of a contender, would continue to play good defense were just not looking at this roster very closely.

What’s probably closer to the truth is that many of us mistook the belief that this team would play hard (because they are used to winning and want that winning to continue at as high of a rate as could reasonably be expected) and that they would play with a chip on their shoulder (because LeBron thought they weren’t good enough … though, I can’t even imagine LeBron, even at the moment of his decision, thought they were this not good enough) for the belief that they would play defense.

We also thought they’d shoot over 40% fairly often.

Neither of those, it turns out, are even close to the case. I don’t really blame the guys on the roster (well, I blame some more than others … and I do blame them all for that Heat game in Cleveland) because these guys are playing at the same level they have for years.  Defensively, anyway.  Offensively, most of them, if they don’t figure out a handful of things that can be effective, will be vying for the worst statistical year of their careers.

But, back to the defense…

In 2009-10 the Cavaliers ranked 6th in the NBA in overall defense. In 2008-09 we were 1st, in 07-08 we were 9th, in 06-07 we were 5th and in 05-06 we were 10th.  Mike Brown would run out the unexciting backcourt of Larry Hughes at the point and Sasha Pavlovic at the 2 and their height, length and generally well-intentioned athleticism, combined with a 7’3” center, the 6’10” Drew Gooden (who was J.J. Hickson long before J.J. Hickson knew he’d become the J.J. Hickson that I’d be writing way too many words about some day … though Gooden was actually a pretty decent rebounder) and a 6’8” forward who was learning how to play elite NBA defense (see: blocks, chase down) made for a pretty obviously successful unit.  Yes, pick and rolls killed us.  Yes, fast point guards killed us (and they still do).  But this was a defense that could clamp down on you, get into the passing lanes, block a shot or two and rebound the hell out of the ball.

So, you’ll forgive this line-up being only 1/5 worth watching on offense – and, then, only in the last few seconds after he was done dribbling out the clock at the top of the key.

Eric Snow would be in there too.  Varejao was developing.  Ira Newble has box scores proving he played in NBA games. Donyell Marshall was tall.

This line-up (in some very similar form or another) got us to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in 06 and then the NBA Finals in 07.

Oh, and we hated this line-up, didn’t we? Save for a player here and there (well, one in particular), these weren’t the types of players that get you over the top.

Apparently, GM Danny Ferry agreed and in the 07-08 season, we start to lose some of the pieces of what was, at least, a Finals-worthy defensive unit.  As we all know, out went Larry Hughes (do you remember how excited you were by that?), Drew Gooden, Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall (and two throw-ins in Cedric Simmons and a guy, Shannon Brown, who’s having a pretty damn good run with the Lakers … though, if it meant getting rid of Hughes, so be it) and in came Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Delonte West (the Delonte era had begun!) and Wally Szczerbiak.

The Cavs maintained their height, slowness of foot and offensive underwhelming-ness, but they had some guys with attitude, who would get up on you, who would play hard.  They also got Wally Szcerbiak.

And what did we get?  We got that great series with the Celtics, who would go on to make winning the NBA championship look relatively easy.

If only we’d had a guy or two who could make some shots.

Hello, Mo Williams.

When Mo got here, people were already asking Mike Brown about Mo’s … um, lack of defensive success.  Mike Brown said everything would be fine.  The scheme was in place.  Even though a Mo and Delonte backcourt would be shorter than he’d like, Delonte was a good defender, LeBron was nearing All-NBA in defense, Ben Wallace was still there. Varejao was there. Z was still tall.  You couldn’t take that away from him!

And that group was top-10 in Rebounds and Blocks, as well as in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage.  The Cavs still played at a relatively slow pace.  So, the fact that they had some tough guys to shoot around on the floor, would get more than their share of rebounds – and, the new wrinkle, they’d knock down threes on the other end – and, if you’ll remember, they shut the book on many games that year before the fourth quarter had even started.

But Ben Wallace got hurt and was never the same (until he was roughly the same the past two years with the Pistons).  Szcerbiak got hurt and was never the same (and would never play again).  And our inability to deal with Dwight Howard in the playoffs meant we had to go get more help.

Out went Sasha Pavlovic (who had, in fact, long since fallen out of rotation esteem) and in comes Shaq.  Out also went Z’s confidence in this organization.  Delonte’s legal/emotional problems went all the way to include playing well at the game of basketball.  In came an older Anthony Parker, and injured Leon Powe and an … how do I put this? … willing to take our money Jamario Moon (because, remember, LeBron wasn’t committing to free agents that he was going to stay).  Then, with the mid-season trade for Antawn Jamison, we now had a team of incredibly nice guys.  And they had fun together … until half of them left.

Our current crop cracks the statistical top-10 in just one category: turnovers.  It is 22nd in defense (which actually seems high) and 26th in rebounding. Varejao’s looking around like he’s going to go Black Swan on us at any minute.  The guys we are left with are not built to be a successful defensive unit – and they’ve all been around long enough to know what they can do, to know who they are.  That is stuff that you don’t change with coaching, or even mind-set or attitude.  You change that with different players.  Not all different, as I’ve said before.  But we need to start being honest about what our weaknesses are earlier in the process than we’ve been doing so far.

The players on our team are incredibly easy to like.  They are just, also, very easy to score on.

NBA Basketball



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Dear, Cleveland Cavaliers:  at the risk of sounding like I’m trying to pick you up at a bar, may I please say, “Heaven must be missing an NBA team because that resounding crash we just heard was obviously you all falling from the sky.  And hitting the ground hard.  And shattering into hundreds of pieces.  And then being balled up and collectively slammed to the ground again.  And then I think a dog peed on you.”

Byron Scott questioned the existence of your balls.  You lost to (when everything shakes out) one of the better teams in the league by 29.  Then you lose to one of the weaker teams in the league (based on record and them missing their leading scorer) by 34.  Luckily, the growing frustration of these two losses finally moved you to action: a 10 point loss in Detroit to the Pistons (who also suck, by the way) will allow us all to stand tall, shoulders back, head up, forks plunged deep into each of our eyes.

The good news: we may not have to dismantle the team to end up in the high end of the lottery in June.

The bad news: if that’s the case, how do we get rid of these guys?

Clearly, teams are going to look at the Cavs struggles and start to kick the tires on trades for players like Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams.  In the interest of finding something to be optimistic about, let’s look at who we have that someone might want and what, if anything, we might get for him.

Chris Grant has got to be kicking himself at not seeing that this team was built with a balsa wood bottom just waiting for the chance to drop out.  But I don’t blame him.  We may still end up winning some games and playing some respectable basketball, but the tendencies that led to this weekend’s performances (and, yes, the weekend begins on Thursday) – poor defense, lack of effort on either end, seemingly having no idea what might work on offense, doing whatever they felt like rather than sticking to a plan – do not bode well for us over the course of the season.

See, if Chris Grant had known this was going to happen, he would have been much more receptive to a trade that was rumored during the summer: sending Mo Williams to Sacramento.  What we would have gotten back is unclear – but five months ago you could have said the words “Mo Williams” and “former All-Star” in the same sentence without throwing up a little in your mouth.  Mo would look great with the Kings (he doesn’t play defense, Tyreke Evans is LeBron Lite) and we could have maybe gotten a first round pick from them or, barring that, one of their excess of big men such as Jason Thompson, who they recently were reported to be offering the Hawks for Jeff Teague (and which the Hawks turned down).

Do I want Mo to be traded for a power forward/center who averages 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in just over 17 minutes a game?  Not straight up, I don’t.  But would I be willing to do that if the Kings included a first round pick (or maybe a couple second rounders that we might be able to convert into first round picks at some point)?  I would listen to that offer.  Thompson is 6’11”, 24 years old and has shown to possess … god, what is that thing … I haven’t seen it in a while … Oh, yes.  Talent.

Do the Kings make that trade? Right now, I doubt we get much more from them than Thompson, if DeMarcus Cousins head-caseness hasn’t made them less likely to get rid of one of their bigs.  And I don’t see much reason for them, sitting at 4-14 to see Mo as their ticket to the playoffs.  Deals with teams who end up not being as good as they think they will be happen during the summer (when they still think they’re going to be good).  The mid-season deals are usually with contenders and, therefore, usually mean you’re getting less for your players, especially where picks are concerned.

Mo remains an important piece to the Cavaliers.  Everything being equal, I’d love to see Mo stay.  I like watching him play.  I like rooting for him.  But Mo also remains a very flawed important piece to the Cavaliers, one who can clearly be shut down by good teams with good players.  He has offensive talent, but he needs space to be effective.  That space used to be provided by LeBron James.  It could be provided by other players either here or elsewhere, but the Cavaliers are no longer a team that allows Mo Williams to look as good as he should.  He also has two more player option years after this one at roughly $8.5 million each.  Very reasonable, given the right trade partner.

I still don’t think you trade Varejao. I think that, as long as he doesn’t run himself into the ground while we remain not good, you keep a 28 year old, 6’10” guy who every other team in the league would want.  Come the trading deadline, I’d guarantee (but won’t because I have no way of validating this claim) that Grant gets besieged by calls about Varejao.  Even if you do decide to trade him, you don’t have to hurry.  Barring injury, people will continue to want Andy for the duration of his (again) very tradable contract (thank you, Danny Ferry).  And I think he’s worth at least a first rounder and some type of player (now, I’m not saying good) to the right team.

But then, see, we have Antawn Jamison.  I pushed so long for us to trade for Jamison that it really hurts me that we’ve ended up at this point.  I don’t see his deal as unmovable, but let’s at least say it’s very selectively movable. Based on his combination of age, bad knees and $15 million salary next year, the fit for Jamison will have to be (as we thought it was for us last year) perfect.  And we shouldn’t hold our breaths about what we might be able to get back.  That $15 million makes him more tradable next year as an expiring deal (and those deals happen – especially as part of a package – no matter how much a players skills have deteriorated), but I can see a few teams out there who we might get to bite this year.

I’m going to throw three names out: the Dallas Mavericks, the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks.

Do I think he’ll go to Dallas?  No, not really.  But I could see him fitting back into that team as frontcourt scoring off the bench and Mark Cuban doesn’t shy away from taking on contracts.  I’m dangling the Bulls out there – again, thinking of Jamison as being a bench option, but I could see him working really well with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.  But he’d probably work in a way very similar to Carlos Boozer.

The team I’d be keeping on speed-dial is the Knicks. If they continue to play well – and their recent play suggests that they should be in the mix for the 5-8 seed in the East.  But the Knicks are, by no means, a finished product.  They could use Jamison’s veteran presence (his good veteran presence … not the bad part of it that we’re trying to dump) on a team that hasn’t experienced much success yet.  Again, he’d probably be coming off the bench, but he’s a good enough scorer and rebounder (and a poor enough defender) to possibly make a very good showing in Mike D’Antoni’s offense.  The problem is that the Knicks want to sign Carmelo Anthony this summer and Antawn’s deal might make that tough for them to do – unless they’re able to deal him to a team that wants the eventual cap relief after the season.

Or maybe I’m just used to the Knicks making moves that help out other teams more than them.

Come on, Donnie Walsh, call up your inner-Isiah and help the Cavaliers out.  You know you want to.

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Everyone loves a good story.

Everyone from Charles Barkley to ESPN to players and coaches from every team imaginable from every sport imaginable to those who paid to be in attendance last night all took turns putting their spin on a very good story. We all know this story by now and it goes like this:  star leaves, acts like jerk, betrays town, town mad, town want star to fail.

Even beyond the groundswell of negative sentiment currently wrapped around LeBron James like so much kingly garb, the fact remained: everyone would win if James flopped on his return to Cleveland.

Everyone would win because then the story could continue.  Our anger could continue.  The media attention could and, with it, interest (maybe even relevance) would continue.  James would take a hit, unable to exorcise his famously unfabulous last handful of games at the Q.  But, really, James would be fine.  The important thing was to keep the story going.

Instead, the Cavaliers decided to close the book on that story, possibly for good.

The Cleveland fans got their catharsis.  They got their boos, their chants of “asshole” (and their chant of “Delonte” too, god bless ‘em) and they got about 12 minutes into the game before all that good feeling evaporated, replaced with something closer to the feeling of getting bashed over the head, thrown in a burlap sack and then tossed into the freezing waters of nearby Lake Erie.

Cleveland does not get to be “Believeland,” not when you lose at home by 29.  Cleveland does not get to see their righteous rage supported by a plucky group of the players James left behind, not when your team can’t play defense like they have any interest in actually keeping the other team from scoring.  Cleveland does not get to show James that he left the better situation behind, not when the Cavs shoot 36% from the field, their starting backcourt goes 3-12, the new start-in-grooming has a team-worst +/- of -27 and their current go-to guys (Mo and Jamison … see, the fact that I even had to specify who I was talking about shows something) combine for 22PTs on 6-18 shooting.

Cleveland does not get a lot of things.  This should come as no shock.

What Cleveland does get, however, is a troubling reminder of one of the other stories the hovered over LeBron’s decision to leave: the idea that professional athletes may have little vested interest in what the fans think and feel.

This should come as no shock either.  But it does a little.  It is the bear trap of being a sports fan.  You know not to step in it, but then someone has to go and put a delicious pie on the trigger and now you’re missing half a leg.  And the reason that the missing leg hurts so much (I mean, besides the fact that you’ve just had part of your body torn off by a spring-loaded metal vice with teeth…) is that it runs counter to the narratives that make watching sports fun.  The moment I have to remind myself that the relationship between myself and the players on the field is one of fundamental distance and not fundamental likeness, I have to wonder why I bother – and no one wants that.

After “The Decision,” people couldn’t imagine how LeBron couldn’t have foreseen the near-total negativity he generated by announcing his plans the way he did.  He had to know how Cleveland would take it, right?  Everyone says he’s big on the history of the game, so he must know how hurt Cleveland was by Jordan’s shot in ’89 – and how strongly they felt about all of their other “if only that one crap-tacular thing hadn’t happened we’d feel a lot better about ourselves as a greater metropolitan area right now” moments.

I learned that I have no way of guessing what might be going on in the head of LeBron James.  Again, nothing shocking.  But what, I believe, can be said is this:  if he did know, it didn’t matter to him all that much.  His greater self-promotion was what ruled the decision-making process and what was probably confused, at the time, for his greater self-interest.  And you cannot fault LeBron James in making a choice he regarded as being in his best interest.  If he had stayed, it would have been self-interest that made him stay – we just would have liked the interest a lot more.

I feel pretty certain in saying this: this game against the Heat was of greater self-interest to the fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers than it was for the players.

The problem was that they showed us this. They showed us so unmistakably that the illusion wasn’t just shattered, there was no point even making a case for it.

Way to screw the archetypal narrative, guys.  Very post-modern of you.

I do not think any player enjoys losing a game – and I do not doubt that the manner in which they lost this one kept a good number of the players up at night.  But the players will be put in future situations – possibly very soon – that will allow them to feel better and to put this loss behind them.

The way it’s looking, though, their fans won’t have that option.  Not for a while, anyway.

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Cavs 87  Celtics 106

There’s a phrase sports fans like to use when the unexpected happens.  They like to say “That’s why you play the game.”

For instance, while it wasn’t outlandish that an emotional Cavs team might have pulled an upset at home against the Celtics in their home opener this year, they were still unlikely to win that game.  But, that’s why you play the game.

There should be a different expression for when what happened Tuesday night in Cleveland against these same Celtics.  Something like “We didn’t need to play this game after all.”

This one followed the standard plot of plucky home underdog (though, I’m not entirely sold that “plucky” is the beside description for us this year) versus Eastern Conference power.  Home team goes up big in the opening minutes, the power fights back at the end of one and by halftime the outcome looks pretty secure for the power.

And then there’s the little issue of Rajon Rondo going for 23/5/12 with much of that damage coming in the first half.

This game was what we thought it was going to be.

Mo did not have a banner outing, scoring 13 on 5-12 shooting and only 4 assists.  I do not see a skill that Mo possesses that makes me feel comfortable about him matching up with Rondo.  None.

Good job on the boards, J.J. Hickson!  11 rebounds for J.J., though none of them were on the offensive end and then there was the little issue of the one point on 0-4 shooting.  Byron Scott tells me he’ll be fine.  He also tells me that the entire team will be fine.  What Bryon really needs to tell me is whether he’s talking about this year or 2014.  Right now, I’m not feeling too confident in J.J. being able to do two good things at once while on the floor. Be more specific with me, Byron, how exactly is this all going to be fine?

This is the second straight game where our much ballyhooed bench has rolled over and played dead.  Is it “as Jamario Moon goes in the rotation, so will the sucking go?”  I don’t want it to be like this Jamario.  You were a Globetrotter, after all.  Your former team once helped Scooby Do solve mysteries!

Oh, and, hello, Antawn Jamison.  In three of your last four games, you have gone for 6PTs, 8PTs and 6PTs again (with 22 in the loss to Orlando on Friday night).  Yes, the Cavs won two of Antawn’s three sub-par scoring games, but we are absolutely toast if he’s not scoring closer to 14-18 PPG. Boobie’s been solid … and we’ll give Boobie some slack on the scoring because he’s usually busy doing some pretty good stuff while on the floor.  But one 12-18 PPG scorer off the bench isn’t going to cut it.  Again, if this continues, toast for all…

Let’s hope Thursday’s game is one that shows us why they play, ‘cause I’m looking at some ugly storylines otherwise.

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Cavs 92 Grizzlies 86

I didn’t get to watch this game live, but pouring over the stats and recaps, there are three things I’d like to mention:

1.) J.J. Hickson got a lot of praise from Byron Scott (and the media) after the game.  16PTs, 5REBs and a block for J.J. on 6-11 shooting and a wonderous +17 for the game.  Going against a tremendous scorer/rebounder in Zach Randolph (who was “held” to 13/11 on the game), J.J. seems to have done … um, acceptably.  But welcome to where acceptable can be a game changer.

2.) Welcome back, Starting 5.  Mo led an all + starting five with a +/- of +27.  J.J. came in last with the +17.  If your starters are falling between those two, not too bad.  Bad news: our bench was absolutely ravaged tonight.  But welcome to where baby steps still make you feel really good.

3.) Nice little game from Mo Williams.  25 and 12 on 10-21 shooting and a much more Mo-like 4-6 from 3.  This will be an interesting week for Mo.  He’ll have to deal with Rondo destroying him in some capacity on Tuesday and then be relied on for a big game on Thursday.  Mo looks like he’s getting up to speed after his injuries and whether he figures out ways to be effective in two big games this week will go a long way toward defining the season for Mo.