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

Posts Tagged ‘New York Knicks’



Thoughts on The Beard…

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Thanks to Brian Windhorst for shining a light on why the “Cavs to amnesty Baron Davis” rumor – though lacking a fair amount of competitive basketball sense – refuses to go away.

Apparently, it’s Davis himself who has continued to fan the flames, hoping to find his way off the Cavaliers roster and onto another one more … what’s that word … oh, yeah “good.”

This makes sense if you’re Beardly because, even though this year’s Cavs team will not be as bad as last year’s (presumably), you (Beardly) are probably not going to be around by the time this thing fully turns itself around.  The team has already drafted its point guard of the future (oh, he of 11 NCAA games) and you are still (arguably) a top-10 (to 15) point guard when you’re healthy, so you can imagine that it doesn’t look to too appealing to spend your last two years in your relative-prime (Beardly is only 32 – or, to put it another way, about 17 years younger than Steve Nash) to be the mentor to a 19-year old rookie and the team’s de facto 2 guard.  We’re seeing the same thing from the recently amnestied Chauncey Billups, as he’s telling teams to back off the waiver wire and let him become a free agent.

The difference is that Chauncey has already been waived – and was a casualty of the amnesty clause so that the Knicks could get far enough under the cap to sign Tyson Chandler.  The Cavs, in regard to Baron Davis, have no such Tyson Chandler on the radar. Were they to amnesty Baron Davis, seemingly, it would be so that he doesn’t become disgruntled and a bad influence on the team’s young players.  That is how much the Cavs seem to fear Disgruntled Baron – they would rather pay him the nearly $29 million remaining on his contract (minus whatever he would get paid by the team that picks him up) to not bring that bad attitude (which, it should be noted, we have never actually seen from Baron since coming to Cleveland last year, but that is as part of the BD myth as the beard and the belly).

Part of me gets that.  But that part is not as large as the one that thinks that caving (that’s right, I said it – boom!) to Beardly’s wish to play elsewhere is not good for the Cavs because of (to steal a Stern-ism) “basketball reasons.”

How can you part with a top-10 (or 15) point guard and get nothing in return except for the ability to pay him to help another team win games.  What other team, you ask?

The Lakers were the talk several weeks ago, but it looks like they’ll be getting a certain veto-inspring star after all.  The Knicks just signed Mike Bibby and (if I understand how the amnesty waiver system works – and I admittedly DO NOT KNOW how the amnesty waiver system works) won’t have the money or room for Beardly.  You could see him having some value for the Celtics, Thunder and Grizzlies as a back-up.  And, I repeat, he could still start for over half the teams in the league (give or take a quarter of the teams in the league).

So, no perfect fit, right?  I’m not … I’m not forgetting anyone, am I?  There’s no team out there who could use another player with some star-level talent to help round out a team with an abundance of star-level talent?  Oh, yeah … them.  Clearly, Dan Gilbert wants no part in paying Beardly to increase the Miami Heat’s chances of winning a championship.  Gilbert would rather, I’m guessing, eat his own face.  Or maybe he’s just hoping to drive Baron to pout and gain a ton of weight before waiving him hoping that he’ll be in Miami for exactly 48-hours before getting tired by all of the “Wait, which one is Eddy Curry?” comments.  Maybe…

If I were Chris Grant, I think I’d approach Beardly in a way probably very similar to the way Chris Grant has already approached Beardly: “Hey, Baron, we understand that you want to play for a winner.  You helped yourself by coming in last year and playing well and helping the team win some games.  If you keep with us and keep that up, we will find a contending team to take you on either at the deadline this year or next year.”  Clearly, that’s not what Beardly wants to hear – since it clouds what would otherwise be a very easy solution.  But Grant (and Gilbert) must have the guts to put up with Davis until they are able to acquire more assets (or even just asset) in parting with him.  We still don’t have much value on this franchise.  Baron Davis has value.  The Cavaliers must figure out how to maximize that value.

NBA Basketball


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


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


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



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It’s All-Star Weekend now which, as everyone knows, is partly a chance for the league’s biggest talents to compete on geographically demarcated teams in which all of the participants are, as the name suggests, stars and partly a chance for the league to talk up the next big date on its calendar: the Feb. 24 Trade Deadline.

What this has meant for All-Star Weekend so far is that we’ve gotten to hear from all sides of the Carmelo Anthony situation – which is to say, Carmelo Anthony and everyone else who is sick of talking about the Carmelo Anthony situation.  But there are other players afoot for 2/24, as well, and a few of them happen to be current Cavs.

The Cavs recent hot streak (come on, guys, we’ve won 2 of our past 3) has gotten the attention of some apparently cog deficient teams who think that our guys may be the parts that make their machine giddeyup (and, thankfully, it seems like teams are only given any player’s last 3 games worth of tape when deciding whether to trade for them).  About a week ago, I was terrified (but rather certain) that the Cavs would not end up making any trades, since there didn’t seem to be a market for our players (who, in the midst of playing a historically bad stretch of basketball, just didn’t seem that good).  Now, I’m confident that they’ll make some trades.  However, they are probably not going to make the trades we want them to make.

We want them to trade Mo Williams.  That’s not going to happen, mainly because Mo’s on-again-off-again health has killed whatever interest his offensive talents would have been able to generate.  Besides, as I said before, the best fit for Mo is not going to be a team who is in contention right now.  Mo will be a trade made in the off-season, because it’s then that bad teams make some moves and think they will become good.  Mo becomes more appealing to those teams (be they Sacramento, Minnesota, Memphis or … well, someone will think he’s a good piece) when he is a piece to what they are trying to build rather than the piece that puts them over the top or makes them more competitive against, say, the Celtics in the playoffs because we all know that Mo, say, doesn’t do that.

Jamison might go.  And it looks like his most likely destinations are still the ones mapped out by this blog some time ago:  New York and New Orleans.

But we do have some honest to goodness rumors as well – actual evidence that some other team wants to part with its assets in exchange for some of ours.

Our first rumor is taken from a Chris Broussard tweet – and the other is from a credible journalist.  The tweet in question (expounded upon with good insight here by Kurt Helin) says that Sessions, fresh off his shellacking of the Lakers and generally good basketball play, has drawn the interest of Atlanta, Portland and the New York Knicks.

Portland doesn’t make too much sense to me even if, as Helin supposes, that they are planning to part ways with Andre Miller.  Do you really trade Miller and then make another trade to get Sessions?  I think Sessions as anything more than your back-up point guard is a risky trade because … well, look at how long it took him to heat up here – and he was playing with Mo and Boobie on the shelf for a good chunk of time.  Maybe he’s better with better talent around him, but I don’t see that move making sense for Portland.

Atlanta?  Sure.  For two reasons: 1.) they need to make some sort of trade to show people that they are serious about making moves and improving to become an actual threat in the East and 2.) they cannot part with anyone on their roster of any real value. (quick aside: I actually still dream of the trade I suggested last month, where Atlanta would be able to get Steve Nash because I think we deserve to see him hit a cutting Josh Smith more than we need to see him feed a posted Marcin Gortat, but it does look like that ship has sailed…)  And call me crazy, but ever since we gave up a first round pick to get Jiri Welsch, I’m convinced that anyone set to pick between 20-30 should be willing to give up that pick to get someone they want at the deadline.

I will say this again: the Cavs don’t really care about expiring contracts.  They don’t want to take on stupid long contracts, but they don’t need to cut payroll too much since free agency is not going to be their primary method of building.

Would the Cavs do Sessions to the Hawks for their 2012 first round pick?  Yes, they would (especially with the Hawks being one of those teams who could easily have a horrific season out of nowhere).

It’s tough, because Sessions has started to play well for us.  But he is probably not more than a really good back-up and if we can get good value for him (i.e. something that could turn into someone better than a really good back-up), we take it.

But then there’s the Knicks.  Say, Carmelo doesn’t come through for them (or, maybe, even say that he does and they want to make some moves to better stock the team around him and Amar’e).  Do we send Sessions and Jamison to New York for Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry and his expiring contract (not because it’s valuable, just because it may be one of their only assets at that point) an a pair of second round picks?

That’s a little tougher.  I say, go Hawks and get a first rounder in the mid-20s and be happy.  We’ll see…

The other rumor, as reported by Marc Stein at ESPN.com, has the Celtics and Bulls interested in Anthony Parker.

I’m calling the Celtics bluff here.  They may be making inquiries because Delonte West has been out, but when he comes back he makes taking on Parker a moot point for the playoffs.  But, thank you, Celtics, for making Parker seem in higher demand and possibly upping what the Cavs can get for him.

Parker has played well enough this year (and has had a couple of nice games lately) that it completely makes sense that a contender would bite on him.  And the Bulls have long been rumored as a possible landing place (though, if you look at the Bulls roster, you’ll see they have, like, 5 shooting guards … and, really, none of them is better than Anthony Parker??).  Stein lists the Cavs demands as a “quality draft pick” or a “young big man with promise” which the Bulls have in either Omer Asik or their … well … quality draft picks. Even if the Bulls don’t want to give up on Asik – who, as a young 7-footer, the Cavs would be doing cartwheels to get – they’ll have a first round pick in the mid-late 20s which, to me, is quality enough for Anthony Parker.  If the Bulls offer Asik do the Cavs make the deal?  Yes.  If they offer their 2011 first rounder for Parker, do the Cavs make the deal?  Yes.

So, all is not lost for Cleveland on the trade front. If just the Sessions/Atlanta trade and the Parker/Chicago’s pick trade I offered come through, the Cavs would then have 2 first rounders this year, 2 second rounders this year and 2 first rounders and 2 second rounders next year.  Not bad.  Or, if the Parker/Asik trade occurred, we’d have a front line next year that could feasibly have a rotation of Sasha Kaun/Asik/Anderson Varejao/J.J. Hickson – which could be worse, considering you’d also be bringing in a high-drafted rookie.

All speculation for now.  But possibly the best (only?) thing the Cavs did well this season was to get “hot” at just the right time.

NBA Basketball



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Ah, Antawn Jamison… How I remember the years I spent hoping that you’d find your way into a Cleveland uniform.  And then you finally did and … um … well, I’m not going to hold the last seven months of Cavaliers history and performance against you.  You are a pro’s pro – a sportsman’s sportsman.  Sure, you play defense as though the man you’re trying to guard is one of the infected “biters” from “The Walking Dead,” but you are still a pretty highly skilled NBA player.  You’re just not as highly skilled a player as this team needs if it’s going to compete on a consistent basis. So, since you’re on the back-end of your career and while I still like you as a person, it’s probably time for us to part ways … give you another chance to win something in the playoffs and possibly be an even greater asset to your new team next year as you’re carrying around a $15 million expiring contract and give the Cavaliers … ah, well, we’d probably take just about anything.

I have to think we’d settle for a pick or two.  A late first-rounder.  A couple of second rounders.  Anything!  But, then, we’re not getting rid of Antawn to save money, he just doesn’t fit into our plans, so don’t be surprised if we take on, maybe, some contracts that go beyond next season, if we can get some better draft considerations out of it.

Jamison’s strong play (well, on the offensive side of the ball, anyway) since he’s been reinserted into the starting line-up has allegedly started teams a-lookin’.  Assuming he’d be going to a playoff team at the deadline, RAISING THE CADAVALIER is going to take a look at his possible destinations and see if there’s that one, sweet match out there.  Up first, the Eastern Conference:

(Note: this is based on teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended on 01/15/11 … not to be mistaken with the Cavaliers, whose season ended on 12/02/10…)

Boston: the Celtics do like their aging veterans.  In fact, just this week, it was rumored that Rasheed Wallace would come back and play for the Celts to close out the season and be available for the playoffs.  Combine the chance of that with the fact that the Celtics are well stocked at the 4 and 5 spots and I can’t really see them giving Jamison a sniff.  Maybe they’re waiting until he turns 36.  Just two years to go, Celtic fans!

Miami:  yeeeeeeah … can’t imagine we’d be helping them any time soon.  Or vice versa (as, really, someone taking Jamison from us is doing us a favor as well … )

Chicago:  I can’t really see Jamison helping out the Bulls very much.  Carlos Boozer is a good enough outside shooter that Jamison’s “stretch-4”ness isn’t bringing as much to their table.  Plus, for a team with a defensive-minded coach, you can see Jamison taking as much away from a team as he’s giving.

Atlanta:  Okay, here’s the first one that starts to make sense.  Atlanta really liked having Joe Smith last season and Jamison would be able to contribute to the team in many of the same ways as Smith.  Plus, you’d be adding another dynamic scorer to a team that, let’s face it, has already signed Joe Johnson to the year’s stupidest deal and is as backed into a corner as anyone.  Atlanta can’t do that Johnson deal and then continue to be supremely middle-of-the-pack (well, I mean, they can … that’s what they’ve done so far).  I’m not convinced that Atlanta would be willing to take on the extra salary, but he’s a hell of a lot better than Josh Powell as a back-up big, and I could see someone in Atlanta’s front office thinking that a little more depth and versatility (which Jamison would bring) might squeak the Hawks into, maybe, the conference finals (though, probably not really).

Cleveland would be happy to take a Hawks first-rounder this year, where they’d be picking in the low-20s.

This, of course, is not the trade the Hawks should make.  They should be the team who ends up getting Steve Nash should the Suns move him… but more on that later.

Orlando:  Ryan Anderson seems to be their “stretch-4” of choice now that Rashard Lewis is gone.  I don’t see how Antawn fits here, in any way.

New York:  I brought this up before.  If the Knicks miss out on Carmelo Anthony (which is to say, if he’s traded to the Nets and signs an extension there) then the Knicks probably look to add a couple of pieces to improve their depth rather than holding onto that potential cap space – and who doesn’t think Jamison would look amazing in a Mike D’Antoni offense?  He practically runs one all by himself already.  Plus, the Knicks have been playing Amar’e major minutes this year.  A back-up 4 with Jamison’s offensive gifts and good rebounding on a team that doesn’t care if he plays defense?  Perfect!  The Knicks might press for us to throw in Daniel Gibson (at which point salary matching quickly becomes a problem), but keep an eye on what the Knicks might do if they whiff on ‘Melo.

Indiana: You have to think that the Pacers would love to make the playoffs this year.  And they probably have the roster to get them this 7th spot (although, Milwaukee should find its way back into the mix eventually).  They start Tyler Hansbrough at power forward.  His back-up is Josh McRoberts.  Jamison’s “stretch-4”ness would benefit low-block, big-man Roy Hibbert.  You’d think he’d free up space for a player like Danny Granger, as well, but there’s no telling that Granger will decide to start driving to the hoop … well … ever again.  Jamison does nothing to help this team long-term (unless, they see the benefit in possibly being able to flip his expiring deal for something interesting next season), but it seems like he’d improve the line-up of a team that would really like to show that they can be competitive again.

Philadelphia:  Let’s assume that whoever is clinging to the 8th spot in the East in January is … well, let’s just say, I’m sure this spot will be subject to much change before the season is through.  And, no, they probably don’t want Antawn Jamison either.

In the East, anyway, there’s not that one team who needs Jamison’s skill-set as particularly as the Cavaliers did last year.  And, let’s face it, at this stage of his career/contract, you trade for Jamison only if you think he fills a particular need that will make you sizably more competitive in the playoffs.  Next year, he’ll be a great contract and any number of teams might part with something to get the relief of his expiring deal.  Unfortunately, despite what it feels like to Cavaliers fans this season, it’s not actually next year yet.

NBA Basketball



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Yesterday, ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that the New York Knicks were looking at possible second options if the unlikely event of them not getting Carmelo Anthony comes to pass.  One Plan B he mentioned makes some sense.  The Knicks would finally liberate Andre Iguodala from Philadelphia for this year’s anthropomorphized expiring contract: Eddie Curry.  Sure, the Sixers would probably want a little more back than cap relief – but none of Iguodala’s possible suitors are perfect and there are some smaller pieces that the Knicks might be willing to give up that could make Curry’s expiring deal the best, if not for the Sixers, then certainly for Iguodala.

And, who knows, maybe Philadelphia would actually attempt to give Eddy Curry some court time.  Aren’t you even the least bit interested in seeing that?

Then Broussard got to his second hypothetical Knick move.  They’d love to acquire Daniel “Boobie” Gibson and Anderson Varejao from the Cavs. He doesn’t specify what the Knicks might be offering the Cavs who, still sitting on a $14 million trade exception, don’t really need additional payroll relief.  The Cavs would want picks (which, remember, if the Knicks had some good picks, they’d probably have Carmelo already) or one or two of their better young players (since they’d be … you know … taking away the most productive players on our team) and I don’t really see them wanting to part with Chandler, Gallinari and/or Landry Fields to get Boobie and Andy – and, let’s face it, those are the only three that might even make the Cavs consider dealing.

If the Knicks want Mo Williams, I’m sure they could put together a package to get him – but I’m not sure that’s the move the Knicks would consider making, at least not right now.  The Knicks are in a position very similar to where the Cavs have been for the last several years: they don’t really have the young players or draft picks to make trades.  The young players they do have are playing a lot and are crucial to the so-far-so-success of the Knicks, so there’s no reason they’d give up enough of those pieces to a team who doesn’t really need salary relief in order to get two of their better players.

It doesn’t make any sense to me.  I don’t know why Broussard thinks it does.

In fact, as I’ve said before, I think Boobie and Varejao are the two players you keep during the rebuild.  That’s not saying that they’re untouchable.  But we can still be bad enough to get high draft picks (as evidenced by the last month) and have players who will allow a team to be further along when it finds its new direction than it would be otherwise.

Do you remember 2003-2006?  All we did was try to find three-point shooters to put around LeBron.  Boobie’s a much better option than Damon Jones, isn’t he?  Boobie’s got some round edges to his game, even if he will always be thought of, first, as a shooter.  And the things Varejao does … I’ll keeping saying this:  there’s a reason every other team in the league would take this guy.  You always need players to do the things that he does with his defense and activity and you can’t always find them (see: Hickson, J.J.).

The 2003 roster had Zydrunas Ilgauskus, so the cupboard wasn’t completely empty. But it took us so long to find the other pieces that contribute to a winning team.  Boobie and Andy will not win us too many games by themselves, but you can argue that the experience of carrying this team will make them an even better supporting cast should our next franchise player get here sooner rather than later.

In on of his podcasts last week, Bill Simmons talked to Wizards and Capitals owner, Ted Leonsis, and Leonsis had some good thoughts on rebuilding a team (which he did with the Capitals and is now doing with the Wizards).  He talked about how teams with long-running success identify their guys and let those guys grow in the organization, about how you almost never see the free-agent sweepstakes lead to championships.  He pointed to Jordan and the Bulls, Duncan and the Spurs and – the most interesting one – Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher for the Lakers.

No, Kobe’s not the interesting part of that (though he has been with the Lakers his entire career).  It’s that Leonsis talked about both of them, saying that the “starting backcourt” for so many successful teams was built with two first-round picks who have played together for a very long time.  Derek Fisher is not the player that Kobe Bryant is – and no one is comparing Boobie to Michael Jordan or Varejao to Hakeem Olajuwon – but good young talent is, as we know from following Cavaliers drafts for so many years, not really so easy to find.

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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.

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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.