Category Archives: NBA

Cavaliers offend with their offense

After declaring a rebirth of sorts for the Cleveland Cavaliers in my last piece, I now feel a bit of egg running down my face after the team has dropped two very winnable games this past week. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss two factors that I think led to these disappointing outcomes.

I have said this before, and it rings true this week as much as it has all season. We MUST win the games we are supposed to win!

No one takes us seriously when we beat the #2 team in the league one week and lose to a sub .500 team the next. It makes fans and the national media question whether we are actually a good team or just putting on a show with smoke and mirrors.

Offensive Strategy: At times, I find the strategy that the Cavaliers decide to use on offense, offensive. Meaning that it offends my common sense approach as an analytical fan.

For example, when the game is close or we are starting to squander a lead late in a game, why on earth do any of these professional players think that the best idea is to run the shot clock down and hoist up a three pointer? Is it an engrained desire to be the hero as they have practiced thousands of times since they were first introduced to the game as kids?

Sure, sometimes the shot goes in and we all talk about how clutch that player is and how they always seem to bail us out. Most of the time, those shots do not go in and amongst fans there seems to be no accountability for having just wasted a crucial possession.

We should be taking high percentage shots from the paint in these situations. This is the most opportune time to rely on Kevin Love.

He has shown over the last few weeks to be not only shooting a high percentage from down there, but it also puts him in a great position to possible secure an offensive rebound for another clock eating possession. I don’t understand why we settle for just running out 24 seconds and taking a low percentage shot when we can get a higher percentage shot and possibly the chance to run out 40 seconds.

I also want to complain about one more strategy on offense that goes hand in hand with the one I just mentioned. That strategy is the isolation play for James.

Yes, I realize that he is The King and can make his way past most defenders one on one and get a high percentage shot, but it is what consistently happens AFTER he makes it past the player defending him that is in question.

Either he takes a tougher than necessary shot trying to get an “And One” and doesn’t get the call, OR if he does get the call and misses we take our chances at the free throw line.

For being a superstar in our league and contending with James Harden for most “And One” opportunities amongst all players, he has been mostly inconsistent at the free throw line. In close games like the 104-103 loss to Boston, #AllFreeThrowsMatter

Another thing that the isolation play does when you run it over and over, is that it gives the opponents time to rest as the play usually consists of James on one end of the court and the rest of the players just standing around watching on the other side. Make these guys run the slalom around picks at the end of the game so that the fatigue catches up with them and they will make more mistakes.

If Lue is dead set on running the ISO in these situation, PLEASE do it with Kyrie! At least he is shooting a reasonable percentage from the line and finishes just as well or better than James.

Bench Play: The contributions off of the bench in these two most recent losses have been truly disappointing as a collective group. Dellevadova being out with a hamstring issue only cements my suspicion that he is maybe the most important component of the second unit.

The strength of the second unit is clearly anchored in Iman Shumpert’s ability to steal the ball and make players think twice about lazy passes. This is an invaluable asset that we have as it gives us more possessions in addition to take potential points off of the board for our adversaries.

From an offensive standpoint, we just cannot produce consistently. Just when we think that Mozgov has “figured it out” he reminds us that there is a reason he is not starting anymore with another blunder at a crucial juncture.

Against the moderately talented Charlotte Hornets all that out five bench players could amass was 13 points. Delly is averaging over 8 points per game on his own so his contributions are clearly missed.

We cannot expect to win close games without these intangibles. I challenge the players and coaches to play a smarter game and, if necessary, make some key changes to the team that put us in a stronger position to contend in the Finals.

Even if we play horribly, we will get one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference purely based on our talent level. Having Kyrie and Love in the Finals this year will not matter though unless some of these issues are corrected.

I’m ready to see if Tyronn Lue is up to that challenge.

Charles Barkley Should Be Rolling Over In His Grave

As the legendry Phoenix sports figure Charles Barkley might say “First of all Ernie, let me tell you something. The Phoenix Suns are turrible. Charles Barkley should be rolling over in his grave.” Now that the near miraculous Arizona Cardinals season has ended in disappointment, the only teams we have currently playing are the Suns and the Coyotes.

The Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks have had pretty similar paths over the past several years. The Suns have finished at or near .500 in three of their past five seasons, with one decent season in 2013-14, and a terrible campaign the year before. The team has not even made the playoffs since 2009-10. The Diamondbacks have also finished exactly at or very close to .500 in three of their last seasons, with 2014 being a very forgettable year.

While this comparison does not seem very encouraging at first, what we have learned from the Diamondbacks is that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. This offseason the D-Backs shook up the baseball hot stove with their huge signing of right handed pitcher Zach Greinke, and also signed RHP Shelby Miller from Atlanta.

During the offseason the Phoenix Suns did everything they could to try and sign coveted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge, but they did not succeed. It seems as if they will need to do something similar this year to try to get a big free agent that can turn things around. At this point the team would be best off trying to tank and lose as many games as possible so they can get more ping pong balls in the draft lottery. If they can get a high draft pick and a big name free agent, the Phoenix Suns might get back to being respectable faster than Charles Barkley can yell for their hated rival “Ginobili!”

 

Trying to Forge an Identity in Indiana

In recent years, the Indiana Pacers have had a strong, recognizable identity. With players like David West and Roy Hibbert in the starting lineup, the Pacers ran a deliberate offense built around set plays. Defensively, they played aggressive, effective team defense and had the benefit of stellar rim protection from Hibbert.

Once David West opted out of his contract and decided to sign with San Antonio, Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird decided the team should go to a more uptempo style. He proceeded to trade Hibbert and make numerous other tweaks to the roster to suit the style he wanted the team to play.

The plan hit a snag early on, when Paul George balked at playing “small ball” because it could mean he’d be spending significant time at the power forward position. Despite this, Bird and head coach Frank Vogel went ahead with the plan.

Initially, the Pacers really took to the new style, getting off to a fast start as the season began. Over time, however, the Pacers have slowly shifted back toward a bigger, more traditional lineup. One of the reasons for this has been the emergence of rookie center Myles Turner. Turner can run the floor and shoot well from the outside, allowing the Pacers to space the floor and play more uptempo, but still have plenty of size in the lineup.

As long as Turner is starting and playing well, Indiana has the best of both worlds when it comes to meshing their old and new styles. The problem here is that the Pacers are caught in the middle – Bird maintains his interest in playing faster and smaller, while Vogel is more comfortable with a bigger lineup, although he does use a smaller lineup from time to time.

Flexibility is a good thing, but only up to a point. The Pacers don’t have an identity right now…no one from the outside really knows what they are, and those within the organization are just as unsure about what kind of team this is or what direction they are taking.

Another consequence that has come from the attempted style change is that the Pacers’ defense has become very inconsistent. At times, their defense has been among the best in the NBA, but other times, their defense has been very porous.

The team is now in a position of having no direction or identity on either end of the floor. On top of that, the individual roles of the players are in flux as well.

In the early part of the year, Paul George was the team’s go-to guy in late-game situations. He wasn’t coming through, and the Pacers were losing nearly all the close games they were involved in. Of late, Monta Ellis has been moved into the “closer” role, but the results haven’t been much better.

So, the team is grasping at straws trying to find a guy who can hit big shots in crunch time…and that situation also creates uncertainty in terms of leadership among the players. NBA teams tend to function best when they have a go-to guy and/or established leader, and Indiana has neither at this point in the season.

Despite all this uncertainty, Indiana is still having a better year than they did in 2014-15. The team shows a lot of promise, but their performances have been up-and-down and they’re hovering just above the .500 mark as a result.

In order to get the most out of this roster, Bird and Vogel need to settle on a rotation and offensive style of play. The inconsistency in the style of play and inconsistent results go hand-in-hand…and establishing an offensive identity will help the defense perform more reliably as well.

Leadership is a more organic parameter, but generally, your best player needs to be your strongest leader. Paul George is still evolving in that role, and has struggled at times to carry the burden of leadership. This element is a shared responsibility among Indiana’s players right now, and the Pacers won’t reach their potential until that area is solidified.

Going into this season, everyone knew this team would be a work in progress. Now that we are about 50 games in, however, the issues they need to work on and resolve have been identified. If the Pacers can make further progress in these areas by April, they’ll be a tough out when playoff time rolls around.

Another January Rebirth for the Cavaliers

Four games, four wins, and an average margin of victory of almost 13 points.

This was the week of basketball provided by our Cleveland Cavaliers under the direction of their new head coach Tyronn Lue. Sure, Lue’s first game last Saturday, a 96-83 loss to Chicago, was likely to give GM David Griffin a small jolt of buyer’s remorse, but these last four games have most certainly solidified his confidence in the decision to replace David Blatt.

I think that it is safe to say that the way this team plays now is notably different from the previous regime. Its the same cast of characters but as a whole, it is a very different narrative.

One of my favorite decisions that Lue made right away is moving Tristan Thompson back into a starting role. If you look at the level of talent that he brings to the court, coupled with the amount of money we invested in him just before the start of the season, having him in the starting lineup just makes good basketball sense.

I know that I have been hard on Timofey Mozgov this season and most of it can be backed up with hard evidence. Having said that, I have not seen him play more consistently than I have in his role coming off of the bench this week.

Thompson and Mozgov are where they now belong in the rotation and I don’t anticipate that changing unless the very healthy and reliable Thompson goes down with an injury. As a Cleveland sports fan it is impossible to not have thoughts of an injury in the back of your mind considering the storied history of maladies that our sports figures have endured that end of derailing our championship hopes and dreams.

Here is an example of just that type of mindset. During our 117-103 victory of the San Antonio Spurs Saturday night, Kyrie Irving had a moment where he seemed to fall awkwardly on his knees and just played there for a moment.

Of course, ABC decided it was a perfect time to take a commercial break without addressing or showing whether Irving stood back up and appeared to be fine. The entire commercial break I was fidgeting in my seat while praying that I would not see an image of trainers working on Irving as soon as the broadcast returned.

Thankfully, I did not see that and there was never any mention of Irving getting up slowly or asking to be subbed out. Did I invent this entire scenario in my own mind or did I simply interpret things incorrectly?

Regardless, all is well in Cavalier country as our team has seemed to reinvent itself again in January. Some of my readers may wonder why I do not go more in depth about Lebron James’ role and accomplishments with this team.

James is the heart of this team and of course we would not be able to compete at the same level without him. Everyone knows that we can rely on him for scoring, defense and leadership.

From last year’s Finals we know that Lebron is not enough singularly to win us an NBA title. The contributions of Love, Irving, Dellavedova, Thompson, Smith and Shumpert are what will determine our eventual success level.

I would like to go player by player and give my opinion of each of those player’s role as it stands today.

Kevin Love – Love must continue to be a threat both inside the paint and outside the arc. He is getting more lift under his three point shots and we have seen a higher percentage of them being made. Under Coach Lue, he has been asked to produce more under the hoop and has not disappointed.

Kyrie Irving – I’ve said it before and I will say it as many times as it is deemed necessary. Irving is the best finisher in the NBA. His penetration under the basket causes defenders to leave their assignments which provides Smith, Love, Shumpert, James or Dellevedova enough space outside the arc to get off a clean, calculated shot when he kicks it out. Irving has been both hot and cold from long distance but any of those others have the potential to knock those down when called upon. Kyrie is a master facilitator in that respect.

Matthew Dellavedova – Delly has been able to not only find the player that we all cheered for against Atlanta in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, but to improve upon that player as well! He is no longer afraid to drive to the hoop and has shown an amazing increase in his three point percentage. He is a part of this team that could not be easily replaced if we lost him.

Tristan Thompson – His presence in the starting lineup is essential to our success. When matched up against the current King of NBA rebounding Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Thompson out rebounded him 14 to 8! This is an example that Cavs fans will do well to remember as we go up against more of the elite teams in this league.

J.R. Smith – Swish, as they call him, has become a much more important part of this team as the year has progressed. He is not only scoring fairly consistently for us but he is starting to contribute in other areas such as steals that are worth just as much as a basket because it takes potential points off of the board for our opponents.

Iman Shumpert – While Shumpert isn’t getting the minutes of J.R. most games, he is still putting forth his best effort with the minutes that he does get. I always look forward to opponents getting “Shumped” when he is on the floor. He is a true student of his adversaries and likely knows things about their tendencies that they may not even be aware of. This leads to a bevy of great defensive work from him.

We are about to embark on our February journey in the NBA. February brings the All Star Break and an opportunity to not only obtain a status report of the respective teams at the half way point of the season, but to remember why they all started playing the game in the first place; their love for it.

In Cleveland, January has been a month of transition for the second year in a row. I have high hopes of what this iteration of the Cleveland Cavaliers has in store for us in the months ahead.

Who to target at the trade deadline?

The NBA Trade Deadline is less than three weeks away on February 18. The Cleveland Cavaliers may be looking to add a piece.

Before we get into who the Cavs will target, you have to ask yourself, “What needs do the Cavs have?”

Offensive-minded Backup for Kevin Love

The Cavs offense struggles mightily with its second unit. Recently, the Cavs have played Love with the second group in order to maintain some level of offensive competency. It’s no secret that when they play Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao at power forward, they lose offense naturally.

Thompson, with his rebounding prowess, is more suited to play the center position. He can get rebounds by the handful. Timofey Mozgov can stretch the floor with his mid-range shot but he is a center and only a center. Varejao’s mid-range shot is unreliable at best. He has added it to his game over the years but has not been able to hit it consistently.

When you decide to rest Love, who do you put out there at power forward? You can go small and put LeBron there and play Iman Shumpert or Richard Jefferson at the small forward position. It is a mismatch against almost every power forward in the NBA to play LeBron at that position. However, LeBron does need his rest during games.

A solution? Find an offensive-minded power forward, a stretch four, to play when Love needs to go to the bench.

A Potential Replacement for Timofey Mozgov

Timofey Mozgov is in the last year of his contract, and with the NBA Salary Cap rising next season, he is going to get a large contract. There has been speculation that the Cavs will try and trade Mozgov before the deadline. If the Cavs do stand pat and keep Mozgov, it is likely that he will not be with the Cavs next season.

According to Nylon Calculus, a basketball statistical breakdown website, Mozgov ranks in the Top 10 in Percent of Shots Contested at the Rim of those who play at least 18 minutes per game. He is a very good rim protector. So if you are going to replace Mozgov, you have to find someone that is near his level, or has the potential to reach Mozgov’s level of rim protection.

Timofey has also developed a mid-range shot. This season, he has hit 67% (12-18) of his shots from the 16-foot to 3-point range, almost all of them from the left side of the basket.

So what happens if you trade Mozgov? You have to find a reliable backup because Thompson will take over the starting role for good. The Cavs lineup is best with Thompson in the lineup. If you can find a young center, or one with a manageable cap number for three or four years due to the luxury tax, that would be ideal.

Who to Target at the Trade Deadline?

Here are seven names (six realistically), that the Cavs could look at to add to their championship roster.

Al Horford – C – Atlanta Hawks
One Year, $12,000,000

Let’s get this one out of the way first because it is least likely. There are very few reasons why the Hawks would trade their All-Star center. Horford is in the last year of his contract at $12-million.

Horford is going to get one more large contract before he retires, more than the three-year, $60 million contract that fellow Hawk Paul Millsap received last summer. He will more than likely get a max contract, which is going to be massive due to the rising cap.

Whether the Hawks are going to pony up and give him that contract remains to be seen. They have two other centers locked up beyond this season, Tiago Splitter and Walter Tavares. Tavares is an interesting prospect and may be seen as the replacement in the future for Horford.

I could give you a hundred reasons why the Cavs would do this trade.

In order to make the trade work, the Cavs would have to give up Varejao along with other assets to even make the Hawks consider it. The Cavs do not have a pick in the 2016 NBA Draft that they own. The Clippers owe them a second round pick but it is Top 55 Protected. They would have to part with more than one first round picks.

Kosta Koufos – C – Sacramento Kings
Four Years, $7,700,000

Koufos would be a great a replacement for Mozgov. The Sacramento Kings have a loaded front-court with DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein. Koufos has been the third man in this rotation.

Koufos does not have much of an outside game, but he is an above-average defender at the rim. He would fit well defensively in the second unit if the Cavs decide to move on from Mozgov.

In order to get Koufos, the Cavs would be able to use the Brendan Haywood trade exception. They could also throw in a player like Sasha Kaun or Jared Cunningham, but what Sacramento could use is draft picks. There is a relationship in the past with the Cavs and Kings from the JJ Hickson and Omri Casspi trade.

Brandon Bass – PF – Los Angeles Lakers
Two Years, $3,000,000

The Lakers will look to be shedding more salary that is on the books for next year with this summer’s free agency class (Kevin Durant). Bass has averaged 18-minutes per game with only six points and four rebounds per game.

He would not provide the offensive spark that the Cavs need in the second unit, but defensively he would be a good addition. The Lakers would not any salary in return that would be on the books for next year. The Cavs would only be able to use the Haywood extension, which would be a complete waste. The Lakers would have to send a draft pick along with Bass for the Cavs to take the contract.

Terrence Jones – PF – Houston Rockets
One Year, $2,100,000 (Restricted Free Agent after season)

This one is interesting. Terrence Jones is a player who has completely fallen out of the rotation in Houston. Unlike Bass, Jones can definitely provide a spark offensively and is a good rebounder. He is a freakish athlete. The Rockets have recently reacquired Josh Smith so his minutes are more likely to continue falling.

For this trade, the Cavs can use the Mike Miller trade exception, which make this a possibility. The Cavs would be able to sweeten the pot with future unprotected first round picks.

Ersan Ilyasova – PF – Detroit Pistons
Two Years, $7,900,000

I have liked Ersan Ilyasova back to his days with Milwaukee. He is a good athlete, can shoot the three. Detroit does not seem to be going anywhere and they are going to need all the cap room necessary to resign Andre Drummond.

For this trade, the Cavs would be able to use the Haywood trade exception and would likely have to include draft picks. He would be the perfect fit into the second unit.

Markieff Morris – PF – Phoenix Suns
Four Years, $8,000,000

Markieff Morris has fallen out of favor with the Phoenix Suns ever since they traded away his twin brother to the Pistons. He is only 26-years old and has a team friendly contract, especially one with a high luxury tax bill, for the next three seasons.

The Suns may just want to get out of this situation with Morris. The Cavs would have to use the Haywood exception but if the Suns would like a player in return, Varejao would be the likely candidate.

Channing Frye – PF – Orlando Magic
Three Years, $8,100,000

Let’s finish with my odds-on-favorite players for the Cavs to land at the trade deadline. Channing Frye is an older Kevin Love who is not as good at rebounding, but he can definitely shoot. Frye can still give you valuable minutes off the bench behind Love.

Orlando has been trying to rebuild their team since Dwight Howard wanted out of there. At 32-years old, the Cavs would have Frye for the next two seasons and would be the absolute perfect fit in their rotation.

So what would the Magic want? Draft picks. The Cavs can use the Haywood trade exception here again along with draft picks to pry Frye away from the Magic.

Dream Scenario

The Cavs use the Haywood trade exception on Frye and trade Varejao along with say Cunningham and Kaun for Al Horford. Let’s just way that won’t happen.

Personal Favorite Scenario

Channing Frye and Markieff Morris would be two great additions to the Cavs bench and would keep this championship roster together for a few more seasons.

David Griffin ushers in a Lue era in Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers have set another record this week, though it remains to be seen whether it is one to be proud of or sorry for.

David Blatt celebrates with LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 101-97. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
David Blatt celebrates with LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 101-97. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Around 3:55pm on Friday, the Cleveland sports world let out a collective gasp when it was broken by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the sports world’s premier NBA insider, that the Cavaliers organization had terminated Head Coach David Blatt. Not only was this news shocking and puzzling but it was simultaneously reported that Assistant Coach Tyronn Lue was being promoted to the position of Head Coach.

Lue would not assume the title of Interim Coach as is the traditional procedure when a coach is unexpectedly fired. He was immediately given the moniker of Head Coach with even some rumors of a two to three year deal already having been negotiated.

The aforementioned record that was set, is that Blatt is the first coach, since the league separated into two conferences, to ever be terminated when his team had the best win/loss record in their conference. That is not exactly what I would have hoped for in terms of a ground breaking statement, but the effectiveness of this strategy is yet to be determined.

Cavs General Manager David Griffin held a press conference Friday and alluded to the team not showing an inability to “galvanize” under Blatt’s leadership. He felt that the team was at a crossroads in terms of fixing this problem and a change needed to be made in order to continue moving towards their common goal of bringing an NBA championship to the City of Cleveland.

The primary and obvious speculation is that the decision, as many have been in the past two seasons, was influenced directly by Lebron James. Both Griffin and James have denied publicly that James had any say or that he was consulted on the final decision.

Do I think James went to Griffin and “suggested” that Lue be promoted and Blatt let go? No, I do not.

Do I think that James has had ups and downs with Blatt in terms of their coach/player relationship and that he may have known in the back of his head that this would be the end result someday? Absolutely, 100%.

It is important to note that the decision of who to name as the head coach of the Cavaliers was made BEFORE James announced his intent to return to Cleveland in July of 2014, and that while Griffin favored Lue to receive the position, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert preferred Blatt. This must have spawned an interesting conversation over at Quicken Loans Arena when the Sports Illustrated cover was revealed.

OK, Blatt is out and Lue is now the head coach of our team. The next question is, how will the team’s strategy and performance change with a coach that is rumored to be more “in touch” with the players?

Our first test of Lue’s coaching prowess would be against our Eastern Conference rival, the Chicago Bulls, on our home court. The team can only improve if Blatt was such a hinderance to their success, correct?

The final score from our matchup against the Bulls at home? A 96-83 loss where the Cavaliers looked listless and unable to execute.

Now this could be explained by the suddenness of the coaching change or from some apparent shifts in substitution patterns that Lue put into place. Whatever the reason, this team should never lose on their home court when they hold their opponent under 100 points.

All they could muster on the offensive end over 4 quarters was 83 points?!? In this particular game the lack of offense was the fault of several factors.

As a collective group, our bench players shot 3/14 for 8 points. Obviously, that is not a typical set of stats for Dellavedova, Shumpert and Tristan Thompson but this certainly contributed to the lack of scoring overall.

The second factor was that we shot just under 41% (9 for 22) from the free throw line. Essentially, the Cavaliers contracted out all of their free throw shooting for the night to Clippers forward Deandre Jordan; quite an embarrassment in my eyes.

The last factor, in my estimation, relates to offensive strategy. The Cavs took 24 three point shots against Chicago and were only able to make four.

This abysmal 16.7% from downtown means that even though we were showing that the long range shots were not going down, we still continued to take them. Is this just an example of the new coaching staff urging the players to “shoot through” their cold streak?

Listen, I was as shocked as anyone to hear of Blatt’s firing. Too often, there is a Twitter explosion (which I engaged in on a small scale right as it happened) and a rush to be the first to write an opinion piece on whether Griffin is a hero or a zero for this.

I knew that I needed time to process everything, hear all sides of the story, and even see our newly appointed coach in action for the first time before I could give my honest opinion on the matter. Now that most of that has occurred I am ready to levy a judgment!

My feeling is that the Cleveland Cavaliers, while possessing the title of best team in the East, showed that under David Blatt’s coaching, that they could not compete consistently against the best teams in the West. Seeing as the goal of management is acquiring a championship, a change needed to be made.

I applaud our GM as he has put himself into the position of being called either a genius or a goat when it is all said and done. He has certainly volunteered to put this team on the back of his decisions, as great leaders should.

Griffin’s legacy in this city is at stake now more than ever. To me, that is the very definition of ALL IN.

Cleveland Cavaliers Fire David Blatt, Hire Tyronn Lue

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Cleveland Cavaliers have fired Head Coach David Blatt and have promoted Assistant Coach Tyronn Lue to the role.

Obviously this move comes as a shock. Under Blatt, the Cavs had a an 83-40 record plus he was 14-6 in the playoffs ultimately where the Cavaliers lost the NBA Finals. I am speechless at this move. It doesn’t make any sense to do this right now. However, it is not the best kept secret that the players seemed to favor Tyronn Lue more than Blatt. Now for the second year in a row, the Cavaliers will have a rookie head coach trying to win the NBA Finals. 

Stay tuned to Cleveland.morethanafan.net for continuing coverage on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

An Open Letter to Peter Krouse

Today, Peter Krouse from cleveland.com posted an article in the opinion section titled “Trade LeBron James: Is it that Unthinkable?” Let’s break this down piece by piece.

“People in my office accuse me of being a LeBron hater. I assure you that I’m not. But while most people believe the Cavaliers can’t win a championship without LeBron, I believe they can’t win one with him.

Unless things change.

The Cavaliers have great talent, but collectively their sum doesn’t come close to the value of their parts. If you could unload LeBron, you might get two very good players in exchange who, when inserted in a lineup with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, might make two plus three add up to six.”

Well sure, if you can trade LeBron for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, why not do it? The problem is, it is absolutely impossible. There is no two/three player combination in the NBA that would combine to the talent of LeBron that a franchise would be willing to trade away. If you trade LeBron, you have to fill his spot. Who are you going to put there? Who can you trade for that can play the small forward position as good as him? He is the best player on the planet for a reason. He is the best at his position.

“The problem is that LeBron’s savior-complex prevents any kind of chemistry from developing. He thinks he has to carry the team on his shoulders all the time. That’s not being a leader. That’s being an egomaniac.

A leader accepts the fact that regardless of his exceptional ability, he is still a cog in a machine that is programmed by a coach. And that machine has to be finely tuned if it wants to perform at its highest level.”

LeBron is the leader of this team. He wants to desperately win a championship in this city. He made a promise to the City of Cleveland and to Northeast Ohio that he would bring a championship here. I don’t call that being an “egomaniac”, I call that someone who really cares about winning basketball games. I call that someone who is really driven and motivated by the great fans who root for the Cavaliers.

LeBron is a cog in the machine that the Cavaliers team is. The team is still building chemistry. They have played less than an entire NBA season together and everyone is still figuring out their roles. LeBron brings championship experience to the Cavaliers. Coach David Blatt cannot do that, he is also learning from LeBron. The entire team, besides James Jones and Richard Jefferson, have not won a championship before. LeBron James has two of those and has been the NBA Finals MVP twice. That experience he brings to this team is undeniable. I will ask again, who can you trade for that can bring that experience that he has.

“LeBron may think these mid-season games don’t matter, but they do. If the Cavaliers develop a system now, it will carry them through the playoffs. If they’re hot against Golden State, they win. If not, the discipline of a system keeps them in the game”

He knows these games matter. LeBron has repeatedly said that they need to continue to build chemistry. It may not matter if the Cavaliers lose regular season games, but what does matter is if in that loss they learn something about their team. Something that helps them in the future, it is okay. That mainly is one of the reasons why I did not declare the Cavaliers season over after the loss Monday against Golden State.

“A leader also doesn’t rely on gimmicks such as skipping pre-game introductions to ostensibly demonstrate solidarity and focus. That seemed like a stunt to draw attention by claiming you don’t want it.”

A stunt to draw attention? What’s wrong with taking the game of basketball serious?

“LeBron’s presence also makes it hard for the team to respect Coach David Blatt. One way to ensure dysfunction is for LeBron to second-guess his coach or to think that he and Blatt are on an equal plane. They aren’t, nor should they be. LeBron has to stop telling everybody he’s the leader.”

LeBron is the leader of this team. There is no doubt about that. Are you telling me that Dwayne Wade is not the leader of his team in Miami? Or that Chris Paul is the leader of his team in LA? Or how about Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City? Sure, coaches are an important part of a team in the NBA, see Phil Jackson, Lenny Wilkens and Red Auerbach.

They can be on an equal plane. I am positive that no one watches more film on the Cavaliers other than LeBron and Coach Blatt. LeBron has the trust of Coach Blatt to call a play because of the kind of player LeBron is. Because he has proven it over and over again.

“Under a healthier franchise dynamic, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert would step in to ensure greater accountability and respect. But as long as LeBron continues to sell out The Q, winning a championship appears secondary in Gilbert’s mind.”

This is a joke right? “Winning a championship appears secondary in Gilbert’s mind.” That is absolutely laughable. Dan Gilbert is the one who is committed to paying over $80 million this season in luxury tax and over $100 million next season in luxury tax on top of what he is already paying in salaries. That argument is completely invalid.

“Blatt may not be the answer, but maybe he is. If the Cavaliers have any hope of going all the way this year, they need to coalesce around him.

And here’s a thought (not just mine). Have LeBron stay down around the basket and use his size and quickness to score and rebound and otherwise cause havoc. The dribbling and driving and the fall-away jumpers from 30 feet should be largely removed from his repertoire.

In the end, all LeBron and the Cavs need to do is go about their jobs in a scheme designed by Blatt with discipline and commitment. That’s how great teams with arguably less talent than the Cavs do it.”

We have no idea if Blatt is the answer. What I do know is that Blatt is a championship winning coach. Yes they were overseas but it still takes a special person to win multiple championships as a coach. You do not do that by accident.

We have all complained about LeBron dribbling the shot clock away, there is no denying that. But to my point earlier, the Cavaliers Big Three have played LESS THAN 82 GAMES together. They are still learning how to function and operate together. The dribbling and driving should NEVER be eliminated from his game. That is what he does best. When LeBron takes the ball into the paint, he draws defenders every time. When that happens, he passes to the wide open player if the shot is not there.

The team should also be included in the design of the scheme. Every player knows what they do best, where there hotspot on the floor is. It takes a team effort to build a system, not just a coach.

“The truth is LeBron blew it with Clevelanders when he skipped town in the prime of his career to play in Miami. And it’s looking less likely all the time that he will be able to redeem himself by bringing a championship to Cleveland.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers are more equipped to win an NBA Championship now than ever before. They have talent locked up for many years to come, see Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert. Not to mention that LeBron said he will finish his career as a Cavalier. LeBron, the Cavaliers and Dan Gilbert are committed to bringing a championship to Cleveland. It is looking more likely that LeBron will be able to redeem himself.

The Cavaliers dreams turn into a nightmare

Well, that was unpleasant.

Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images
Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images

In the wake of the 132-98 beat down that the Warriors handed the Cavaliers on MLK Day, I have a few dreams too for my hometown basketball team. If my dreams can have one tenth of the impact that Dr. King’s did, we might just be ok.

Let me set the stage for last night. I was in my favorite chair, with a full belly, watching the national sports media reporting from all of the places I recognize in my city.

It always feels good when my city is featured on this scale. It is a city that has a less than stellar reputation, however, most visitors that I meet are pleasantly surprised with all that it has to offer.

So there I am in my chair, and I see that Mozgov is starting. This is puzzling to me until I am reminded that he has traditionally guarded Andrew Bogut very well.

I am willing to trust my coach and even though Golden State jumps out to a quick 10-2 lead, I am pleased with Mozgov’s play in the first quarter. He looked like a composed, calculating NBA center.

As we proceed though, the rest of our team looks downright awful. They appear to be woefully unprepared for a challenge of this magnitude.

Our team is unable to get stops on the Warriors, nor score on the offensive end. This causes not only the lead to balloon up but also the Cavalier’s frustration level.

At one point, the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference was losing by 43 points to the best from the West. This leads me to one of my dreams.

I dream of a day when the Eastern Conference is treated as if it is one half of a professional league and not the minor leagues of the Western Conference.

I get the impression that players from the West truly think that East teams are a joke and do not really belong on the same grand stage as they do. Sadly, this narrative is perpetuated by the national sports media also.

We certainly did nothing to dispute that notion last night. It angers me that this memory of the Cavaliers will be the one that sticks in everyone’s mind and not the 5-1 record we amassed over the road trip against top teams from the West.

If the Cavs can ascend the mountain again in the East and make it back to the Finals, that would be our next opportunity to play the Warriors (provided they successfully maneuver the West gauntlet). This terrible performance will be the first example given when comparing the teams.

The Warriors are the reigning NBA champs so they deserve to be the measuring stick for all teams and I would not deny them that. I would, however, deny the idea that the Cavaliers do not possess the talent to achieve my ultimate dream of hoisting that banner into the ceiling of The Q someday.

The Cavaliers themselves were poised in defeat last night. Coach Blatt took responsibility for the loss and Kevin Love said that the changes need to come from the leadership of the team, though it is unclear whether he was referring to James or Blatt.

Kyrie Irving was essentially a no show last night in his performance. He finished with eight points and five rebounds on 3/11 shooting while Love was also quiet with only three points on 1/5 shooting.

With that depressing of a showing, I would hope that Love would take more responsibility rather than point the finger up the bench. Perhaps he feels that he is not being used in the proper capacity.

Love was certainly more effective earlier in the season when he was being fed the ball in the low post more often. Since the return of Irving and Iman Shumpert, I have noticed him spending more time setting picks and staying outside the three point line.

This strategy with Love is what contributed to a 19-20 record about this time last season. It seems that January is a tenuous month for this iteration of the team, though we have had many more successes overall than 2015.

I am supremely dejected after this loss, though I will not be one of those fans that declares that our dreams of a title are vanquished. The feeling of defeat is one that this city is not only very familiar with experiencing but also very adept at overcoming.

As fans, we need to realize that a defeat of this nature can be used to motivate our guys in the future. The sick feeling in our stomachs can be converted into fuel reserves that can be accessed when we need it the most in the playoffs.

That is the most constructive way to process last night’s result. Otherwise, that sick feeling will encompass us and create doubt in our minds.

The Wine and Gold Nation must do their part and not allow this to happen.

Getting to know: Sasha Kaun

Casual Cavalier fans know and recognize names like James, Irving, Love and even Dellevadova. Today my goal is to introduce a name into the conversation that otherwise has been left out: Kaun

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 5: Sasha Kaun #14 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball during the game against the Miami Heat on December 5, 2015 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images
MIAMI, FL – DECEMBER 5: Sasha Kaun #14 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball during the game against the Miami Heat on December 5, 2015 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Sasha Kaun is a 6’11”, 250 pound center from Russia that signed with the Cavs late in the summer of 2015. He most recently played for CSKA Moscow winning five championships with them.

He has other connections to this team as well. He played for Coach David Blatt in the 2012 London Olympics where they finished with the bronze in basketball.

The casual fans are now thinking “I know that guy! He is tall and doesn’t talk a lot and rides a bear in that commercial!” Sorry, we are talking about the other Cavs center from Russia this time.

The primary reason you have not heard of Kaun is because he has only played in a handful of games during this regular season. He DID get some regular playing time in the preseason but that feels like a lifetime ago at this point.

After playing several years overseas, there are aspects of the NBA game that Kaun has struggled with adjusting to. Certainly the speed and size of the opponents are enough to throw off anyone coming from the European style of competition, but even things such as the size of the court (which is wider in the NBA than Euroleague) and the fact that the three point line is further from the basket, have frustrated the near seven footer.

Kaun is accustomed to running the pick and roll from his previous team but he has acknowledged that he is used to being closer to the basket after setting his pick and has had to retrain his brain to match the required timing of the new distance.

At the start of the season, Timofey Mozgov (the aforementioned bear jockey) was the starting center for the team. He has not been sharp and reliable since that time and has been replaced, rightfully so in my book, by the more versatile Tristan Thompson.

Mozgov is losing value nearly every time he steps on the court. I think it would be wise to give those minutes to Kaun, if only to see what you’ve got to work with.

I’m sure he is getting plenty of reps at the training facility in Independence, but I also think that we can agree that playing in an actual game is much more telling of a players potential. Like Mozgov, I am sure that Kaun is benefitting from some mentorship from former Cavalier big, Vitaly Potopenko.

Perhaps it is time to shift some of Potopenko’s focus to Kaun in lieu of Mozgov. Kaun was signed to a fairly meager deal compared to the rest of the roster so what do we have to lose?

I hope that Blatt can look past the adjustments that Kaun needs to make and see that over many seasons in Russia he shot 70.4 percent and even in the meager amount of minutes and opportunities during this season he has shot 60 percent.

Kaun may never be a starter in this league but I think he can be a solid contributor off of the bench after he works out some of the kinks. Here’s hoping the Cavaliers invest some minutes in the big man and try to get a good return on their investment.