Tag Archives: Chris Grant

Dan Gilbert is Becoming a Problem

To say the Cleveland Cavaliers organization is in a bit of a turbulent state right now only begins to describe what’s going on. The front office has recently been overhauled, there are question marks around several key players (most notably Kyrie Irving and his future with the franchise) and they are still trying to find a new Head Coach – which will make their third Head Coach in three years. At the helm of this ship is owner Dan Gilbert. The majority owner since 2005, Gilbert endeared himself to many fans with his blistering open letter to Cavs fans following the LeBron James Decision. Up to that point, and even in the year or two after, Gilbert was a beloved owner by many Clevelanders. He invested in the city, his Cavs team was winning games and he was active, often sitting courtside for games. Life was good for Cavs fans. Life was good for Dan Gilbert. It’s now 2014 and we might be realizing something, Dan Gilbert is a problem.

I’ll follow that up by saying I absolutely loved Gilbert, and to some extent still do. I was absolutely on board with him when he worked to bring a casino to Cleveland. I loved his willingness to spend money on the team. I loved that he invested money into the City of Cleveland. To borrow a phrase from his son Nick, “what’s not to like?” Then Gilbert lost his biggest asset, a northeast Ohio kid who happened to be one of the best basketball players in the game, and things started go downhill for Gilbert and the Cavs. The aforementioned letter guaranteed a Cavs championship before LeBron would win one. In the first year post-LeBron the Cavs went 19-63, including a streak of 26 consecutive losses, under new Head Coach Byron Scott. Scott was brought in to replace Mike Brown, his hiring viewed as a dramatic overcorrection of Brown’s defensive focused system and thought of as the first of many potential moves to try and bring home LeBron. Meanwhile, the Heat made it to the NBA Finals in their first season as a super team, eventually losing to the Dallas Mavericks. Since then the Cavs have continued to lose, the Heat have continued to win (championships now), and Dan Gilbert has increased his meddling.

Especially recently, rumors and reports have been circulating that Gilbert is taking a Jerry Jones approach to ownership. He is supposedly in on draft picks, player decisions and coaching decisions. I get it, he’s a very rich owner of a professional sports franchise. He’s going to have an opinion. If I owned a professional sports franchise I’d have an opinion as well. Gilbert needs to realize something – he’s not a general manager and he isn’t a “basketball guy”.

The biggest concern currently with Gilbert was the pursuit of University of Kentucky coach John Calipari. There are conflicting reports about the timeline, which you can read here and here. There are concerns, however, no matter which guys sources you believe (for the record, and with all due respect to Joe Lull, I’ll go with Adrian Wojnarowski all day).

Coach Calipari, who recently signed an extension with Kentucky and reportedly rejected a Cavaliers contract offer.
Coach Calipari, who recently signed an extension with Kentucky and reportedly rejected a Cavaliers contract offer.

Let’s start with Lull’s contention that Dan Gilbert offered Calipari the Cavs coaching job (and a co-title as President) before David Griffin was made the full time GM. This is clearly not very meddling, however it’s valid to question the intelligence of this move. John Calipari is a fantastic college coach, no disputing that. However he failed as a Head Coach in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets. The bigger concern is what makes Dan Gilbert think Calipari is qualified to be a Head Coach and team President in the NBA? There is no indication that Gilbert has any sort of NBA intelligence that would allow him to assess whether or not Calipari is qualified for such a position as President – a position he has absolutely no experience with. Recruiting five star high school prospects is much different than being the General Manager of a professional basketball team (Calipari wouldn’t be GM in title, but would’ve had final roster say). Furthermore, how can Dan Gilbert evaluate whether or not Calipari has the tools to be a successful NBA Head Coach, especially after he failed once already? Simply put, Dan Gilbert has zero business offering anybody a Head Coaching position. For proof, on Gilbert’s watch Mike Brown has been hired twice and fired three times by the organization. He’s fired four head coaches (Paul Silas, Mike Brown, Byron Scott, Mike Brown) and three GMs (Jim Paxson, Danny Ferry and Chris Grant). The majority of those firings have come within the past five years. Go ahead, find the common denominator.

Now, we go with Wojnarowski’s contention that the offer to and rejection from Calipari was much closer to the present day, and was done without the knowledge of General Manager David Griffin. This is a something that the Akron-Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd echoed. If this is true, it’s obviously the bigger concern. Look at it this way, David Griffin has already been made the General Manager. Then, Dan Gilbert goes out behind Griffin’s the front office’s back (according to the report) and offers Calipari a contract to be the Head Coach and President of the Cavs. This would cripple Griffin’s ability as a GM as Calipari would have the final say on the roster. There is also absolutely no consideration given as to whether Griffin and Calipari could work together philosophically. If this report is true (and again, I’ll believe Wojnarowski over Lull) then this is a huge problem for the Cavs. What they have is a Jerry Jones type of owner, a guy with all the money, all the power, some success, a gigantic chip on his shoulder and minimal knowledge about the sport in which he owns a team. Dan Gilbert is unqualified to make these moves.

And in either scenario, well let’s just call it what it is. Gilbert is going after higher profile, recognizable by name coaches (Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Byron Scott) with LeBron James at least in the back of his mind. Put any bias you have for James aside for a minute. You’re flat out kidding yourself if you don’t recognize he’s one of, if not the, best player in basketball right now. There are 29 other NBA teams that would love to have James. But for Gilbert to make a coaching move that even slightly includes the potential plans of James, or any other NBA player not on the Cavs roster, is asinine and a disservice to the players currently on the roster.

The best professional sports owners are the ones who don’t move the team, spend money and get involved only when required than step out of the spotlight. Dan Gilbert seems to be failing to understand this. It’s easy to love a guy (Gilbert) when his team is successful. Winning covers up a lot. But right now, Gilbert is not doing himself any favors.

Cleveland Sports Quick Hits – Indians, Cavs, Browns

After what seemed like an eternity the 2014 NFL Draft is finally here, or at least almost here anyway (first round kicks off Thursday at 8PM eastern time). As is often the case with the Draft, Browns fans are excited for it but also fairly burned out with all the analysis that seems to dominate the Cleveland sports media around this time of the year. While it’s understandable that the Draft dominates the media’s attention (and the fan’s attention as well), if you sat down a person with absolutely no knowledge of Cleveland sports and made them listen to Cleveland sports talk radio they might think Cleveland only had a football team. With regard to that here are some Cleveland sports quick hits, discussing the Indians, Cavs and (of course) the Browns.

Indians

The Indians sure didn’t get off to the hot start they were hoping to. Coming into today’s game the Tribe currently resides in last place in the AL Central, 7.5 games back of the division leading Detroit Tigers, with a 14-19 record. Unfortunately for the Indians, not much has gone right since the season started.

-The starting rotation was a concern from the beginning of the year and so far this unit has struggled, posting an ERA of 4.21 (21st overall) while the opposition has a batting average of .264 against Tribe starters (20th). The starters have shown some signs of stabilizing recently as they collectively have an ERA of 2.13 over the last seven days, however time will tell if that is only an anomaly.

-The Indians defense has been laughably bad. They currently have the lowest fielding percentage in all of baseball (.973) and are tied for the league lead in errors with 33 (tied with the Dodgers). Yan Gomes leads the team (and is tied for most in the league) with eight errors while Asdrubal Cabrera is responsible for five.

-One of the best things the Indians offense did last season was hit with runners in scoring position. That has simply not been the case so far this season. The Indians are batting only .222 w/RISP and .139 w/RISP and two outs. While David Murphy and Michael Brantley are hitting well with runners in scoring position (.450 and .333 respectively), Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera all have batting averages under .200 with runners in scoring position.

Cavaliers

While the NBA post season continues into the second round the Cavs are still trying to answer a few key questions – like who is going to be the GM, is Mike Brown coming back for another season and what to do with the current roster.

-The Cavs fired former General Manager Chris Grant in February and since then David Griffin has been acting as interim General Manager. Grant’s firing and the Cavs disappointing season (33-49) has many wondering if coach Mike Brown will be shown the door. The recent firing of (former Golden State Warriors Head Coach) Mark Jackson has many Cavs fans asking Dan Gilbert to fire Brown and hire Jackson. If it was Grant’s idea to bring Brown back in the first place, this move (or a similar move) may be made.

-On top of the management decisions that must be made, the Cavs also must decide what to do with the current roster and what they will do in the draft. C.J. Miles, Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes are all free agents while the contracts of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao expire in 2015. In addition to worrying about these players, they also have a draft to prep for in June. Click here to look at some potential candidates for the Cavs from Wade Foley.

Browns

At long last the question of “what will Ray Farmer do in the draft” will have an answer. There has been plenty of speculation as to who they will pick, and Farmer has played the pre draft game beautifully.

-If you do not want the Browns to take a quarterback with pick number four, there is a good chance you are on the Sammy Watkins (or perhaps Mike Evans) bandwagon. Regardless, the popular opinion seems to be that Browns fans want a playmaker at number four and that taking an offensive lineman (either Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews) would be a wasted pick. If you want a quarterback at four, that’s one thing. But what I fail to understand is the opinion that selecting a second wide receiver with the number four pick is smart, but selecting a second tackle would be a complete waste. Sure, Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans can help transform this offense. But an upgrade on the offensive line could do the same thing in both the passing game (keeping the quarterback upright) and the run game. If Robinson or Matthews is the top player on the Browns board when they pick, why not take one if available?

-Another potential need may have developed for the Browns over the last couple of weeks. Tight End Jordan Cameron reportedly fired his agent and contract negotiations between Cameron’s camp and the Browns reportedly haven’t gone smooth either. With Cameron set to be a free agent in 2015 (along with a lot of other guys) the Browns could look to draft a tight end in this year’s draft to prepare for Cameron’s potential departure.

-The Browns quarterback situation got a lot stranger recently, as they singed Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young to one year contracts. The Browns currently have four quarterbacks under contract (Thigpen, Young, Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney) and many believe that they will select a quarterback (or possibly two) in the draft. Don’t mistake Young’s and Thigpen’s presence as future altering plans for the Browns, however. It’s unlikely both will make the team out of training camp and it’s possible neither one will be on the week one roster. Think of this as the equivalent of the Indians offering minor league contracts to veteran players – very little risk with a potential reward.

The Hawks, Bobcats send their regards

After a massacre at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks that could sit alongside The Red Wedding in a George R.R. Martin novel and a capitulation against the Bobcats that could also share a goblet of wine with some of the other deceased Starks in a frozen-over Winterfell, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ long-shot hopes of a 2014 playoff run have been dispatched and buried with the swiftness of a Roose Bolton-gripped knife to the heart. And just as I could barely stand to watch Catelyn, Rob and Talisa meet their grisly ends at the feet of Walder Frey again yesterday as HBO marathoned Game of Thrones’ Season 3 in anticipation of Season 4’s premier last night, I grimaced and looked away in shame from both of the Cavs’ Friday and Saturday night games as I was forced to admit I was watching a team that just doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZMI32FK_f4

The Hawks scored 39 POINTS in the FIRST QUARTER on Friday night. The Cavs trailed by 16 after, then 12 at halftime before trailing by around 20 points for most of the second half. It was a game that was never close and the Cavs were clearly an inferior team. Jarrett Jack went 4-13 from the floor, including 1-6 from three-point land. WAY SHOW UP IN THE CLUTCH JARRETT. Spencer Hawes continued to show he can score by posting a 16-10 line but sucks at defense by constantly getting abused by Mike Scott, who went 12-13 from the floor in putting up 26 points. Kyrie Irving only scored 13 points on 6-15 shooting. It was a doo-doo performance at the worst possible time by a team that couldn’t afford to lose again.

A report surfaced soon after the conclusion of the Hawks’ blowout that Kyrie was unhappy, his camp reported he wants to leave, yadda yadda, etc. It’s the same story we’ve been hearing for the past year or two and once again, Kyrie denies it. Soon after, Josh Gordon of the Browns decided to chime in and open his big mouth–saying that he thinks that “it might play out better” if Kyrie and Dion were on different teams.  I, along with a lot of other Cavs’ fans I can imagine, am SO sick of hearing about all the drama with Kyrie not wanting to be here, not getting along with Dion, etc. I am a little relieved the season is ending so we don’t have to hear about it on a weekly basis anymore–and hopefully whatever happens in the offseason whether or not Kyrie is still a Cav next season will put to bed some of this locker-room drama. Does Kyrie seem happy when he’s out on the court for the Cavaliers? I would say no. But when the Cavs offer him a max contract this offseason, he would be a fool to not take it. He won’t get that kind of money anywhere else. Would it mean that he would be a Cavalier for life? No–don’t forget the kid just turned 22.

While the Cavs aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs yet, their chances are infinitesimal they will still get in. I suppose we can look at the brief, and honestly a little sad, playoff push the Cavs made at the end of this season as a sort of “playoffs” in a way. At least the Cavs were playing meaningful basketball in April, something a despondent fanbase hasn’t been able to say the past couple of years. As another disappointing season comes to a close with the Cavs failing to make the postseason yet again, at least now I have another option on Sunday nights to witness some bloodletting–I guarantee it won’t make me as disappointed, either.

Yes, you should be excited about the Cavs' last 7 games

The Cleveland Cavaliers are playing meaningful basketball in April. When was the last time the people of the North Coast could say that? Seven games remain in the Cavaliers 2013-2014 schedule and they sit two and a half games back from Atlanta for that final playoff spot. The Knicks sit one spot ahead of the Cavs at one and a half games back from the Hawks. After a ballsy win for the Cavs against a suddenly struggling Pacers team yesterday afternoon, things are shaping up for a HUGE clash this coming Friday night down in Atlanta.

 

At a time in the season when a lot of other teams are feeling the effects of a grueling 82-game campaign, the Cavs look fresh and energetic. Aside from the Nets in the season finale, every team the Cavs play over the next two weeks has a losing record and two of those teams have already been eliminated from the playoffs, with another two teams (Boston and Detroit) on the precipice of elimination.

 

So what’s changed? What’s sparked the team to a 4-1 record over the past five games with wins over the Raptors, Knicks and Pacers? Well, it’s been a few things the Cavs are suddenly doing better. But first, let’s talk about this:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3383kTuXfao

 

Aside from the weird elevator music and sensationalist title (not much of a FIGHT I can see going on), this clip shows a couple things. First, David West is a frustrated man. The Pacers have scored less than 80 points in their past four games and after the loss to the Cavs, West said that the Pacers were “…losing games at an alarming rate to teams inferior to us.” That may be so, Mr. West, but getting your butt kicked by a surging Cavaliers’ team isn’t cause for getting all huffy and trying to choke out Spencer Hawes. Second, I’m going to guess that Hawes got into West’s face because he thought West threw an elbow into little Matthew Dellavedova’s ribcage, as evidenced by the grimace and tumble to the floor by the rookie Australian point guard. It’s too difficult to see from that clip if that actually happened, but if it did is irrelevant. The Cavs are clearly playing with a chip on their shoulder with something to prove, and looking as much like a real team who actually deserve to be in the playoffs. Maybe not being able to rely on the “give the ball to Kyrie and see what he can do with it when shit is starting to get tough” strategy is forcing the rest of the Cavaliers to step their collective games up.

 

Perhaps the first thing you notice when watching the Kyrie-less Cavs is how much more the ball moves around. The Cavs are finding the open man and Jarrett Jack and Dellavedova have done an excellent job in distributing the rock, combining for 15 assists in the Indiana game. Tristan Thompson is showing up, too–grabbing 16 man-size rebounds yesterday while West only had four.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4h8DIAC7AQ

 

The only bad news coming from yesterday’s win is that guess what? Anderson Varejao is injured again. Straining his right shoulder on a pass, Varejao was forced to leave the game early. Scheduled to be re-evaluated by the doctors sometime today, it would suck if the Cavs had to make this last playoff push without Wild Thing.

 

The Cavs are off until Wednesday (perhaps in deference to the Indians kicking off their season later tonight) when they face the Magic down in Orlando. How great would it be to say we have two playoff teams here in Cleveland?

 

A Last Gasp from the Cavaliers

I’ve already cursedyelled and given up on the Cavaliers’ season a few times. You can’t blame me–you probably had/have too.

 

 

And then Dion Waiters goes and does something like this:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO8-fwBLAR0

 

I actually stood up and yelled after he hit that shot–when was the last time a Cavs’ game made you get out of your seat and cheer? Seeing the incredulous looks on Andre Drummond’s and Josh Smith’s faces was priceless.

 

What has been the most surprising thing in this three-game winning streak is that the Cavs have been winning without it’s best player–Kyrie Irving. No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett has been injured for a couple weeks too, in case you hadn’t noticed–you wouldn’t be blamed for not noticing. C.J. Miles hasn’t been playing either, and there’s even been talks that Luol Deng’s knees are acting up. So what’s a team giving significant minutes to players like Alonzo Gee and Matthew Dellavedova doing beating teams like the Knicks and Raptors in the midst of one, last playoff push?

 

The discussion over whether or not the Cavaliers are a better team without Kyrie is dumb–of course they are. An All-Star game MVP and NBA Rookie of the Year will make any team better, but you cannot deny that the Cavs have been playing better basketball without him on the floor. Dion Waiters has been showing what he can do when he gets 30-plus minutes a game and Jarrett Jack has decided to peak at just the right time–with nine games left in the season. Jack seems to have a knack for not playing like crap right before the offseason, so he can either get paid in free agency or justify not being traded/cut. Also, how can you not enjoy watching Dellavedova throw down a career-high 21 points against the Pistons?

 

 

Delly-treys all day. It’s nice to see the feisty Australian getting some solid minutes–he deserves them. He’s always hyped, plays stingy defense (including forcing a tough shot by Brandon Jennings at the end of that Pistons game) and has shown he can score when asked to.

 

All of this begs the question of what the $*%^ Mike Brown has been doing for 90% of this season. Why hasn’t Dion been playing more? Jack playing less? Why the hell is Sergey Karasev a healthy scratch for virtually every game? Why are you going to draft a guy if he’s never going to get a chance to play? How much longer is Tristan Thompson going to play 35 minutes a game and average 10 points and 8 rebounds? Are you ready for another four years of yelling about what the $*## Mike Brown is doing?

 

The Cavs sit three and a half games back from Atlanta for that last playoff spot with only nine games left. The Hawks are back to their losing ways, with five in a row. The Knicks still suck and the Cavs remaining schedule is surprisingly light. Aside from the Pacers on Sunday, they’ve got the Nets tonight, then a lot of teams like Milwaukee, Boston and Orlando to close out this roller coaster of a season.

 

Am I telling you that the Cavs have a chance at the playoffs? To not give up yet? Maybe, but that’s up to you. I know the Cavs still have my attention, though.

We can officially stop giving a crap about the Cavs' 2013-2014 season

What little crap the Cleveland Cavaliers’ faithful fans still had to give about their basketball team’s disaster of a 2013-2014 season can be officially and unceremoniously dumped with the swiftness of a Jarrett Jack pass into the stands.  13 games remain in the Cavs’ NBA season and they sit five games back from that last playoff spot. Their best player is injured (again!) and will miss another ten days or so. Luol Deng is hurt, too. Anthony Bennett, looking so far like one of the worst No. 1 overall picks ever, has a bum knee. The Hawks, who were letting us think the Cavs at least had a chance at the playoffs, have won five in a row. %&#@ you Paul Millsap. After last night’s near-comeback against the Thunder, the Cavs play the Rockets and the resurgent Knicks in their next two games. Our losing streak stands at three games. Has baseball started yet?

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqejnCffH2g

 

Poor Spencer Hawes. He didn’t ask for this. Although, languishing on an awful 76ers team might be worse. I’ve accepted the fact that the Cavs will never beat the Heat, at least while LeBron is still down in Miami, but Tuesday night’s loss felt like salt in the wound of a thoroughly shitty season. The Cavs could’ve won that game, but not scoring for three minutes at the end of a game will doom you against anybody.

 

And the Thunder game last night–UGH. Though the Cavs showed a lot of heart in the fourth quarter to pull a 24-point deficit with six minutes left in the game back to within five points, it still wasn’t enough to get a much-needed win. Kevin Durant scored 35 points and the Thunder out-rebounded the Cavs 53-36. Dion Waiters put up 30 points in the loss, and meanwhile Spencer Hawes scored 20 but took ten shots from 3-point land and only made three of them. C.J. Miles apparently isn’t game ready either.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-xlGPsGTCg

 

And we got to see that. I’m almost OK with this–mainly because of Durant’s death-stare and chest-pound afterwards. If anybody is going to catch an awesome one-handed alley-oop and give a death glare at the beleaguered Cavs’ faithful fans, I want it to be Kevin Durant.

 

Enough blatant negativity. Let’s talk about something that could only possibly be negative. An intriguing question lies in what the future holds for Kyrie Irving. If the last few games of the season are totally meaningless, you’ve got to assume that Mike Brown and Co. will sit Kyrie for the rest of the season. Rumors have swirled since Kyrie first donned the wine and gold that he’s been unhappy and wants to go somewhere else after his rookie contract is up–rumors always to be denied by Irving. If he wants to reject a Cavs’ long-term offer this offseason, he could. Kyrie becomes a restricted free-agent after the 2014-2015 season. You’ve got to wonder what kind of offer Kyrie would garner on the open market though–the guy can’t stay healthy. After only playing 51 games his rookie season, he played 59 games last year and currently sits at 64 for this season. How many teams would be willing to fork out big cash for a guy that hasn’t yet played a full NBA season?

 

Similar questions abound for other Cavalier players like Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller–young guys who will be entering the last year of their rookie deals next season. How much longer will we see them in a Cavs’ uniform?

 

It’s shaping up to be an interesting offseason, especially with the Cavs most likely entering the lottery again. But at least we almost made it to April this year before talking about next season–again.

The Spencer Hawes Effect and Smart Offseason Moves

Cavs get big win during rough trip out west.

 

Cavs drop Suns 110-101
Cavs drop Suns 110-101

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers still aren’t going to be able to rally enough to make the playoffs, but defeating the Phoenix Suns on the road was a solid win. The Cavs jumped out to an early lead and led 60-47 at the half, and unlike last time these two teams met, the Cavs were able to maintain that lead for a 110-101 victory.

 

 

It was an overall great game by the Cavs. All of the starters played heavy minutes and contributed nicely and the effort remained constant throughout the entire game. Six Cavs scored in double figures, led by Kyrie Irving’s 23 points. He also added six assists, nine rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Ever since his first-career triple-double that he obtained recently, he has been much more effective on the boards. He has 27 rebounds over his past four games and his per-game average has gone up by almost two over his last ten games.

 

 

Kyrie spoke to the media before the game about how important these final stretches are and how the Cavs have been letting opportunities slip away. “I’m going to do anything to make this playoff push, anything coach needs me to do, anything my teammates need me to do, I’m willing to do,” said Irving.

 

 

Spencer Hawes’ Positive Affect

 

Unfortunately, it looks to be a little late for the Cavs, at no fault of Kyrie’s though. He has been playing at a very high level since December, especially after the All-Star break. Another player who has been playing exceptionally well of late is Spencer Hawes. Since coming to Cleveland, he is averaging 15.6 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game. He has also been very efficient from all over the floor. He is shooting 48% from the field, 55% from three and 85% from the line. It’s obviously a small sample size, but these are impressive numbers nonetheless.

 

 

Not only are his individual stats impressive thus far, but he also has a noticeable positive effect on the Cavs’ offense. The ball-movement in Wednesday’s game was impressive and the presence of Hawes has something to do with that. Hawes ability to space the floor and knock down the long-ball at a high clip opens up the paint for the Cavs’ guards and forwards. He also is a near-perfect complement to Kyrie, who runs the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop excellently with Hawes.

 

 

Hawes is virtually the opposite of Andrew Bynum. What I mean by that is Hawes and Bynum are completely different types of centers.  Hawes forces opposing centers to leave the paint and guard him on the perimeter, he’s quick and can run the floor on the fast break, and he’s an excellent pick-and-pop center to pair with our guards. On the contrary, Bynum is a traditional low-post center who needs the ball in the paint to be effective. The Cavs spent a large portion of their first 25 games trying to get Bynum touches down low and involved in their offense. If I had to blame the Cavs slow start on one thing, it would be this. Bynum constantly clogged the paint and clearly Kyrie had a hard time adjusting to not having as much room to drive and operate with. Bynum was also too slow to get out in transition and run the floor, which this young Cavs team needed to be doing. Chris Grant signing Bynum to pair with Kyrie and David Griffin trading for Hawes to pair with Kyrie is a good indication of how having an analytical background and understanding team fit helps from a GM position.

 

 

Cavs’ Offseason Moves

 

After the trade, I initially viewed Hawes as a two-month rental to help the Cavs make a playoff push. I though (and still sort of think) that he would command to much money in free agency for the Cavs to re-sign him, but I am seriously starting to think that they should do everything they can to keep him. It seems logical that the Cavs will buy-out Anderson Varejao’s remaining year on his contract in order to free up some cap-space in the offseason and I get the feeling that Luol Deng and the Cavs are likely to go their separate ways. This could free up enough to keep Hawes and still make a competitive offer to a star free agent this offseason. Hawes is only 25 and seems to fit in well with this young team. He also already has six years of experience under his belt and could be a nice mentor for Tyler Zeller, as well as the rest of the youngsters.

 

 

This would give the Cavs a core of Kyrie, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Hawes, Zeller, Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Jarrett Jack. Bennett has a lot of work to put in over the offseason, but I think he’ll be a decent rotation player next season. We’ve yet to see enough of Karasev to make any type of judgment yet and I believe he has good potential. Jack is likely to be in trade talks again next season and it’d be nice to get some good value for him. Then, there is also CJ Miles, whom I think the Cavs could re-sign fairly cheap next season. He has been excellent this season and is a solid role-player without the outrageous cost. That would put the Cavs at nine players, keep the young core intact, and leave room for another lottery pick and one or two veterans. If the Cavs are able to re-sign Hawes for around $8 million, CJ for around $4 million and lure a max free agent, it would only put them a few million dollars over where they are right now while remaining several million dollars under the luxury tax.

 

 

It appears that Griffin has a plan in place for the near future. The young core has emerged and is starting to jell, veteran pieces are beginning to assemble and the team is starting to learn more about what it takes to develop and sustain a winning culture. The Cavs are now merely a few pieces away from becoming a respectable team once again.

Was Anthony Bennett's rookie season the worst thing ever?

If you type Anthony Bennett’s name into a Google search bar, the first prediction that our soon-to-be overlords at Google suggest is “Anthony Bennett stats.” This is immediately followed by “Anthony Bennett bust.”

 

anthony-bennett-air-jordan-iv-4-retro-thunder

Photo courtesy of NBA.com

 

The UNLV product has averaged 4.1 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game and .3 assists per game during his underwhelming rookie season. And earlier this week, Bennett was diagnosed with a patellar strain in his left knee and will miss the next three weeks of basketball–with roughly five weeks left in the season. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time in the Cavaliers’ season, in the midst of a playoff push as the team tries to salvage what it can from a disappointing 2013-2014 campaign.

 

So where does Anthony Bennett’s historically bad rookie year rank in the annals of NBA history? For starters, he sits at No. 25 out of 27 on the 2014 rookie list of efficiency and overall player performance for those players on the court more than 500 minutes this season. His teammate, Matthew Dellavedova, sits about 10 spots ahead of him at number 16 on that list. Dellavedova made about $500k over 2013-2014; Bennett pulled down a shade over $5.3 million.

 

Looking at other first-round picks in the last 20 or so years that are considered “busts”, it’s hard not to rank Bennett near or at the top. Darko Milicic, “The Human Victory Cigar”, averaged 1.4 PPG and 1.3 RPG but only 4.7 minutes per game his rookie season of 2003-2004. The perennially disappointing Michael Olowokandi had slightly better rookie numbers with 8.9 PPG and 7.9 RPG but never got much better than that in his eight year career. And Greg Oden….I don’t need to elaborate, though when he’s healthy he looks good.  Kwame Brown, the crown of Michael Jordan’s drafting crappiness, put down 4.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG and .8 APG in 2001-2002. Those numbers look eerily familiar?

 

Bennett’s crappy first season ultimately put the final nail in the coffin of General Manager Chris Grant’s time in charge of the Cavs–Dan Gilbert and the Cavalier fans had enough of his “hipster” picks that came out of left field and underperformed. He got it right with Kyrie in 2011, but Tristan with the #4 pick that same year kinda left us scratching our heads. Dion Waiters is still something of an enigma–the “drama” between him and Kyrie earlier this season seems to have faded and he makes the Cavaliers a much better basketball team when he’s able to come off the bench. Grant finished with the Cavs having a record of 80-199 during his tenure of GM.

 

Right about here is when I would normally try to put a Youtube clip or GIF of some Anthony Bennett highlights to show that yes, he has sucked his rookie year, but look! He’s got potential! He’s shown what he can do, albeit very occasionally! And I could dredge up some borderline “highlights” of him scoring 12, 14, or 16 points like he’s done a few times this season–but are those really worth mentioning? We’re all still waiting for that 20, 25 or 30 point game from Bennett, something a lot of draft picks taken after Bennett have done this season. What could’ve prompted Grant to take this guy at No. 1? What did he see that none of us have in almost six months of NBA basketball?

 

Bennett’s last two weeks of the season after his injury could either prove crucial in the Cavaliers’ success, or be totally meaningless. I guess he’ll be watching from the bench as his team decides.

 

Crash and burn

As inappropriate as a plane crashing metaphor is in describing the month of March so far for the Cavaliers, I’m going to go there. Someone forgot to tell Mike Brown and company that these past four games, in which the Cavs have gone a sterling 0-4, were the ones his team were supposed to win–because it ain’t gonna get any easier over the next few weeks.

 

mikebrown

Associated Press photo

 

Somehow the Cavs still sit 3 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the East, mainly because Atlanta is doing their best Cavalier impression and have won exactly one of their last ten games. The putrid Knicks have risen from the grave and now sit tied with the Cavs. Can you feel the electric intensity in the air as the race for the 8th playoff seed in the East heats up?!?!? Sad, but this is what being a Cavaliers fan in 2014 amounts to.

 

The Cavs kicked off this four-game skid with a 14 point loss to the Grizzlies, 110-96. Someone also forgot to tell Mike Brown that the Cavs need to play four quarters against a decent team like Memphis. After holding a 10 point lead at halftime, the Cavs got absolutely posterized by Zac Randolph and the Griz in the second half:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2oWXVL54xE

 

Pay attention to around the 1:30 mark of that video as Randolph throws aside Tyler Zeller like a ragdoll as he makes his way to the hoop.  With Anderson Varejao only playing nine minutes against New York on Saturday after missing the previous 12 games, the Cavs have been sorely lacking in size down around the rim. Spencer Hawes plays soft to no defense, and Zeller is still looking for ways to impose himself on the court. What momentum Zeller had going this season seems to have been lost with the introduction of Hawes. With no Wild Thing crashing the boards, the Cavs just can’t compete when big teams decide to get physical.

 

The Spurs then put on a passing clinic, showing everyone just how far away Cleveland is from having a good basketball team. Danny Green, ex-Cavalier, spit in our eye and scored 24 en route to a 122-101 massacre for San Antonio. I turned that game off about midway through the third quarter–I am not a masochist.

 

Must-win games against Charlotte and the Knicks followed, the latter on the night of Z’s jersey retirement.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffi9A8w_tEA

 

The touching ceremony was fitting for one of the Cavs’ most loyal players, whether you agree with him being given the ultimate honor as a Cavalier or not.

 

Also, where has Anthony Bennett been in this losing streak? Aside from posting 14 points against the Spurs, he’s been invisible on the court in the small amount of minutes he’s been given. Time is running out to prove his rookie season wasn’t a complete bust.

 

The Suns, Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Thunder and Rockets are the next six games for the Cavs. All teams in playoff contention–all teams much better than the Cavs. The 24-win mark of last season has already been reached in this 2013-2014 campaign, with 18 games left in the season. But unless the Cavs pull something miraculous out of this last month of NBA basketball, can you call this season anything other than a huge disappointment?

To Z or not to Z

There is a large electronic billboard I see every day on my commute to work that constantly rotates its advertisements, and it occasionally shows announcements for upcoming sporting events. About two weeks ago as I navigated through the hell that is I-480 West, I stared in consternation at a giant cutout of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, wearing his royal-blue throwback No. 11 and a goofy grin, announcing his jersey retirement March 8 against the Knicks. First I was puzzled, then I thought about it some more and I think I discovered what Dan Gilbert and the rest of the Cavs organization is trying to accomplish with the honoring of a good, but not great, basketball player.

 

Mention Ilgauskas to a Cavs fan and you’ll usually get a favorable response–people remember his hustle, loyalty to the Cavs, and a proclivity to shoot and make important 3-pointers at random times:

 

 

 

 

Anybody recognize the #31 rocking a Kings’ jersey in that second clip? Big white guys who shoot 3s are awesome.

 

Of course, bringing up “Big Z” to Clevelanders also can be a painful reminder of a lot of bad stuff in Cavs’ history. The team all-around sucked for the LBJ-less years that Z was with the Cavs, and even with LeBron the team was never able to win a championship. And when LeBron left, Ilgauskas left too–but could we really blame him? Dude just wanted a ring–and in 2010-2011 surrounded by Wade, Bosh and James even that couldn’t happen. Also–I’m sure that with this disappointing 2013-2014 campaign and since the last player to have his jersey retired by the Cavs (Mark Price) played in Cleveland almost 20 years ago, Gibert and company are hoping to inject a little positivity into the Q. Those rafters are getting mighty dusty.

 

Is it a reach for the Cavaliers to retire Z’s jersey? Let’s take a look at what the Lithuanian accomplished in his 15(!) years as a Cav:

  • All-time leader offensive rebounds (2,336)
  • All-time leader total rebounds (5,904)
  • All-time leader blocks (1,269)
  • Most games played in Cavs’ history (771)

Ilgauskas’ averaged an even 13 PPG throughout his career, as well as 7.3 total rebounds per game and a 48% FG shooting percentage. Great numbers? Of course.  Worth retiring his number next to other Cavaliers’ greats like Brad Daugherty, Price and Austin Carr? That’s debatable.

 

The decision to retire Ilgauskas’ jersey speaks more to the collective psyche of the Cleveland Cavaliers and its despondent fanbase. Gilbert and company are determined to take any sort of positive from the last 10 years or so of Cavs’ basketball, including the now infamous LeBron era, and recognizing one of their only loyal players certainly does that. The fans of Cleveland never got to experience the joy of winning an NBA championship–it was all beyond our control. Now we’re going to recognize and celebrate something we can control, however subjective it may be.

 

 

Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11

 

 

It’s already been confirmed that King James will be attending Z’s jersey retirement, to mixed public opinion. LeBron has had nothing but good things to say about his and Zydrunas’ time together in Cleveland, calling him the veteran leadership he looked to when he first got into the NBA. Here’s hoping the camera stays trained more on Z than LBJ while that jersey is unfurled.