Tag Archives: clippers

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.

2014-15 Cavs Roundtable Preview

The 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers season is upon us, ladies and gentleman, and we here at More Than A Fan: Cleveland could not be anymore excited. We’re so excited, in fact, that we just had to put a roundtable preview together for all of you to read. We want you to be as ready and excited for what is supposed to be an epic season as we are.

Contributing to this preview with me are fellow MTAF Cavs writers Demetri Inembolidis and Eddy Jansen. If you haven’t done so, make it a point to check out what they write. I know I enjoy reading their work and you will too.

I think I can speak for all of us when I say this was a fun project to work on. There are obviously enormously different aspects of this year’s Cavs team than in the previous four years. This includes everything from LeBron James coming back to the absurdly humungous new scoreboard Owner Dan Gilbert is spoiling us with.

Here, we’ll talk about what to expect from the team as a whole and from the individual players. Also, we’ve added some quick predictions for this upcoming season throughout the NBA including awards and who will be in the Finals.

Without further ado, here’s what we think you should watch for as this Cavs season begins.

Cavs Preview

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

What is the Cavs’ biggest strength?

Demetri Inembolidis: The obvious answer is offense. They will have answers for any defense that is thrown at them. They have elite three point shooters, great passers at multiple positions and high basketball IQ guys. A LeBron James/Kevin Love pick-and-roll with Kyrie Irving and any combination of Dion Waiters, Mike Miller or Matthew Dellavedova lurking beyond the three-point line has so many potent options.

It’s going to be a fun year.

Eddy Jansen: The greatest strength is floor spacing. Whenever LeBron, Irving, or Love goes to the rim, they will always draw a double team. Sharpshooters Mike Miller, James Jones, Dion Waiters, and others will see their 3-pt percentages jump through the roof with so many open looks.

Dan Armelli: Transition offense. The Cavs have a great mix of incredible athletes, smart players, and talented passers. These are all needed in order to be a great team in transition. We all talked about it before preseason, and we saw it on the court: Kevin Love is a tremendous outlet passer on the break. Then you include guys like LeBron, Tristan, Dion, etc. who can finish with a thunderous dunk? It’s going to be something for opposing teams to be cognizant of from possession-to-possession, which could lead to even more defensive rebounds for the Cavs.

What is the Cavs’ biggest weakness?

DI: There is another obvious answer here and that is defense. The Cavs will have to be at least average on defense if they want to contend for an NBA championship. That shouldn’t be too difficult given the talent on the squad. The 2009-2010 Cavs team that started Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, LeBron James, JJ Hickson, and Shaquille O’Neal for most games were able to notch the 7th best defense in the NBA.

If they can work out the potential defensive issues, the only thing that can stop them is health.

EJ: The greatest weakness is lack of cohesion. LBJ has played with Miller, Jones, and Varejao, but that is about it. Plus it will take a while for Love and Irving to learn how to play alongside not one, but two more superstars. The Heat started out 9-8 in LeBron’s first year, the Cavs might have a similar fate.

DA: Team defense. This is another thing we’ve seen in the preseason (see: LeBron “setting a pick” on Delly). Blatt said himself, “Defense is the side of the floor where you adapt less and teach more.” These guys are going to have to learn what Blatt expects, when to switch off on picks, and overall communication on the floor. At some point, hopefully this season, the Cavs will be able to play defense with each other and just know where each guy is going to be on the floor. But, at least to start, it’ll be a big work in progress.

Who will have the easiest transition playing with this new Cavs team?

DI: I know that he wasn’t on the team last year but LeBron James is going to go from a team where he had to do everything to one where he has an elite ball-handler to initiate offense. He is coming from a Heat team that required him to be the best rebounder to one that has Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao. LeBron James will be able to play less games and minutes and will be called on to do less when he plays. Being on this team for the foreseeable future should extend the life of his career.IMG_2337

EJ: LeBron. He has been here before. Some nights he will score 25 on talent alone.

DA: Tristan Thompson. I think with the way this team was put together (h/t to David Griffin), it helps Tristan immensely. In the first three years of his career, as a fourth overall pick, he was expected to do a lot in an ample amount of minutes right off the bat. This is especially true considering the amount of time Varejao spent healing from injuries. Thompson was forced into situations he just wasn’t ready for – even though that might actually help him in the end. Now, he just needs to focus on the things he’s good/great at – getting rebounds, playing gritty defense, and cleaning up around the rim. No longer is it important for him – on on this team – to transform into a stretch four.

Who will have the hardest transition?

DI: Dion Waiters will have a difficult time transitioning. He was the 2nd option on offense last year and thinks of himself as a bigger star than he is. In fact, it is up for debate if he even is one. Having said that, Kevin Love will have the hardest transition. He was The Man in Minnesota. He was able to put up gaudy numbers where the offense ran through him and that simply will not be the case as this team is currently constructed.

EJ: I don’t think anyone will have a hard time scoring with the floor spacing they will have. So the P.R. department maybe?

DA: I hate to say it, but I think it’ll be Dion Waiters. I don’t see many guys on this team having significant struggles; the players fit so well. But Dion is a guy that loves the ball in his hands and taking ill-fated shots. With LeBron, Love, and Kyrie on the floor alongside him, he’ll have to pick and choose his spots. At the same time, I love his alpha-dog mentality, even if he’s the fourth best player on the floor. He’ll need to work on limiting his contested shots, and driving the lane and drawing fouls. Spend some time away from Mid-range Township.

Where will the Cavs rank defensively?

DI: I think that they will be an average defensive team by the time the season is complete. It will be interesting to see how the team performs defensively as every month passes. It’s possible that they are abysmal on defense. The sky is not falling if that happens. They are aware that there are holes in the roster and the front office can and will improve the team using assets that they have accumulated.

EJ: The Cavs have great individual defenders, but several younger players can be liabilities. Assuming LeBron’s tenacious defense rubs off on the less experienced players, the Cavs should be fine on the defensive end of the floor. With Varejao, Love, and Thompson, they should be an excellent rebounding team.

DA: As I said before, there will be some growing pains with this team on the defensive side of the ball. Most of the guys that have thrived on defense are well into their NBA careers; guys like LeBron, Shawn Marion, and Mike Miller. There are also younger vets on this team that have the potential to be good on this side of the floor, but haven’t been consistent: Kyrie, Dion, and Tristan. Optimistically, I think towards the end of the season we’ll see the Cavs start to really click on defense, but throughout the season, they’ll probably be towards the lower middle of the league.

Where will the Cavs rank offensively?

NBA: Preseason-Cleveland Cavaliers at Memphis Grizzlies

DI: They will be the best offensive team by a wide margin. When you have guys like Zach Lowe and Kevin Pelton saying that they have the ability to be a “historically great offensive team,” there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be the best team on that side of the court out of thirty.

EJ: Offensively, you have to double-team three players. That will give five feet of space for any shooter on the floor. They scored nearly 108 points per game in the preseason, look for that to mold into reality in the regular season.

DA: There’s no question this should be one of the top teams in the whole league and tops in the Eastern Conference. On offense, the Cavs aren’t just top-heavy with three All Stars plus Dion and Andy, they’ll have some bench scoring and shooting with Mike Miller, and Shawn Marion. Delly, Joe Harris, and James Jones will also be expected to make a scoring impact at various points in the season. With the amount of championship vets on this team, the Cavs’ basketball IQ and passing is also superior to most teams. The only thing that can stop them from being the best offensive team in the league is how little they’ve all played as a unit.

Which bench player will make the biggest impact?

DI: Whichever center ends up not starting will have the biggest impact. Whether that’s Tristan Thompson or Anderson Varejao remains to be seen. Both of those guys thrive on playing hard and will benefit greatly from having room to operate. Tristan Thompson will never be mistaken for a star player, but he will put up gaudy numbers whether or not he comes off the bench. The same can be said for Varejao. He is going to be asked to do a lot less this year and hopefully that translates into winning basketball and fewer injuries.

(Editor’s note: This was written before Varejao was named the starter. But the point remains; whoever comes off the bench at center for the Cavs should have a significant impact.)

EJ: Depends… if Dion goes back to the bench, it’s him hands down. Other than that, Double-T or whoever doesn’t start at center.

DA: I’m going to go out on a limb with this one and say Joe Harris. I’ve written before that he’ll probably switch back-and-forth between Cleveland and Canton, but that was before I saw him in preseason. I thought the Cavs would take it slow with his development, but it looks like they’re really confident with this rookie. Harris played in six of the seven preseason games, averaging 18.8 minutes per game, 2.5 rebounds 1.7 assists, and 7.8 points on 37.5% (15-40) shooting, including 36% (9-25) from 3. He’s potentially a great fit for this team, possessing the ability to space the floor, distribute, and be a pest defensively.

I think Marion is the safe choice here, but watch out for Harris.

Which new Cavalier are you most looking forward to watching?

DI: LeBron James. We’ve seen this movie before, but this time it will be a lot more fun. He has matured and embraced Northeast Ohio. He’s the best player in the world and has made it known that his presence in the area is bigger than basketball. Watching him dominate on the court is going to be great, but seeing his newfound enthusiasm for representing the Cavs is going to be an emotionally charged experience.

EJ: I guess I only have two choices… I want to watch Love, you know what LBJ can do, and Kyrie has been here for 4 years now.

DA: Hands down Kevin Love. With him on the Cavs, my two favorite players in the league are now on the team (along with Varejao). Love’s been a favorite of mine at least since 2012 when I put out the fanboy tweet below. Love’s skillset is pretty much made up of all the things I would want if I were an NBA player. He can rebound, pass, and shoot with the best of them at his position. I’ve wanted him on the Cavs for so long and for it to actually happen is astonishing. Hopefully he’ll be in Cleveland for a long time.

What would make this Cavs season a failure?

DI: Anything short of the Finals will be a disappointment. The Bulls are a formidable opponent and a worthy adversary, but they simply do not have the star talent that the Cavs have. Losing in the conference finals would not be the same as doing so in 2009. That was considered an upset, but hindsight shows that it was LeBron and a lot of role players. The current Cavs team is stacked with star talent and championship-level veterans to come off the bench.

JE: Selfishness… or the San Antonio Spurs

DA: I think there’s a 5% chance that I actually consider it this way at the end of the season. I think the only way this season is a disappointment is if they get bounced in the first round with all of their Big 3 healthy. Losing to what will most likely be the 7th or 8th seed in the East would be pretty deflating. As long as they advance past the first round, this season won’t be a failure, in part because of all the new players on this team. Like LeBron said, Rome wasn’t built in one day. I’m willing to be patient this year.

Will the Cavs win the 2014-15 NBA Championship?

DI: My heart says no, but I also find it hard to not talk myself into the Cavs beating any contending opponent. I think that it will take time for things to gel and that the lack of playoff experience for Irving, Waiters, Thompson and Love will be an issue in late May or June. However, this team is too talented to pick against. I am going on record to predict that the Cavs will win the championship in June.

EJ: Just like year one in Miami, I think they will be in it, but some lucky Western Conference team beats them.

DA: I hate to be a downer, but I don’t think so. That’s not to say they don’t have a chance, because they certainly do. But the overriding theme for me when it comes to the Cavs’ “downfall” or whatever their Achilles heel will be is the lack of chemistry on this team. It’s just hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of a team assembling so many new pieces and going out and winning a championship right off the bat. More often than not, established teams are the one’s that are able to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy.


NBA Predictions

tim-duncan-manu-ginobili-tony-parker-kawhi-leonard-nba-playoffs-portland-trail-blazers-san-antonio-spurs

MVP

Demetri Inembolidis: LeBron James. Voter fatigue is gone, Durant will be injured for a decent portion of the year and the “coming home” narrative is too much to ignore.

Eddy Jansen: Kevin Durant.

Dan Armelli: I have no reason to go against LeBron other than to just be different. He’s the best player in the league and has the most help he’s ever had.

Rookie of the Year

DI: Jabari Parker. He’s going to get all of the shots in Milwaukee.

EJ: Jabari Parker.

DA: As much as I want to say Nerlens Noel, the 76ers are just horrendous. So I’ll go with Jabari Parker. He’ll be the number one option for the Bucks and he’s as polished as they come for a rookie.

Most Improved Player

DI: Lance Stephenson is going to have a bigger role in Charlotte. He is going to be scoring at a higher clip and will likely lead the NBA in triple doubles for a second season in a row. The Most Improved Player award is his to lose.

EJ: Dwight Howard.

DA: For whatever reason, Steven Adams was benched for the majority of the season in favor of Kendrick Perkins. Adams will break out this year and show the league what he’s all about. He has the potential to be a solid all-around center.

Coach of the Year

DI: Stan Van Gundy. David Blatt (who will be coaching the Eastern Conference All Star team in February) is a good bet, but Van Gundy will take a miscast roster of knuckleheads and “me-first” guys and turn them into a playoff David+Blatt+Milwaukee+Bucks+v+Cleveland+Cavaliers+RrgcxZ91l7jlteam. It’s pretty clear that the Pistons were tanking last year to avoid giving up their draft pick to the Charlotte Hornets. If they play hard all year and find organic improvement, the award is Van Gundy’s to lose.

EJ: Doc Rivers.

DA: David Blatt has been well spoken of by his former players and personnel around the NBA. With a plethora of high caliber players to work with, I think he’ll be able to earn the award in his first year in the NBA.

Eastern Conference Playoff Seeding

DI:
1. Cavs
2. Bulls
3. Raptors
4. Hawks
5. Hornets
6. Wizards
7. Heat
8. Pistons

EJ:
1. Cavaliers – Any opposers?
2. Bulls – A healthy Rose is a must, or they could slide.
3. Nets – Lionel Hollins will make them much tougher, Deron Williams should be galvanized by the return of Brook Lopez.
4. Heat – Old and not very athletic, but will surprise people. Wade is healthier than most will admit. Bosh will get more touches.
5. Hawks – Were the #3 seed up until January of last season; Horford’s return is huge.
6. Wizards – Still missing a piece or two for a serious run, Pierce’s experience should help though.
7. Hornets – Al Jefferson continues to be the most undervalued player in the league.
8. Raptors – Hard to envision Kyle Lowry having a repeat season from last year while not searching for a new contract.

DA:
1. Cavs
2. Bulls
3. Hawks
4. Raptors
5. Wizards
6. Hornets
7. Heat
8. Pistons

I think the Wizards will have the better record, but the Atlantic champion Raptors get the higher seed with the Cavs and Bulls already occupying the top spaces for interdivision teams.

Western Conference Playoff Seeding

DI:
1. Spurs
2. Clippers
3. Mavericks
4. Thunder
5. Warriors
6. Grizzlies
7. Rockets
8. Nuggets

EJ:
1. Spurs – Even after all these years, there is still enough gas left in the tank.
2. Clippers – Best rebounding team in the NBA, Paul and Griffin are both MVP candidates.
3. Warriors – Steve Kerr will get the most out of his scorers Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and David Lee.
4. Thunder – Durant’s injury won’t make them slip that far, but they still need help.
5. Mavericks – Still trying to make Dirk’s last few years meaningful; made some nice off-season pickups.
6. Grizzlies – A leaner Marc Gasol gives a tough team a go-to guy offensively.
7. Blazers – Still looking to improve defensively. Lillard will go off after being cut from USA team.
8. Suns – Dragic, Bledsoe, and newcomer Isaiah Thomas make them the most athletic team.

DA:
1. Clippers
2. Spurs
3. Thunder
4. Mavericks
5. Warriors
6. Trail Blazers
7. Grizzlies
8. Rockets

Finals prediction

DI:Cavs beat the Clippers in 6.

EJ: Clippers over Cavaliers.

DA: Spurs over Cavs (hopefully in more than 4).

The Kings are All Los Angeles has Left

The city of Los Angeles is one of America’s largest markets. It is known for having the hottest celebrities, the best weather, and some of the best sports teams in the USA. However, it seems as though the city is running out of powerhouses to root for. They may have two basketball teams, two baseball teams, a soccer team, and a hockey team but all of them have hit a bump in the road, besides the LA Kings on the ice–and even they may soon be on the decline.

The Los Angeles Galaxy have been one of the best teams in Major League Soccer for a few years, but their most famous athlete left after the season. Yes, the ageless David Beckham decided to leave the Galaxy after a long run with the club and winning the city an MLS Cup. Now they must fill that void in order to stay atop the league that has so much parity within it. Soccer is not the most popular sport in the country and losing your most notable player does not help ticket sales, right?

The Clippers made it a couple games further than the Lakers in this year’s NBA Playoffs, but their result was the same–booted in the first round. The Clips lost Blake Griffin to injury against Memphis and never fully recovered as a team to move on to the second round. Now, while they was must sit at home in May and June while the rest of the teams left in the playoffs fight for the chance to lose to the Miami Heat the Clippers must also try to keep their star point guard, Chris Paul. Paul is ready to be a free agent and has made it very clear that making it to the playoffs is not enough anymore. He is looking for a deeper run into June and eventually that coveted ring that eludes many of the game’s best players. Without Paul, I’m afraid the Clippers lose the ‘Lob’ in ‘Lob City.’ Luckily for them, the Lakers look to be falling backwards faster than the Clippers.

Speaking of the Lakers, they stumbled into the playoffs without two of their top players in Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. With only Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to carry the load against the dominant Spurs they were no match and were swept off the Staples Center floor in Game 4. They too face an uncertain offseason with the possibility of Howard jumping ship after one season and trying to create his own Big 3 in another city. Maybe Brooklyn? The Lakers also have Kobe Bryant recovering from an Achilles’ injury and may not see him suit up until the end of 2013. As if all that was not enough, because the Lakers made the playoffs as the number eight seed they lost their first round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers per a trade involving Ramon Sessions. We could see a whole new look Lakers for the upcoming 2013-14 campaign.

The city’s MLB teams have not seen much success in the first month of the season either. Two of the biggest spenders this past offseason–along with Toronto–the Angels and Dodgers are off to slow starts with both teams posting sub-.500 records and their stars like Josh Hamilton have been less than impressive in the early going. The Dodgers finally got Hanley Ramirez back into the lineup only to lose him to yet another injury. The Angels sit at a record of 11-20 and in the tough American League West, they cannot afford to get too far behind the Rangers and Athletics. These two clubs still have plenty of time to turn things around, but they better start soon before the deficits become insurmountable.

After a long NHL lockout the hockey resumed and now we are in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The defending Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings find themselves in the familiar role of upset specialists. After falling behind in the series with the St. Louis Blues 0-2. The Kings got one back Saturday night in a 1-0 victory at the Staples Center. The Kings still have a lot of work to do if they want to bring joy back to LA, but they did last year when no one thought they could, I don’t see why they can’t do it again this year.

I am not rooting for another large market team to win a championship, and there is no sympathy from this Clevelander. I just wanted to point out that even big markets go through little droughts of success. They need to feel our pain every couple of years.

The real question we should be asking here is not, “why won’t our teams win,” it should be, “how long before LA gets an NFL team again?”

Will the Dodgers or Angels turn things around? Will the Kings win the Stanley Cup? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @Believelander.

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