Coast To Coast is your bi-weekly (as in, twice a week, not every other week…or does that mean it’s semi-weekly?) look at the NBA outside of Cleveland through the perspective of the Cavaliers. Because the internet is fun.
Sometimes I just feel bad for Wizards fans. It really must be tough to have to spend so much of your energy fixated on another team in another city. TruthAboutIt is, in all honesty, one of my absolute favorite NBA blogs. I enjoy reading the musings of an often frustrated Wizards fan and the fascinating point of view you get from reading that site. But really, a week after the Wizards beat the Cavaliers, I guess Wizards fans are still not over LeBron and the crab dribble remark. I mean, I could see if the refs didn’t call the travel. Then I would get it. But the refs made the right call and the Wizards won a game they deserved to win. But when you only have 7 wins on the season, you have to find ways to keep yourself entertained. And truth be told, the video really is kind of funny.
[Proof That LeCrab-Dribble James Didn’t Travel?]
It’s hard to believe 9 years have passed since Bobby Phills passed away. It was January 12, 2000 when the former Cavalier tragically lost his life in a car accident. Niall Doherty from Hornets24/7 wrote a really touching tribute to Phills this week, and it’s well worth reading, regardless of the fact Phills broke through with the Cavaliers.
The death of Bobby Phills affected me greatly. Back in 2000 I was 17 years old, living in Ireland and obsessing about the Hornets on this new thing called the internet. I could never watch the team play, but I used to pore over every box score, read every news report, watch and rewatch every grainy NBA.com video clip. Phills was one of my favorite players. I remember him hitting game-winning jumpers for the Hornets, locking down opposing superstars on D and never offering a hint of ego.
I found out about his death online the morning of the 13th, and I went to school numb that day. I was so down you would have thought I’d just lost a grandparent or a close friend. I didn’t quite realize how emotionally invested I was in the team and the players until one of them was taken away. I would spend the next few weeks reading up on the aftermath, learning about the family and friends left behind, not being all that concerned with wins and losses anymore. Bobby Phills is helped up by David WesleyThough Phills was a real solid NBA player, it was obvious from my reading that the guy would be remembered most not as a baller, but as one of those genuinely good people in the world; someone who went out of his way to give back to the community and help the less fortunate.
I remember feeling much the same way when I heard the news. Even though he was no longer with Cleveland and had pretty much been forgotten as a role player on some really good Cavalier teams, I always remembered him fondly as one of the hardest working guys on the team, and I remember feeling just awful not only for the Phills family, but for the Wesley family as well. It’s was just an awful tragedy. RIP, Bobby.
[Remembering Bobby Phills]
The Detroit Pistons have a tough decision to make. With the exceptional play of Rodney Stuckey this year, he has cemented his spot in the starting lineup for the Pistons. But with Rip Hamilton coming back from injury, who would be the odd man out? Natalie from Need4Sheed writes:
With Rip possibly coming back for tonight’s game against the Bobcats, Pistons fans are still wondering just how he’s going to fit in the new lineup. Some say AI should be the sixth man, some think it should be Rip, some think their time should be split. The thing is, Curry may not know what he’s doing until game time. Either way, some egos will bruised or the Pistons will be putting a less efficient team on the floor.
Well, Hamilton did return for the game against the Bobcats, but he and Iverson both got the start, along with Rasheed Wallace who was also coming back from an injury. The result? A tough loss at home to the Charlotte Bobcats, 80-78. The loss dropped the Pistons 8 games behind Cleveland in the Central. No matter what the “right”” answer may be, the Pistons really need to figure out their starting lineup and start building some chemistry with said lineup quickly if they want any chance of getting back in the hunt for the Central title.
[Could Rip Have A New Role?]
Every day the Utah Jazz look more and more like a team who will be sellers in the trade market. This season has been somewhat disastrous for the Jazz, as injuries and inconsistent play, combined with some particularly bad losses, has them struggling in the West. CB Jack from My Utah Jazz posts some comments from ESPN’s Chad Ford regarding Carlos Boozer’s future in Utah:
andy (vegas):I feel like in 10 years we will look back and laugh that we ever thought softish, jump shooting, injury prone Boozer was more valuable then tough as nails, scrappy, and savvy Milsap. Thoughts?
Chad Ford: That’s a little harsh, though I agree that Milsap looks like the answer to the Boozer conundrum. If he can get healthy, I think the Jazz will look to move Boozer for something before the trade deadline.
The season is still early enough that a healthy and refocused Jazz team can easily make a run and get back in this thing. Despite being in 7th place in the West, they’re only 2 games behind San Antonio for the 2 seed. And if the Jazz get any kind of home court in the playoffs, look out, because Utah is one of the toughest buildings to win inside of in all the NBA. If Boozer is healthy at the deadline, and the Jazz are within striking distance of the 2 seed in the West, why wouldn’t they just hang onto him and try to go for it with the team as is?
[Boozer On The Block?]
The Lakers’ defensive proficiency is tough to decipher. On one hand, the Lakers have given up 100 points or more in 5 straight games and 7 of their last 8. On the season, they are giving up 98.9 points per game (10 more than the Cavaliers are giving up), which ranks a mediocre 16th in the NBA. But is points per game against really a fair way of gauging the Lakers’ defense? Kurt from Forum Blue And Gold isn’t really concerned about it right now:
This is what happens when you rely on points per game as your measure. Look at it this way: The Lakers average 95.2 possessions per game right now, fourth fastest pace in the league. If the Lakers play an averaged paced game against the worst offensive team in the NBA (right now the Clippers) and that team scored at its average, the Lakers would give up 95 points to the Clips and everyone would scream “how can you do that? terrible defense.” Every team in the NBA right now averages at least one point per possession, and the vast majority averaged well above that.
So, if you play at a fast pace, the other team scores more points because they get more shots. Pretty simple, really. And Phil Jackson gets it.
You can’t really dispute that point. In the NBA postseason, games have a funny tendency of slowing down. You play against the best defensive teams in the NBA who have a knack for limiting opponents’ possessions. In theory, that should be ok with the Lakers defense. They rank 4th in the NBA in defensive efficiency (Hollinger’s metrics) and are 5th in the NBA in Defensive Rating (points against per 100 possessions). Should the Cavaliers and Lakers face off in the NBA Finals, some people will probably point to the Cavaliers’ defense as a huge advantage, but in reality, the Cavs give up 99.3 points per 100 possessions while the Lakers give up 104.1 points. 5 points is indeed an advantage, but probably not quite as big of an advantage as you might think, especially when you consider the Lakers are 2nd in Offensive Efficiency and 2nd in Offensive Rating. I think it would actually be a great matchup to watch.
[The Lakers Defense And Other Thoughts]
The Cavaliers lone home game over the next couple weeks is against the New Orleans Hornets, who will be in the midst of a brutal road trip of their own. Hornets24/7 takes a great look at each of their opponents on the trip (Dallas, Cleveland, and Detroit), and here’s their take on the Cleveland matchup:
Friday @ Cleveland: This won’t be easy any way you slice it, but at least we get the 29-6 Cavs on a segababa too, as they play in Chicago on Thursday evening. And while LeBron’s crew are 5-2 on the second night of back-to-backs, it’s worth noting that all five wins came against sub-500 teams, whereas the two losses came against the Pistons and Hawks.
That’s a really good point about the back-to-backs, but both the Pistons game and the Hawks game were on the road. That Hornets game is going to be a huge matchup for both teams. The Hornets beat the Cavaliers in the Cavs’ 3rd game of the season, so the Cavs will be looking to split the season series. Plus, they will really want to take advantage of their trip back to the oasis for this one game, so I expect this to be a game worth circling…..it should be a good one.
[How Tough Is The Upcoming Road Trip?]
How many teams do you think realistically can win the NBA title this year? Right now, I’d say Boston, Orlando, and Cleveland in the East, and Los Angeles, San Antonio, and New Orleans in the West, with honorable mention going to Detroit, Houston, and Portland. Detroit and Houston need some luck with injuries and chemistry, while Portland needs help with chemistry. But what do the “experts” think? Sports Illustrated decided to ask a roundtable panel for their opinions. Their answers were pretty standard, but the whole roundtable is WELL worth the read because they also give some interesting takes on the trade deadline and the who the Jazz should focus on re-signing, Paul Millsap or Carlos Boozer. Steve Aschburner’s response to that last one caught my attention:
Millsap, no question. Boozer’s nefarious move out of Cleveland hasn’t been forgotten, and his injury history to this point doesn’t suggest any looming durability, whether he detours through Lourdes or not. Millsap isn’t nearly the scorer, on a consistent basis, that Boozer is, but he plays his role more completely, is 3 ½ years younger and can grow his game more going forward.
It’s fascinating to me that he brought up Boozer’s unforgivable betrayal of Gordon Gund as a reason for a team to not sign Boozer. I’m not really sure if there’s any truth to that or if Steve was just throwing out some fun hyperbole, but either way, I never grow tired of people bringing it up and attaching it to Boozer’s name. I’m sure Boozer thought it was a dark cloud over his head that would eventually move away and dissipate, but in reality, it’s a move that will never be forgotten.
[Roundtable: Who Can Win It All?]
Jason Richardson was a guy I always wanted the Cavaliers to try to get. And with good reason. Richardson is showing in Phoenix how much of an impact he can make when put in the right situation. The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro explains:
Get J-Rich or die tryin’
The movie was a 50 Cent bust. Getting J-Rich has been an 8-3 smash.
That is the Suns’ record since acquiring Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley and a second-round pick from Charlotte for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary. (By the way, the Bobcats were 7-16 before Bell’s and Diaw’s debuts and are 7-8 since then.)
Sunday’s first half showed just what an explosive scorer the Suns acquired. Richardson scored 17 points in 19 minutes, hitting seven of 12 shots and 3 of 5 3-pointers (he finished 3 of 7 on 3-pointers, leaving his 47.3 clip behind 3-point accuracy leader Matt Bonner’s 47.5).
Richardson showed off his post-up game when mismatched with Jason Terry in the Dallas game but showed different wares Sunday. It began with his defense causing Eric Gordon, who went 2 of 14, to lose his dribble and Steve Nash finding him for an alleyoop lay-in on the fastbreak. Richardson had more transition scores on a 3-pointer and a hard take at the hoop later in the quarter. You could see he was feeling a zone when he gave Steve Novak a shoulder shimmy and squared him up for a jumper in the second quarter. And one of the prettiest plays of the half had Shaquille O’Neal on the extended post and finding Richardson for a backdoor cut and lay-in.
Lame 50 Cent reference not withstanding, Paul does a great job of pointing out specific sequences that illustrate just what Richardson brings to the table. The Cavaliers were never going to give Charlotte a package that matches the talent level of Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Sean Singletary, and obviously this was a trade that has benefitted both teams, but it’s still fun to think about what might have been. If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know how much I like Delonte West, but J-Rich would have been a huge addition to the Cavaliers’ backcourt. Plus, even though J-Rich would start over West, you could switch things up from time to time and put a lineup of Mo Williams, Delonte West, Jason Richardson, LeBron James, and either Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Anderson Varejao on the floor at the same time, and I reckon that lineup could do a little damage in this league.
[Get J-Rich Or Die Tryin’]